Modern life offers us unimagined opportunities. It goes without saying that success must always come quickly. New business models prove themselves within 100 days. The right life partner for a fulfilling relationship is just a swipe away. Earning a few thousand euros on the Internet on the side. And anyway, it’s feasible for anyone to become a millionaire in a few years. All you have to do is throw enough money down the throat of one of the gurus and he will reveal the shortcut to financial happiness. I am surprised how many people behave like stupid sheep and fall for all the bullshit.
After graduating from high school, I really wanted to study at EBS University. As the oldest private business university in Germany, however, it presented me with a problem: I was short about 50.000 euros to pay for my studies. Since my parents were no bigwigs, I learned the first important life lesson: Problems are there to be solved.
Looking back, I am surprised that it was really a bank that offered me a loan back then. And without collateral. And with a pleasantly short credit contract. Because it had only 1.5 pages.
The first semester break was approaching and I was looking for a paid internship. Because I needed money to finance my life. This feeling was somehow strange. Money motivated me to spend my semester breaks with profile-neurotic consultants from early in the morning until late at night, sitting in an open-plan office at a client’s – instead of enjoying the student life with music, parties and lust for life.
So I vowed to myself: Money must never again be a topic of concern!
The meaning of life
Today, when I talk to entrepreneurs in my coaching sessions about what they want to do with their lives, the discussions are usually intense. Everyone is caught up in the day-to-day business, which is like a treadmill where the speed is turned up and up and up. There is hardly any time for dreaming or thinking about the meaning of life. And in our conversations they realize: when we then take the time to think about it, we find it strangely difficult to define what we actually want to do with our lives.
I felt the same way as a student. And there – like many other people – I just took it easy. If you don’t have a purpose in life, then the purpose of life is: to get rich.
After my studies, I began my career in a field that revolves around money around the clock: in the financial sector. As the person in charge of sales for a private equity fund, I was literally chasing money. And then it came. In my case, however, success came at a price.
Although I said at the time, my family is the most important thing to me. But my behavior showed something else. Because I spent more nights in hotel beds than at home. And so I had a wife who froze with loneliness. I had more or less missed the "gaga" years with my son. And then I was also dissatisfied with my job, because my partners had different ideas about the future direction of the company than I did. So I lost faith in the idea. Not good conditions to be fulfilled professionally.
Despite all this dissatisfaction, I continued to chase money. Money is like a drug. It is just never enough.
I needed a kick in the butt at that time. I got this with the diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Not light fare. But an effective one. I have beaten the cancer. And then gave my life a new direction.
The richest man in the world
Recently I watched the movie "All the money in the world" with my wife. It’s about Jean Paul Getty, who was the richest man in the world at the time. His grandson was kidnapped in Rome. But Getty refused to pay the ransom, thinking the kidnapping a hoax. When his grandson had an ear cut off, he finally paid the ransom after all.
The kidnappers demanded 3 million. Dollar. Media reported that Getty, however, only received 2.2 million. wanted to pay dollars. The reason is staggering: the 2.2 million. were the maximum amount he could claim for tax purposes. The remaining 800.000 dollars his son (father of the kidnapped grandson) had to borrow at 4% interest from Getty.
The film casts the rich Getty in a very pitiful light. Though he is swimming in money. But more than his money and possessions, neither distinguishes him. As I watched the film, my feelings vacillated between pity and contempt. Money as the only sense of life is worthless for me in any case.
Flocks of sheep and howler monkeys
No question: living in a capitalistic world without money is crap. So it is understandable that for many people wealth and financial freedom are important life goals. Life is more fun with lots of money.
But since many people have not yet reached this state, the ground is made for the human howler monkeys. They suggest that financial prosperity is a birthright for everyone. You can make it if you only want to! And the way is so easy and it can be done so fast, if you only know what the necessary steps are. These are "secret" of course. But they are betrayed at expensive seminars and coaching sessions.
And so people go on pilgrimage like sheep to the howler monkeys and are surprised that in the end the howler monkeys have made a fat haul – only they themselves are still caught up in the challenges of everyday life. Because the real art is not to know the way, but to actually master the way. Knowledge is not enough. They have to do it too. And that essentially just involves consistency and discipline.
The true wealth for each of us
The Lord’s Prayer says, "Give us this day our daily bread". We don’t pray, "Give me so much bread overnight that I’ll never have to get any again". Strange, then, that many people nevertheless run after the inexhaustible (financial) bread and lose sight of things for it, which they may lose forever.
In my book, Courage Needs a Voice, I quote Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care physician. She deals with a lot of people who have reached the end of their lives. She asked them: What do you regret the most?
You probably guessed it: money is not one of the answers. Instead, people feel sorry for him:
I wish I had had the courage to live my own life.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had spent more time with friends and family.
I wish I had allowed myself to be happier.
All these things have one thing in common: money can’t buy them.
I gave my life a new direction after beating cancer. So starting with the first item on Bronnie Ware’s list: summoning the courage to live my own life.
So I got out of finance and started all over again professionally. That came with heavy, financial losses. But that’s not something that kills you. On the contrary. You know: Problems are there for us to solve them. And we grow from it. That’s what you call experience.
Then I fought for my marriage and asked my wife for a second chance. Luckily she gave it to me.
Today I am not striving for financial freedom, but for self-determined time. The irony is that I now earn more than I did when I was doggedly chasing coal.
I invest my time in the moments shared with my family. That can be a vacation. But it can also just be good conversations, an outing with the son or a walk with my wife.
The beauty is that this kind of prosperity can really be achieved by each of us. And this prosperity is also what makes the world a good place. Love and compassion are the basis for our world peace. Christmas is a nice opportunity to enjoy this kind of wealth with our loved ones.
In this spirit I wish you a rich Christmas full of love and compassion. And for the coming year a cheerful serenity and relaxed sporting ambition, so that your daily (financial) bread sweetens your emotional peace.
I look forward to your comments (further down below the text). And if you like the contribution, help me that it finds its way into the world. So sharing allowed