I believe that humility is the cornerstone of leadership. Others do, too. Russ Gasdia, vice president of sales and marketing for Purdue Pharma, sums it up well. When asked to list three characteristics of an “effective leader,” he said, “Humility, humility, and humility. They know they make mistakes, accept feedback from others in order to learn, admit they don’t always know what’s right, and recognize it’s not ‘all about them.’ When they succeed, they are humble. When they fail, they are humble. And lastly, they never think they are more important than the customer!”
Humility is a key trait of outstanding organizations – and of individuals. Humility helps people be more likable and approachable, work better with others, and give better service to customers. It enables departments and teams to collaborate with other departments and teams. Perhaps most important, it allows people to communicate more freely, creating a culture of authenticity and accountability that every outstanding organization requires.
John G Miller, Outstanding
The most persuasive leader is the one who you know has your best interest at heart. Don’t be the leader who knows everything, can handle every problem, and is constantly double-checking the efforts of their team. That arrogance will cost you. By hiding behind that inauthentic facade, you miss the opportunity for true success.
I received a copy of this book when I was out in Nashville getting trained as a financial coach by Dave Ramsey’s team. (Actually, I received a half-dozen books for free while I was there. That was pretty awesome.) If you are an employee at his company, then this book is required reading. That sounded like a ringing endorsement to me, so I moved it to the top of my reading list. At 160 pages, I found it an easy read, and I was able to tear through it in less than a day.
At its heart, this novel is trying to impart twelve principles that are to be the building blocks of a successful life. The author, Terry Felber, has couched these principles in the fictional story of a grandfather retelling his history as a lifelong merchant to his grandson who is about to enter the marketplace. The story is set in and around Rome in the 16th century, but the setting merely serves as a painted canvas backdrop for the conversations between the main characters. The struggles of a young merchant learning to become a success in business while serving his Maker are what takes center stage.
Antonio turned the page of the book in his hands and laid it down on the table in front of him. With his eyes still connected with Julio’s, he spun the book around so it faced his grandson.
“This is the first secret to success,” he said as he pointed to the only writing on that page. Julio looked down at the book and read the words out loud.
Each of the book’s twelve principles are taught within the context of how they were learned by the old merchant, and the story flows very smoothly from tale to tale. Felber is clearly making the case that being in business, either as an owner or employee, is a spiritual action. Our work is a form of worship, and we are honoring our God by serving our customers. Work is a ministry, no matter what the profit margin is.
Unfortunately, the simple wording of a few of Felber’s principles can be misinterpreted. For example, the first principle is “Work hard and God will prosper you.” That can easily be taken to mean that God delivers riches to those that please him. That’s not biblical, and within the context of the story, it isn’t what is being said. Based on my reading of the book, I seriously doubt that Felber is pushing a prosperity gospel. He simply wants us to approach work, money, and business with the right attitude.
“Antonio, you have done well. You have followed your passion and built a great empire to the glory of God. You have used your gifts and talents to serve people and to extend the reach of your influence. Now it is time for you to reach up.”
I recommend The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant. It’s not a perfect book, but what is being shared is a great introduction to the concepts of work as ministry and biblical money management. The simple language and short length make it a quick read and easily accessible by young men and women in your life. I’d encourage you to get the version that includes the forward by Dave Ramsey, as his take on the material does a good job of setting the tone for the book and is well worth the read.
(This covers the ninth chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the ninth ‘Commandment’ here. My plan is to go through all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)
The very best way to come across to others as a fair-minded, big-spirited benefactor […] is to become a regular contributor to charities. To be sure, not only will this have you coming across as a larger person but, in fact, it will make you become a larger person.
I know that it’s been the better part of a year since I wrote my thoughts about the last chapter, and it’s been a year and a half since I started my review of this book. I’m not going to bother making excuses. Chastise me in the comments, if you must.
I don’t think the title of this chapter needed to be as specific as it was written. I do agree that generosity and charity are a fundamental part of any wealth-building plan. In fact, as you grow more wealthy, you should repeatedly reevaluate how much you are giving away and, hopefully, increase it. Ideally, 10% of your after-tax income would only be a start.
Now, I fully expect that some of you are looking at your monitors like a crazy person wrote that. Giving your money away doesn’t logically lead to wealth-building. Give away even more as you get more, that doesn’t make any sense either. How do you get rich by giving so much away?
Rationality is an excellent instrument for solving puzzles and paradoxes, but it is rather less effective when used to explain human behavior.
Questions of my sanity aside, it turns out that your level of generosity paints a clear picture of your attitude towards money. Dave Ramsey uses a great visual during some of his lessons where he compares holding your money in an open hand versus grasping it in a clenched fist. Money may escape the open hand more easily, but it can also find it’s way back with hardly any trouble. Being generous is actually a very common trait among wealthy people, and often they were givers before they were rich.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
– Proverbs 11:24-25
So, what is it about an attitude of generosity that makes it so key to building our own wealth? How does the open hand attract more money to it?
1. Generosity is an exercise in risk. Unlike just about any other financial transaction, with charitable giving you irrevocably give up control of your money. Once you give it, you’re unlikely to get anything directly in return, and you give up all say as to how it is used. That’s helpful, because it reminds us that there are no guarantees with any financial transaction, and it encourages us to develop and use wisdom prior to a transaction. The more risks we take, the more wisdom we have for our next transaction.
2. Generosity points your heart in an outward direction. In the Bible, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Wherever you are placing your money, your heart is going to follow. Your thoughts, concern, and energy become invested along with your capital. When you donate some of your money towards serving and meeting the needs of others it connects your heart to them, and as you interact with those charities, it exposes you to new financial (and social, and career, and spiritual) opportunities.
Finally, here are a couple more quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:
Jews do not give away money because it is always rational to do so, but in spite of the fact that it is often irrational. Jews give money away not because it is rational but because it is right.
What makes it right? Even if you engage in the risk of giving and see absolutely no return, to yourself or others, was your generosity still right?
I don’t want to sound too metaphysical, but your object is to create a movement of money from the world around you to you. There is a sad sense in which each person lives a lonely, isolated existence. […E]verything of value flows from how effectively you battle that loneliness and how effectively you bond with others.
Unconnected people generally find it difficult to build wealth. Generous people have more opportunities to build connections.
It is hard to invest effectively if you absolutely must win every single time. That is not how investing works, and it is not how business works. In fact, it is not how life works at all.
Life is full of failures. The question is, how do you handle them? Are they millstones weighing you down, or a stepping stones that help you grow?
Active, busy, creative people produce so much more value than the food they eat and the shelter they occupy. They are far from net consumers.
We tend to throw around the word consumer a lot, without thinking what that is saying about the people we’re referring to. What are we saying about our customers when we call them consumers?
That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Ninth Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Tenth (and final) Commandment: Never Retire. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.