A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

Never Retire

(This covers the tenth 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 final ‘Commandment’ here, which completes my commitment to go over all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my overall thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)

If  retirement is your goal, your entire drive will be deeply flawed. You will never create all you could have. However, if you view your creative, professional life as an exciting, ongoing process with no defined expiration date, you avoid limiting your potential.

This discussion can cause a substantial amount of trouble if not handled with care. The concept of retirement has become ingrained into our culture. Thanks to the Social Security system, a firm age has been set for what many consider the end of productive work and the start of the “good life.” Individual plans may vary slightly, but if you’re not ready, willing, and able to quit your job by the time Uncle Sam starts sending you regular checks, then our society generally thinks that you’re doing it wrong.

So, apart from the everyday joy from embracing weirdness, what do we gain by rejecting the idea of retiring? Even if you plan to work until you die, you should still be investing and growing your wealth. You should still be making plans for the next 5, or 10, or even 25 years of your life.  You don’t get to slack off just because you’ll be working as long as you’re able. Why not go ahead and just enjoy those last years? I’ll give you two reasons.

1. Work has to be more than just a means to an end. I’ve written about this a couple of times before. Suffice to say, the career we choose shouldn’t just be about the profits we’ll earn. It should provide us with a chance to live out a purpose, and it should fill us with joy. Every step we take along our career path should be one step closer to each one of us doing the work that is uniquely ours to be doing. If we succeed at that, having to stop should be a nightmare, not a dream.

2. Age alone doesn’t determine productivity.  It would be a mistake to overemphasize the importance of our physical ability to our talent to create. Expertise, experience and wisdom have disappeared from our workplaces too quickly, and have not been easily replaced. In an information based economy, we need people who can provide  knowledge to remain in the workforce longer. We also need people who are well connected to the people that they serve and care for, and that level of connection takes time. Don’t plan to deny others the benefit of your presence simply because you’ve achieved some magic number.

For the last time, here are some quotes from the book that stood out to me:

The reason that the belief in retirement as a life goal is so destructive is that it seems to form a kind of spiritual virus that infects all your thinking. […] If you visualize some day in your future when you will no longer “have to work,” you are subconsciously slowing down already.

Short-timer’s disease is a real thing, and I’ve seen (and been guilty of) it’s results far too often. It’s frightening to think that, by even considering an eventual date of departure, you infect yourself with an attitude that will negatively affect the quality of your work for years to come.

Dr. Donald Hensrud is the director of the Mayo Clinic Executive Health Program. He says, “Life revolves around relationships, and it shows in aging. People who maintain close relationships live longer and healthily. It may sound corny, but caring for others helps us care for ourselves.” […] Working productively means that you are caring for others.

[W]ork is chiefly about how other people will benefit from your efforts. It may be today or it maybe in the future, but engaging in work is a moral, benevolent, and caring thing to do.

We’ve come full circle back to the premises of the first two Commandments. Work is moral. It connects us to others. We should never stop.

A person’s real economic value is spiritual, not physical. You may have a certain economic value, which is to say a value to your fellow humans, as a ditch digger, but it is only a fraction of your real value.

What are you truly worth? How do you determine an accurate measurement of your contributions to the world around you?

Sustaining the retirement myth contributes to people mistakenly subscribing to the notion that humans are chiefly consumers rather than creators and that as such, the best way to run business affairs is to minimize the number of these consumers.

Never forget that we are all more than just mouths that need to be fed, and bodies that need to be sheltered. Each of us creates and builds more value into this world simply by existing.

And that’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Tenth Commandment for Making Money. Finally. This has been an interesting exercise, but I think I’ll keep my book reviews more restrained in the future.

If you’re new to this, take the time to the start from the beginning with my thoughts on Chapter One, Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Never Retire

Act Rich: Give Away 10 Percent of Your After-Tax Income

(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.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Small Cups and Broad Saucers

From Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin:

[image removed]

As the Sabbath ebbs away each Saturday night, Jewish families prepare for the productive work week ahead by singing the joyful Havdalah service […] recited over a cup of wine that runs over into the saucer beneath.

This overflowing cup symbolizes the intention to produce during the week ahead not only sufficient to fill one’s own cup, but also an excess that will allow overflow for the benefit of others. In other words, I am obliged to first fill my cup and then continue pouring as it were, so that I will have sufficient to give away to others, thus helping to jump-start their own efforts.

I absolutely love this symbolism. It’s a simple act that speaks volumes about work ethic and generosity.

Work is a blessing. Our ability to work, our talents and the skills we develop, the wages we earn and everything that stems from them, are all thanks to God. To extend the symbolism, the wine is delivered to us by the wine-maker. Honestly, he gives us more than we need. It’s available to us, and all we have to do is exercise obedience and pour it all out. We’re blessed with work so that others can receive from our overflow. How can we do anything but follow through?

How can we, indeed.

We still manage to screw it up, don’t we? I know I’ve failed at it in a couple of big ways.

One way are those times when my work ethic isn’t anywhere near up to where it should be. I’ll pour out just enough to eke by. I can come up with all sorts of excuses for it, but the actual reason is always the same. I’m being lazy and irresponsible with my time. I don’t exercise discipline, and instead I suffer regret. That’s ugly.

The other big way that I, and a lot of people, have failed is something I’m going to refer to as poor “cup management.” See, when more wine is presented to us, we have a tendency to head to our cabinets and break out a larger cup. As our income grows, we’ll increase our expenses.

[image removed]

Before we know it, we’re bathing in wine while our overflow hasn’t grown at all. Or worse, our “cup” gets so large that there isn’t enough wine to spill over anymore. Then we find ourselves struggling with the deficit, and we have to deal with growing debt, and no one is blessed.

Yuck.

Each one of us needs to take a long, hard look at our cup.

I’m not saying we need to neglect our family to help others. I would never say that. No, we need to know exactly what is needed to care and provide for our family. We need to know what is required to feed them and clothe them and provide shelter for them. We have to keep our eyes and ears open for the things that will help them grow into the men and women that they’re supposed to become. We’re required to understand that all of those things come at a cost, in both time and money, and know those costs well. If we don’t, then that’s just another variation of poor cup management.

But, after honestly evaluating your needs, then it’s time to examine your generosity and what it says about your trust in the wine-maker. How broad, and how deep is your saucer, and how glad are you to be filling it?

So, I’m issuing myself these three challenges. You might consider them, too.

1. Have a smaller cup. My family will craft and keep a monthly budget. While accounting for each dollar, my wife and I will have the chance to evaluate the value that each expenditure brings to our family. What needs to change? What costs too much? What can be cut?

2. Have a broader saucer. We’ll find at least one new opportunity to be generous every month. Opening my eyes and seeing the needs of others has to become involuntary for me. Meeting those needs out of my familiy’s overflow is why it’s there.

3. Have faith. We’ll give away more than we think we’re able to. Giving should be a sacrificial act that reflects your trust in  God. Are we giving enough that he has to be present in our lives? In Proverbs it says…

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:7-9

We should never find ourselves so full that we’re questioning the presence of God.

So, what about your cup? Are you managing it well? Does it allow you to fill your saucer?

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Christ and Church, Work and Money | , , , , | 2 Comments

Know Your Money

(This covers the eighth 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 eighth ‘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.)

Your money is a quantifiable analog for your life force – the aggregate of your time, skills, experience, persistence, and relationships.

Most of us don’t like being judged by how much money we do or don’t make. We’d protest that not everything we do in life has to do with creating and maintaining income. Rightly so. We don’t get married, start families, attend church, make friends, volunteer, etcetera and ad nauseum, with the express intent of increasing our wealth. Still…

As oversimplified as this may sound, my money is really me and your money is really you. You may say that there is more to your life than your money, but there is truly nothing more to your money than your lives.

Money is a numeric analog for how you run your life and what you have done for others. Money is a metaphor for the strength of your human relationships.

Money is a combination of a claim and a promise. Money is intangible. It is only as good as the invisible network of trust that links vast numbers of humans into a loose kind of unity. It is a claim against other people for goods and services you need, and it is a promise on their part to supply those goods and services to you.

[emphasis has been added where it suited me]

See, while it’s true that we aren’t all about our money, our money is entirely about us. Do you want to know what is really important to you? Examine your bank statement. How you make money. How you spend it. How you save it and give it away. All of that reflects more about you as an individual than any other single aspect of your existence. Money literally touches every part of your life.

And that reminds me that money is dangerous, because unchecked it will fuel the negative impulses in our life. For example, we might spend a bulk of our income on some temporary form of comfort to the detriment of our future. Or we find ourselves overworking just to gain some approval with a bunch of zeroes attached to our annual income. Maybe we try to control what our money reflects about our priorities.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:24

What can we do to help keep money in its place, and keep it from feeding the worst in us? Here are a couple of vital steps that are covered in the chapter:

1. Become fluent with financial statements. First of all, you need to get a firm hold of your own finances. You need to know exactly how much is coming in, and where and when it’s going out. You have to make and keep a monthly household budget. You have to know your money.

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds,
for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?

Proverbs 27:23

Once you’ve mastered your own finances you should understand the finances of the companies you work for and invest in. Explore and educate yourself so that you understand the financial health of the source of your income and how you’re growing your wealth for the future. Demystifying those things puts your wealth in its proper perspective.

2. Determine what’s valuable about you and to you. You must develop a working understanding of value. What gives something value?

Value is not an attribute or physical property possessed by things themselves, irrespective of their relations to men, but solely an aspect of these relations that enables men to take account, in their decisions about the use of such things, of the better opportunities others might have for their use.

Friederich Hayek

Value is determined by the process of exchange. A thing is worth only as much as another is willing to trade for it. Since not everyone is willing to trade the same amount for a given thing, the value of that item or service varies from person to person.

So to determine what is valuable about you, you need to determine what items or services you can provide to a community around you that is largely agreed upon as being of value.  That community can be large or small, local or global, niche or universal. All that matters is that they see the value of what you are offering and are willing and able to pay you for it.

Then turn that around and understand that it’s just as true for you. What are the individual parts of your life (the things you own, the relationships you have, the hobbies you enjoy, etc.) worth to you? Identify what you believe is valuable to you, and then determine whether or not your actions reflect that.

Finally, here are a couple more quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:

To convince a particular woman to marry you, I explained to men, it is not enough merely to desire her. You must also understand her. […] Trying to understand the woman is the only way to win her.

Specifically, identify and understand her needs. Knowing her emotional needs will create intimacy and strengthen the bond between you.

[A]nyone with a reputation for reliability can create money. Its nature is to serve as a medium of exchange between people and it should never be adulterated.

This chapter also talks about trustworthiness a lot. Rabbi Lapin makes a strong case that the existence of money, any money, rests entirely on our ability to trust the commodity or entity that backs it.

That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Eighth Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Ninth Commandment: Act Rich: Give Away 10 Percent of Your After-Tax Income. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.

July 9, 2011 Posted by | Read and Reviewed, Work and Money | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments