Being highly motivated to take control of one’s personal finances is a good thing. I think we can all agree to that. The idea of making a practice of the right choices and decisions to provide well for yourself and your family—of being financially successful—is really an ingrained idea in our minds once we are old enough to understand the concept. Again I say good for those who do just that.
It isn’t easy to put your nose to the grindstone and work so hard that at times you think that you may have given up too much. It may be at that time that the thought of being financially independent or wildly wealthy gets you through your second thoughts about the sacrifices you might be making to become financially successful.
The Worst of Being Financially Successful
What about those who go just a step or three too far in that pursuit? I’m talking about those who pursue financial success at any cost. You know the ones that I’m talking about even if you don’t know them personally or even know their names (Can you say Michael Milken, Bernie Madoff or even Martha Stewart?)
They’re the ones that start out with a good and well-accepted approach to financial success, and then somehow it goes all haywire. They confuse the word “success” with the word “greed” which raises questions about things like a moral compass and playing by the rules and/or even staying within the law.
There are many innovative people, many of them successful in the world of personal finance, which somehow manage to color outside the lines and break new ground on their road to financial success. That’s a surefire way to get there. Nobody says that you must always take the straight line to get to your goal. Although I’m not the biggest football fan, I have watched enough of it to understand that when a runner gets across the goal line he more often than not takes a route that looks more like a zigzag than a straight line. Life is more often than not exactly like that.
So having said that, it’s so disturbing to me when I hear or read about someone or some corporation that has been discovered to have crossed over that invisible line between huge financial success and breaking the law, either moral or judicial, or both. It makes me think, why does that happen? Is there something wrong with me, or them? There seem to be so many “thems” and so often they get away with bad behavior for really long periods of time and leave a path of debris behind like a tornado does.
I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. After all I have been writing about overcoming financial problems and achieving financial independence here at Super Saving Tips now for over 2½ years and I promote financial wellness and all of the good that it can bring. But there is a big difference between those who earn their success without “gaming the system” and hurting others and the ones that do that to become successful.
My Personal Experience
I have crossed paths with some individuals along the way that believed in the concept of success at any cost. Back in the 1990’s, I worked for an entrepreneur who had started a business and was fairly successful. When I came on board, I recognized almost immediately that he was driven by success and wanted to be the biggest and best at what his company category had to offer. When I started there he was already a multi-millionaire. For some reason that wasn’t enough and he needed more. My job was apparently to help him get just that.
On the surface, he didn’t appear to most as someone who might cross the line in order to get what he wanted, fairly or not. That wasn’t true however. If I live to be 100, I will never forget something he told me not too long after I began working for him as his COO. This is what he said to me and I quote:
“Thank goodness there are so many stupid people out there because it makes it so much easier for me to be smart!”
I am certain that that moment in time is when I knew that my relationship with him and the company was doomed. I didn’t think that taking advantage of others by cheating and deceiving them made them stupid nor made him or anyone else smart. What it did do was make me see firsthand how someone can veer off so far from being fair and moral in order to pursue wealth.
I lasted about two years in that environment and fought tooth and nail to make the company better than it was and make it a success in every way in addition to its balance sheet. I failed at the former but not the latter. After I left, the company was sold to a competitor for multiple millions and most of the corporate employees lost their jobs in the acquisition. The owner, well, he retired with tons of money and he thanked me for making his company so attractive that he couldn’t walk away from the offer he got. He never felt a twinge of guilt or a thought about the people who had made his fortune and success possible and only thought of them as stupid pawns in the game. I’m still disturbed by that even 25 years later.
The Best of Being Financially Successful
The expression that “money is the root of all evil” has been around a long time. It really isn’t true. Money is something that can provide blessings for people, safety in terms of healthcare, housing, and education. Charity can come from wealth and so much of it does from the wealthy that support large foundations and charitable trusts. Good comes from money, perhaps more often than the bad does. It always comes down to the person, him or herself, in what money causes and its effects.
I have written about the road to financial wealth before and in every case I say that success and wealth come from within and that money isn’t the only measure of one’s wealth. It has more to do with being satisfied and happy in your life and less to do with creature comforts, power, and having a high profile and status. I don’t think I am alone in that feeling. I don’t think you’re in any way stupid or a loser if you think that way too.
On your road to financial wealth are you taking a course that’s outside the box? Do you differentiate between your wealth and your success? Have you ever dealt with a situation that caused you to change your job because there was a violation of your ethics and/or moral consciousness? What would you do if faced with that situation?