"Know contentment and you will suffer no disgrace; Know when to stop and you will meet with no danger. You can then endure."
~ Lau Tzu
With all due respect to the phrase (and outstanding blog), "get rich slowly," this financial philosophy and life pursuit has great potential for failure and even self-destruction.
How so, you ask?
The word "rich," in this context, implies and supports the misleading conventional wisdom that success in life is measured by monetary means. Additionally, the word slowly presents an incredible impediment to even making an attempt at such a seemingly long and arduous task.
Patience is certainly, in the opinion of your humble author, among the highest and greatest of virtues. Simultaneously, however, it may be as close to the antithesis of achievable human behavior as one can find. Humans, as unhealthy as this behavior may be, want to find the shortest and/or quickest path from point A to point B. Short and quick, for the human brain, almost always wins the battle with long and slow.
Why not, then, immediately stop the struggle against human nature, remove anxiety and accomplish the goal of getting rich in the quickest fashion possible? How can this be done? How can this be prudent? The answer, much like the solution to many "problems" we humans face, is quite simple: It is a shift in perception and an alignment with personal values via the definition of terms.
"He who knows contentment is rich." ~ Lau Tzu
In essence, the phrase "get rich slowly" leads one to believe that their patience in pursuit of monetary wealth is a virtuous path. But does this path lead to a virtuous end? And does this end justify the means? If, for example, one sacrifices the present for some unforeseeable future, then this delayed gratification, by default, is virtuous? Does the pursuit of monetary goals distract from meaningful pursuits? What is your definition of rich? Is it possible that you are already rich?
If one defines the word rich in non-monetary terms, the seemingly herculean feat of "getting rich" may be one of the easiest (and most valuable) accomplishments of one's life. What if "rich" is simply defined as "being content?" Imagine how some of these definitions might make you "rich" now:
- Being in good physical, mental and spiritual health.
- If you are a parent, your children are healthy.
- Being loved and having someone to love.
- Making a difference in the life of another.
- Your life has meaning and purpose.
"Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy." ~ Lau Tzu
It is quite true that without sufficient financial health to provide the basics of life -- food, shelter and clothing -- one's non-monetary measures of health (physical, emotional & spiritual) can be eroded. If you have enough, however, to provide these basics of livelihood, then the pursuit of financial wealth need only be a support for pursuits that truly bring meaning and purpose to your life.
There is a case for balance: Absolute financial poverty erodes at all levels of health. The consistent raising of the desire for greater financial wealth, beyond enough, however, may also erode at your non-financial well-being. Contentment represents this balance and therefore is the healthiest and most virtuous definition of rich.
Sure, you can continue in your path toward financial freedom (that's another term to define) via debt reduction, spending less than you make, investing your money wisely and all of those conventional money management techniques. But just think how much you can gain by detaching yourself from the need to define your wealth in monetary terms -- by simply learning the art of contentment? If you are already rich in this sense, your financial pursuits become much more achievable and will provoke much less anxiety.
Now pursue contentment: Simply say to yourself, "I am rich;" find a non-monetary reason for this wealth and repeat this often... and you are on your way to "getting rich quickly!"
Lau Tzu Illustration by Shannon
Related Posts & Pages: