I received a thought-provoking e-mail from a guy who claimed
he was following his passion by being a professional gambler. As a result, he
had incurred a backbreaking debt for himself. He asked me if he had wasted his
time and should he do something else.
I told him that if we accept the concept that everyone has a
purpose in life, then I could not imagine anyone being put on this earth for the
purpose of being a professional gambler. A purpose in life (or calling) has to be evolutionary. Otherwise, what’s
the point? Through your calling, you make a contribution to yourself, your
society and your environment. Gambling, on the other hand, is devoid of any redeeming
value. At best, it is a zero sum game because with every winner there is a
loser. I suggested that he find something that is win-win-win-win. In other
words, do something where he wins, the customer wins, the community wins, and
the environment wins.
In my response to this man, I opined that doing something
where the sole motivating focus is acquiring money is not the formula for
success and, in fact, is a waste of life. He tried to defend himself by saying
his focus was not on money per se and that he only wanted the money for the
freedom and comfort that it would bring. (Frankly, I didn’t see how that view
was any different from how everyone else in the world views money.)
Unfortunately, most people view success in terms of money
and what it can buy. But to me that is an inadequate characterization of
success. If we look deeply into money, we can’t help but see that it is a fraud.
Money is an illusion. Governments have declared money to have value. And we all
go along with it. But let’s face it, the emperor has no clothes. Even the
agreed upon value of money is eroding over time. The air is being let out of
the balloon and the dollar is worth less and less each day. The trend is toward
it being worth nothing.
Besides, even if we agree to go along with the pretense that
money has value, no matter who we are, we never seem to be satisfied with how
much money we have. People who have more money than God try to get richer. Why?
Beats me. They have multiples more than they could ever spend in their
lifetimes yet they want more.
Money is intrinsically unsatisfying, probably because it
cannot buy the most valuable things in life – health, friendship, love, a
fantastic golf shot, etc. Therefore, I, by fiat, am declaring that success
shall hence forth be defined without using money as a measuring rod.
True success will now be defined in terms of fulfillment. If
you are experiencing joy while doing what you are doing, you are successful. If
your activity is making a meaningful contribution to society and the
environment, you are successful. If you are reveling in a progressive collaboration,
you are successful. If your intelligence and creativity are being challenged
and are growing, you are successful. If you are giving people value, you are
successful. If you are happy in the
doing, then, with each step, you arrive. Why? Because you are already there.
The NCAA has its version of March Madness. Our family’s brand
revolves around our son as he competes in Destination Imagination.
Destination Imagination is a team-orientated, creative
problem solving competition. Kids get a long term challenge in the fall and
they prepare their solutions for the spring competitions. Every aspect of a
solution is 100% kid-generated. Adult intervention is strictly prohibited other
than chauffeuring the team and whipping out the credit card.
My son adores (and lives for) DI. He has been participating
for seven years so we as parents are savvy veterans. I too love DI season. I
love to see the unbelievably creative solutions that the kids come up with and
I love seeing my son living his passion. I cannot think of a better education
to train future entrepreneurs and problem-solvers than the DI program. It
fosters teamwork, originality, innovation, and thinking on one’s feet. In fact,
I have my eye on some of the more impressive local kids who have excelled in DI
over the years. I think they would make fantastic collaborators and superb business
Last year, after winning the state championship, my son’s
team went on to the Global Finals and finished second in the world. This year
my son got on two teams – a technical team and a structure team. March is
always berserk because of all the last minute chaos in getting a solution ready
for the state competition. But this year the DI mayhem for my son was double
Alas, my son’s teams finished second and third in state
which means neither is invited to the Global Finals. My son was heartbroken. And
so were we. It is easy to handle success. The trick is in how one handles
failure and whether one can find success within it. It will be interesting to
see how my son grows from this setback.
In the middle of all this DI pandemonium, I quietly stopped
being a quinquagenarian and joined the sexagenarian ranks. In other words, I
turned 60. On one hand, it is a sobering number. Our local movie theater
defines “senior citizen” as someone 60 and over. And while I will take
advantage of the discount, more for its amusement value than the need to save
the $2, I definitely cannot relate to being classified in that way. I’m still
having trouble believing I am middle aged. While the numbers increase, the
inner self stays young . . . or timeless. Therein lies the confusion.
Our March Madness got exacerbated when we saw how
aggressively the local appraisers valued our house for property tax purposes.
That threw my wife into a tizzy and for two weeks she researched and analyzed
other property values in an effort to fight “city hall.” I was her
secretary/research assistant/whipping boy. This tax episode confirmed one
immutable law of nature for me, and that is “when momma ain’t happy, ain’t
nobody happy.” And let me tell you, while preparing to do battle with the
appraisers, momma wasn’t the least bit happy.
Some wise person, as he congratulated me on my wedding day
in 1987 told me the secret to a successful marriage. He whispered in my ear,
“Keep her well-rested and well-fed.” It turned out to be invaluable advice. The
only thing I would add is – “keep her away from all tax documents.”
Speaking of taxes, my mother roped me into filling out her
income tax forms again. She is 88 and couldn’t be bothered. And since it was
her birthday request, I couldn’t weasel out. You’d think an 88-year old woman
would invest in simple, straight-forward things. Not my mom. She’s got limited
partnerships, qualified dividends, loss carry-forwards, foreign taxation
issues, in-kind charitable deductions, and other arcane stuff that requires
additional forms to be filled out.
And to top it all off, my wife got a colonoscopy yesterday
so I was the designated driver.
I tell you all this because I’ve had no time to myself to
be, to think, to goof off, to recline in my hammock, to muse, to golf, and to blog. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get back on
track. In the meantime, even though it is windier than Hell, I’m going to
strike a few dimpled balls, cuss my bad shots, and try to reclaim myself.
Sixty! I still can’t believe it. It seemed like only yesterday
when I . . . (to be continued).