A decades-old belief system in business is that the deeper one goes in debt with lifestyle enhancements, toys—stuff, the more driven he or she will be to make money. This mentality can start at the top of a dealership and cascade through the ranks. In fact, I know many managers who quietly enjoy seeing their salespeople overextend themselves financially so they have to work extra shifts and days to maintain their lifestyle. While it may be true that living with high overhead can stir up drive, it also creates stress—lots of it. Here are some examples of what happens to your stress level when you get caught up in the stuff trap:
- First, you have to keep track of all your stuff.
- Then you have to maintain and take care of your stuff.
- You then have to insure your best stuff against loss.
- You must also protect your stuff from people without as much stuff as you who decide they want your stuff.
- Naturally, the government will want overrides on your stuff, which makes you a slave not only to the stuff, but to stuff-taxing bureaucrats.
- Ironically, once you’ve had your stuff awhile you’re no longer happy with that old stuff and want bigger, better and more interesting stuff. And everywhere you look at your office and home you find valuable space taken up by yesterday’s stuff you no longer want, need or appreciate.
- It’s also stressful when, despite your efforts to get great stuff, others don’t notice, compliment or fawn all over your stuff.
- Inevitably, some friends or peers will get better stuff than you, and you then envy their stuff and are no longer content with your now-inadequate stuff. The stuff you once sought and cherished now falls into the category of being not up to snuff stuff.
- After chasing stuff for years you finally realize that no matter how great your stuff is, or how much stuff you have that there’ll always be someone who has more and better stuff than you. You hate this because you don’t like to play games you can’t win, and the stuff game has no winner; only stressed out and empty losers surrounded by not enough, or good enough, stuff.
- As you grow older, you start to grasp that you can’t take your stuff with you, so deciding what will happen to your stuff when you’re gone starts to consume you even before you have to give your stuff up.
- The people you do leave your stuff to will argue because they didn’t get the best stuff, or enough stuff, and will give some of your stuff to lawyers who promise to get them more of the stuff you left to someone else who also believes they got the short end of the stuff.
- Some of the people you leave your stuff to will squander it, sell it, lose it through incompetence or just plain screw up your stuff; and the fact that your great stuff will fall into foolish hands causes you anxiety and resentment while the stuff is still yours and you’re trying to enjoy it.
Despite my diatribe on stuff, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and enjoy nice cars, homes, vacations and the like. Nor, do I believe there is anything wrong with having great stuff. But, over the years, as I’ve watched others become possessed by and obsessed with their possessions and lose peace, health, family, reputation as well as their prized stuff, I’ve embraced a strategy of living beneath my means and generating drive through more productive, enjoyable and fulfilling methods than the quest for the biggest and best stuff. Here are three of my favorites:
1. Live to my maximum potential. The never-ending journey to become more valuable: knowledgeable, disciplined, and skilled so that I am able to earn more. This drives me because as I become more, and earn more, I am better equipped to help causes and people important to me. This is far more exciting to me than lusting after the latest model Piaget or a bigger beach house.
2. Make a difference in the lives of others. The opportunity and challenge to take what I’m becoming as outlined in the last point and pour it into others; leaving them better than when our paths crossed is a significant driver. It multiplies leadership, expands influence and leaves a legacy.
3. Give to those who cannot possibly give back. This has become my parallel career, especially since starting The Matthew 25:35 Foundation a few years ago and hiring my daughter, Ashley, to run it. We support food banks, battered women’s homes, homeless shelters and prison ministries. But our primary focus is to help those who cannot help themselves: orphans in the U.S. and abroad.
Ashley picked up on my sentiment toward too much stuff and devised a fundraising idea called Loot for Lives, where people could donate stuff they don’t want any more and the foundation would liquidate it and use the money to dig fresh water wells, build soup kitchens and provide shelter for orphans around the world; especially in places like Moldova where street-orphans are killed by organized crime rings and their organs are harvested for profit. Yes, you read that right. It’s perhaps the most disgusting thing I’ve ever encountered, but it happens and its practice is spreading into other parts of Europe.
Loot for Lives gave me an opportunity to put my money where my mouth was on my campaign against excess stuff, so among other things, I donated three gold watches that spent more of their time languishing in a safe. It was easier than I thought to give up my two prized Piaget Polos and a rare Concord; $50,000 of stuff that no longer did it for me. (I now wear a $100 Kenneth Cole that keeps better time than the high line stuff.)
Now, lest you think I’ve taken a vow of poverty and intend to pass into monk-hood and retire to some cave, this is not the case. I plan to continue to grow our business and make even more money than before. Doing so will feed my three drivers as listed prior: becoming more personally valuable, adding value to others and giving more to those who cannot give back. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.
So, what drives you Mr. or Mrs. Leader? Actually, you don’t have to answer a question like that aloud, because despite what you say it is where and how you spend your time, along with your checkbook and receipts that tells the real story of what drives you and what you value most.