The Big Mistake People Make About Money

Is money the root of all evil?  I don’t believe so.  Yet many of us live with a weird dichotomy when it comes to money.  We want money, but we don’t want to be perceived as wanting it.  Consider these mixed messages:

Good companies are profitable and financially stable.  Bad companies (and bad bosses) only care about money.

Good parents provide for their children.  Bad parents are greedy and raise materialistic kids.

Mixed messages about money start in childhood.  For me, one moment that stands out is when the oral surgeon across the street moved out of our middle class neighborhood into fancier digs on the posh side of town.

My parents didn’t have a ton of money.  My Dad was the manager at a bank, my mother was a part time teacher, and we had four kids.  I remember lots of fights about money.

In junior high, I babysat for the younger family across the street, a thirty-something oral surgeon, his wife and three little kids.  They lived in a small split-level track house, like every other house on the block.  One day, the For Sale sign went up, and we learned they were buying a much larger, much nicer house on the other side of town.

I distinctly remember my mother sniffing with disdain saying, “Well, I guess they’re just into flashy things now.”  There was the distinct feeling that they had somehow abandoned their values by buying a nicer home.  It wasn’t just my parents judging them:  it was everybody.  Mr. Oral Surgeon and his family were no longer one of us; they were those snobby materialistic rich people who lived in “New Dover.”  Their neighborhood had a name; ours was just a street.

In hindsight, I realize exactly what happened.  After many years in school, Mr. Oral Surgeon spent his first years in private practice paying down his massive student loans.  When he was finally debt free, he was able to move his family into a better home.

In other words, he was a hard-working person who through education, diligent financial planning, and good business skills bettered himself and family.  You can see why no one liked them any more.

A friend of mine who grew up in a small town says, “Nobody likes it when someone else gets over the wall.”

Because I wrote Selling with Noble Purpose, people often assume I believe focusing on money is a bad thing.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve spent much of my adult life unpacking my own relationship with money.  I now understand, instead of criticizing Mr. Oral Surgeon, we should have been learning from him.  He provided a valuable service and bettered his family as the result. Economics Professor Walter Wilson says, “Take out a dollar bill and look at it.  Now pat yourself on the back because you are looking at a certificate of performance.  If you did not rob or steal from anyone to obtain that dollar, if you neither defrauded anyone nor persuaded your government to seize it from a fellow citizen and give it to you, then you could only have obtained that dollar in one other way – you must have pleased someone.”

Money is a critical cornerstone for a successful organization, and a happy life. People who focus on money tend to make more of it.  And that can be a very good thing.

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