Sunday 27 July 2008

You’re as rich as you live

I often quote this line from a movie that goes “Every man dies, but not every man lives.” The movie is Braveheart and even if you have seen it years ago watch it again now. Speaking of brave hearts, this fine winter's weekend I want to explore the progress paradox with respect to money versus experience. Wealth is so typically measured by a number in this day and age. So, how would you say you scored? What number did you achieve? Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it. If you had a week to live would you be worrying about a number? Life is a journey and journeys are about experiences.

With the recent economic downturn in America the world has become increasingly more anxious. I have been listening to more and more people ask the big question of late, “What is it all about?” Surely it can’t be about a number. And most definitely it should not require a number to dictate the riches you could realize in this world. My oldest friend Alex once told me that you are as rich as you live. It has taken me many years to truly understand these words. Also, I realize that my soulful friend was way ahead of his time.

As the world looks within its soul to find answers we are going to experience an increasing move towards the more spiritual aspects of life with respect to business and wealth. Humour, romance and love will once again become the real treasures as we move back to more qualitative life because we realize that life is truly short and uncertain. You are as rich as you live but are you as rich as you own? And by asking this I am exploring the idea of living versus accumulating. To own things or to own experiences is the question. Yes, what about experience versus possessions – which side are you tending towards. Someone I met recently told me a story about a man with money who meets a man with experience. After the meeting the man with the experience now has the money and the man with the money now has the experience. And isn’t this what life is about: experience. Life is a journey. And the journey is about living to the fullest. It is about feeling and about growing. If life were about a destination then having a fortune of possessions would make sense, as you would have arrived in the quantitative world. But where exactly are you arriving at?

I found this next exercise on the Internet. It is a different sort of quiz. And it goes to help illustrate that we are indeed as rich as we live. Let’s check out this quiz. It will make you think. 1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest. 4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress. 6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners. How did you do? The point is, none of us remember headliners of yesterday. And these are no second-rate achievers. They are best in their fields, but the accolades and certificates are buried with their owners. Here's another quiz; see how you do on this one: 1. List a few teachers who helped you on your journey through school. 2. Name three friends who helped you through a difficult time. 3. Name five people who taught you something worthwhile. 4. Think of a few people who made you feel appreciated and special. 5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with. 6. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you. Easier? The lesson? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care. And having a rich life is about caring. And you can never care too much, only too little.

Life is about sharing. And the most important thing you can share or give to anyone is your time. The richest people I have met in the world are always giving of their time to those people who they care about. Having a rich life is to be surrounded by love, compassion, support, laughter, and friendship. In a world where people are questioning their value systems and looking at the financial markets with disbelief, there is going to be great movement towards the more qualitative aspects of life once again. I wrote a few weeks back that we shouldn’t be climbing mountains on our own. The significant things are not meant to be done on your own. The journey is about sharing. And what we share are experiences. This is what makes life so inspired and so colourful. And the richer the experiences the richer your life will be.

The most wonderful times I have ever experienced are when I am surrounded by the people I love; when we are all together, drinking and eating and laughing. This is when I feel most alive. Living a rich life means taking time out from the rat race. It means slowing down the treadmill. And yes, as we know that time is money then it also means less money. Money, as the cliché goes, does not buy happiness. So, what does? I am not going to attempt to answer that question here, but I can say that some of the richest people I know are not the biggest moneymakers in town. Their lives are rich and their contributions evident. Let’s end off with a line from another of my favourite movies, “The powerful play of life goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Posted by Ronnie Apteker