I love money. It is a powerful tool for getting lots of things done. And it provides that all so valuable financial freedom. But I’ve learned that it’s not the only kind of financial freedom there is.
For instance, take the popular parable about “The Tourist & The Fisherman.” It goes something like this – an American businessman visits Mexico and sees a lone fisherman bringing in his catch for the day. Confident of his ability to help people grow their business, no matter how small, he strolls over to the fisherman and smugly points out that if the man worked longer hours and sacrificed time with his family, he could buy a boat, hire people, catch more fish and go on to build a large fishing business from which he could retire from or sell in 50 years in order to spend more time with his family and truly living his life.
The fisherman thinks about it and says, “Isn’t that what I’m doing now?” What the fisherman knows that the businessman doesn’t, is that what he is doing now is enough to support his family and give him the lifestyle that he wants. In other words, he doesn’t have to wait 50 years, have a heart attack and four ulcers to realize what’s important to him.
He is happy with his life now. Instead of working harder and harder to make more money so he can pursue happiness, he has made happiness his priority and by default, lives a rich life.
If you are like most entrepreneurs, you want to start your own business because of the freedom it offers. Heck, we all do! Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that dream, or the dream of winning the lottery. Having your own business gives us the ability to do what we want, when we want it. At least, that’s what we think when we first start dreaming the dream.
Reality Sets In
When you start out in any business you think you’re going to be the person in charge. It’s heady stuff! It doesn’t take long before you realize the customers are the true bosses. They tell us what to do and when we need to do it.
Our dreams of flexibility and doing what we want will fade away. Our personal little fantasy of the four-hour workweek gets lost in the shadow of doing what the market demands that we do. In order to make a lot of money we start dancing to someone else’s tune, just the thing we were trying to escape. And when we aren’t serving clients, we’re working our butts off to find more clients to tell us what to do. Needless to say, it’s not exactly the comfortable paradise we had imagined.
Spinning Your Wheels
The fairy tale vision of starting a business in order to have freedom turns into a something that resembles more of a Stephen King remake of the sitcom of “The Office.” Just like the businessman offering advice to the fisherman, you actually believe you can work like mad now, so that you can have “financial freedom” later. And then, when that happens, you believe you will be successful and be able to do what you want.
This might work. You could work like crazy until you have a lot of money, so that you can do what you want, but it’s like winning the Powerball lottery — it can happen, but it’s rare that it does. Yet a lot of fools still keep playing, believing they’re the next big winner!
The “work now, play later” belief system of the financial freedom dream, is it a trap. Or perhaps even more of a bad habit. You do more to get more, which results in a perpetual loop of doing more and more so that “one day” you will have the freedom (financial freedom) because, after all, that is all we know how to do. When it comes down to it, all you really know how to do is continuously work for more and more.
Unfortunately, I know people who have been caught up in this cycle for years, even decades. They keep working themselves to the bone, yet their dream of financial freedom is farther away than ever.
I think we can all learn an important lesson from the old story of The Mexican Fisherman – namely that when we say we want “freedom,” what we really want is happiness. And while money seems like it has the potential to bring happiness, it doesn’t.
What money has is the ability to amplify your core desires. When you have more money, and you are already happy, you can grow that happiness. But the reverse is true, too. If you are angry, depressed, or unhappy, money is not going to do much to help. In fact, it can lead you down a path of disaster. Just think of all those overnight celebrity success stories about people who are unhappy at their core. They get the money, or financial freedom, that they desire…and what happens? Two words: Lindsay Lohan.