I give every new client a copy of Jim Stovall’s book The Ultimate Gift. I find it to be a wonderful reminder about what success truly is and how to properly value wealth.
How do you define success?
I ask this question of every client at some point in our relationship and I have gotten some very interesting and telling responses over the years. Take a moment and think about it for yourself and I will give you my definition at the end.
For those of you that are not familiar with The Ultimate Gift I will give a brief synopsis. The story centers on fictional billionaire Red Stevens who has given his family an amazing life of material wealth but has spoiled them in the process. Red has passed away and his heirs are eager to receive their inheritances. For his grandnephew Jason Stevens the inheritance comes with significant strings attached. He must complete a series of monthly tasks before he is to receive any of his inheritance.
Jason is a self-centered 24 year old that resents that he won’t receive his inheritance immediately. As the story unfolds a transformation occurs in young Jason as he receives each task from the estate attorney every month. Each monthly task reveals a new life lesson and gift from his Uncle. Ultimately it leads Jason to being able to truly appreciate the inheritance he receives.
Life’s True Lessons
Take a moment to reflect on the things that you value and consider important. Now I will share a few of Red’s gifts to young Jason.
The value of work. In the first lesson Jason is sent to a ranch to work for a month. Most of us understand the value of hard work. We have experienced it firsthand. We continue to experience it every day. Little is more satisfying to me than putting in a hard day of work and then taking pride in whatever it is that I created or accomplished. How often do you stop to consider the gift of a hard day’s work? Do you wake up with a burning desire to get to the office? Do you feel like you produce something that is useful and valued?
The value of money. Red knew that Jason never worried about having enough money, but he was certain that he never appreciated the true value of a dollar. So he challenged him to find 5 people over the course of month for whom a small amount of money could make a huge difference. Jason was given $1500 to distribute and wound up helping people with a few hundred for rent or a repair. Along the way he recognized that his perception about the true value of money had been skewed by his massive wealth. I have recently been contemplating this issue with my own kids. We are far from wealthy but we do fine for ourselves. But I remember the times when money was a struggle. My kids don’t remember any of those days. Do they have any concept about what the other 90% of the world’s populations life is like? Are they so spoiled that they are losing empathy for the less fortunate? What can I do differently?
The value of problems. Red asks Jason to find people coping with truly devastating problems and recognize the value of facing a challenge head on. Jason discovered people dealing with many tragedies with great dignity. He learned that problems and challenges often give life its meaning. I view myself as a glass half full optimist. My wife would even accuse me of being too positive sometimes. My response is always that it beats the alternative. How do you view your setbacks? Are they opportunities to rise to the occasion, a blessing or are they a curse and a defeat? Recently I have been reflecting on what my life would look like without the challenges I have faced. What I determined was that it would be missing so much and I am grateful for every challenge that comes my way.
The value of dreams. All successful entrepreneurs understand the power of dreams. Red is now different. He knew that success lies in the ability to work hard to turn a dream into a reality. Jason had never considered what he wanted to accomplish in life. Thanks to Red he began to develop a sense of purpose and a drive that would propel him every day. Ask yourself what is your mission? Do you see your dreams clearly? I have a dream to help as many people as a I can. I want to educate as many people as I can about the wonderful freedoms that proper wealth planning can create for them. I am passionate everyday towards this mission. It drives me every day. I have other dreams as well but those are for another day. No one has a singularly consuming dream no matter where they are in their life. Remember to keep working toward your dreams!
The value of a grateful heart. Red lived through the Depression and learned a lot about gratitude early in life. There is a powerful message about gratitude that Red learns from a homeless man. Everyday this man would lie in bed and visualize his “golden list” on which he wrote 10 things he was especially thankful for. He followed this routine everyday whether he was hungry, wet, or cold. Red adopted this golden list and his assignment to Jason was to do the same. What Jason discovered was there are so many things to be thankful that he had a hard time limiting it to 10. The end of year is a wonderful time to reflect on what we are thankful but I encourage you to make it part of your daily routine. How different would your life be if you reflected frequently on the things you are grateful for? Would you begin to appreciate the simple things in life like your friends, family and health? I have recently instituted my golden 10 list and am amazed how hard it is to limit to 10. We are all blessed no matter where life takes us.
The value of love. Red had a deep love for Jason and his posthumous assignments were his final show of that love. Red saw greatness in Jason and wanted to help him find and shape it. By the end of the journey Jason developed a deep love and appreciation for his Uncle.
I asked you earlier how you define success. Now I will give you my definition. As I have gotten older my definition has morphed and tweaked here and there. In my younger days success was defined by winning or losing, accomplishing things that others didn’t, and conforming to the definition that society set out for success. Now as I have grown wiser my definition is this:
Success is following your passions, helping those around you, and reaching the end of your life and knowing that you have made a difference in the lives of the people that love you.
Be thankful for the many blessings in your life!
With grateful tidings
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.