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:
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 US and abroad.
Ashley picked up on my sentiment towards 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 Polo’s and a rare Concord; fifty-thousand dollars 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, 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 tell the real story of what drives you and what you value most.