How to Survive Becoming Rich: Do It For Right Reasons

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
5 min read

Do the soul searching. Know why you are pursuing financial independence and wealth creation.

It has to be for something bigger than yourself. The ability to give back, help others, and contribute. Do it for you the ones you love, your family, community, and to contribute to making the world a better place.

Certainly do it for your self first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Margaret Thatcher said, “No-one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.”

Like the stewardess pantomimes at the beginning of the flight: put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.

But always have an idea of who else you are doing it for. It’s not about giving money. Contribute and volunteer your time, experience and expertise.

Start now. Set aside a part of your free cash flow for helping others. Don’t think you have to wait until you have significant funds to make an impact. Make it a habit starting now. If you won’t give 5 or 10% of what you are saving now, you won’t do it when you have a million dollars. The smallest gestures can be the most important.

Do it with love and authenticity. The benefits will accrue to you. There is a lot of research and theory to back up this claim. Caring is central to the human experience. Caring has healing potential for both the one who is caring and the one who is being cared for.

Giving and helping others is the ultimate gift you can give them and yourself. Start now and redouble your efforts.

Create a legacy. Plan on creating scholarships and foundations that benefit society. Sponsor research, policies and programs.

Achieving your financial goals is not the end game. It’s the beginning. As Churchill said in the dark days of WWII, “it’s not the end, or even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”

Now you can do the things you want. You now have the freedom, time and resources to pursue what’s important to you.

Make it about more than partying on your yacht. I never understood the joys of recreational boating. It seems like another way to separate yourself from the world. To joy cruise around I would think one would have to drink and drug a lot. Otherwise the clarity of being sober would unmask it as the pointless activity it is.

But I digress.

You will meet your financial goals. That event isn’t the destination; it’s the threshold to a fulfilling life.

Take time now to define that life and what you want to contribute. Not knowing what to do once you achieve your initial goals can ruin success. We can fall prey to a post partum blues.

The challenge is surviving the descent.

A useful metaphor is mountain climbing. Most accidents and fatalities happen on the way back down.

In 1953 Tenzig Norgay and Edmund Hillary summited Mount Everest. They were the first to stand atop the highest mountain in the world. This was an impossible feat. It was interpreted as a good omen for the recently crowned Queen of England. Elizabeth knighted Edmund for accomplishing such an amazing trek.

Many historians of mountaineering believe Sir Edmund was not the first person to reach the peak of Everest. It is widely believed that George Mallory may have been the first person to the summit 30 years earlier! Mallory is famous for saying: “Because its there”.

This is from an interview, “Climbing Mount Everest is work for Supermen”, The New York Times 18 March 18, 1923.

“Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” This question was posed to George Leigh Mallory. He had been on two previous expeditions toward the summit of the world’s highest mountain, in 1921 and 1922. He was in New York preparing for his third go in 1924. He gave as the reason for persisting in these repeated attempts to reach the top, “Because it’s there.”

If George Mallory reached the peak of Mount Everest in 1924, why did Hillary get all the fame and credit? Because Edmund Hillary didn’t just make it to the peak, he also successfully made it back down the mountain. For Mallory, three was the charm and he never returned. Like the vast majority of those who have died bagging summits, it was coming down that proved fatal.

Returning is always tougher than you imagined. People don’t treat you the same. They won’t understand the transformation you have undergone and the revelations you have experienced. Prepare to be misunderstood and envied.

Combat this and your own post partum “now what” blues with a rich interior life.

One can live well even in a palace.

Marcus Aurelius

Cultivate a rich and rewarding life based on things other than money and success. These include health, relationships, and intellectual life. Cultivate the life of the mind and aesthetic pursuits. Appreciate music, literature, poetry, art, architecture, languages, culture, humor, drama, and movies. These pursuits will nourish and temper your demeanor.

These pursuits will provide endless satisfactions as you descend from the summit.

As we go through life, we tend lose our childhood innocence. The complexities and concerns of adulthood bury our curiosity and imaginations.

We become concerned about our appearance, popularity, and success. We compete in the workplace. We mistake communication for what we say rather than what we mean. We worry about status and social rank.

We try to create a safe and secure little world for ourselves, devoid of risk and vulnerability. Only to discover we’re still not happy.

To achieve our best life we need to get out of our own way. Let go of our petty insecurities and rediscover the joy found in helping others.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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