Wealth Without Risk
BY: T. Franklin Murphy |February 2012
The thought of getting everything titillates our senses—all our dreams come true. We fly off in the glass elevator with Charlie never wanting again—happy and fulfilled. Advertisers know the attraction of promised utopia, they tickle our dreams and reel us in. When we hear grand promises—wealth beyond our wildest dreams; power to command thousands; and, of course, the perfect relationship—we can’t help but investigate. “Yea, I want that.” We carelessly buy their product, cast our vote, or part with precious money.
A few years ago, I received an unsolicited letter promising all these gifts. The letter pronounced, they selected me to join their elite secret organization—an ancient society catering to the rich and powerful. They claimed the group to be composed of the leaders, innovators, and wealthy. But they cautioned, because of the sensitive nature and need for privacy, they were unable to provide any names, guaranteeing I would know most of the past and current members. I, they proclaimed, was exactly who they desired to carry on the magnificent traditions.
I was entertained and flattered but tossed the letter. Chance of a life time—gone.
I chased a few fruitless dreams in my younger years. Along with the grey hairs, I also have gathered wisdom. I skeptically examine wild promises and with the exercise of prudence, pass on most. My impulsive past, chasing easy money has placed me on a few sucker lists. The chance for securing millions sparkles, piques our interest, pulling attention from the blandness of working hard, budgeting, and investing. Outlandish promises attract; by the sweat of your brow, doesn’t. Instead of the ‘puritan’ work ethic of the past, we seek the easy dollar, the easy relationship and the easy life. From a human history vantage point, we aren’t too far removed from agricultural societies, where survival required hard work. My father was raised on a dairy farm. As a child he worked several hours before breakfast; and then off to school. He instilled the same work ethic in his children. Working for survival isn’t a new concept to humanity. Survival (shelter, food, transportation) requires work—some enjoyable and some necessary.
Is the promise of ease, the secret, really a secret or is it a hoax? The human condition always demanded work—for most; a few nobles live off the blood and tears of the majority. This dream of ease, where money magically fills our coffers, often is an attractive scheme designed to rob the tired, underprivileged, and gullible of hard earned money.
Overwhelmed and tired, the workers need positive messages that nurture hope. Beaten down long enough, we give up, helpless to an unbending system. When survival overwhelms, we become vulnerable to deceptive messages; gambling, lotteries, and pyramid schemes appear attractive. Well-being missionaries sell their wares, purporting just believe and the universe will give (abundantly). We bathe in the brightness of escape and ignore the more noble messages requiring patience, work and skill. But believing in a bountiful universe isn’t sufficient. Believing you’re the fastest gun in town, and being wrong, gets you dead.
The universe doesn’t give a darn what we believe; however, our motivations are heightened or hindered by beliefs. Success (or failure) culminates from varying blends of beliefs, opportunity, effort and skills—and timing.
Complexity—because of the ambiguity of many factors—isn’t attractive; the tempting promises, on the other hand, appeal to the weary. The poor overwhelmingly support government lotteries. “You never know,” marketers casually encourage, “unless you try.” But this advice, with dirty disdain for caution, suggests we ignore warning probabilities, neglect due diligence, close our eyes and shoot into the night, hoping to hit an unseen target. The marketers parade the winners to wet are appetite while ignoring the millions of losers.
Success requires restraint and caution; a path not intriguing enough to draw our attention. We hear the success stories of those who took tremendous risk and were rewarded; but rarely hear about the millions who squandered precious money investing their lives in failing ventures.
A few miles from here, a person bought the winning lotto ticket. “What are they going to do with that money?” The California State Lotto jingle playing—Dream a little dream! The win inspired a media frenzy, interviewing gas station patrons, owner, and clerk. But along with the hype over the winner, not a single blip about the millions of losing tickets sold. I have close friends who continually struggle with financial demons; coincidentally they are the ones with lottery tickets in their wallet, waiting for the big one. Unfortunately, too many consumers purchase more than they can afford with hopes of striking it rich.
The lottery—a single example—prays on the get rich mindset. The mindset isn’t limited to organized-gambling. The mindset pushes many into fruitless endeavors, while simultaneously ignoring proven paths to financial stability.
Success requires balance. We must take risks; but those risks must be measured. We move forward with hope, wisdom and courage. When faced with life changing choices, we must carefully investigate. Speak with others, check the promises, and make informed decisions, transcending blinding desires and faulty escapes. We can’t afford to squander precious resources on unsubstantiated hopes.
When mesmerized by a dream of riches, we jump at the flimsy promises of faulty schemes without prudent skepticism. We benefit from the rumination on dreams of winning, holding a ticket provides a momentary escape from the reality of work. But the momentary excitement of the dream fades when the pot of gold is missing.
Many take a lottery-ticket-approach to their futures. We can invest in dreams, exploring possibilities; but we do so in wisdom, continuing to devote effort to the time-honored principles of success. When our lucky numbers fail, our careful prudent living continues to pay dividends to our well-being, providing a more realistic hope to a very attainable future.
Most profitable ventures require significant time, funds, skills, and effort. But the sacrifices and big dreams don’t guarantee success. Some ventures continually drain our accounts; bottomless pits of empty promises; no matter how much energy, money and positive energy we invest, they fail—not because of lack of vision, or negative focus but because the idea is unworkable.
Slow down! Build character through prudence first. Build skills, expanding your overall knowledge, improving critical thinking, and fine-tuning self-discipline. As we gather skills, knowledge and relationships, our wider foundation creates opportunities, blessing the future. Be courageous to take occasional risks, following some opportunities but wise enough to recognize blind promises, designed to snare the greedy and desperate.
Great risk doesn’t guarantee a great reward; inherent in a risk is potential for loss. Fantastic opportunities touting risk-free investment promise what we desire. Move courageously forward in wisdom, coupled with hard work and success will be yours. This advice doesn’t sparkle, tickling our inner hopes of immediate riches; but slow and steady progress diminishes the need for a lottery ticket bail out. I have let go of waiting for the big one, forgiving myself for the lost years chasing unobtainable dreams. I now enjoy the pleasure of a slow and steady path to a modest but relaxing retirement.