3 Hidden Lessons In Creating Wealth

Photo: Andrew Neel

Once there was a man who sold his well to a farmer. The next day, when the farmer went to draw the water from that well, the man did not allow him to draw the water from it. He said, “I have sold you the well, not the water, so you cannot draw the water from the well.”

The farmer became very sad and went to the Emperor’s court. He described everything to the Emperor and asked for justice.

The Emperor called the man who sold the well to the farmer and asked, “Why don’t you let him use the water of the well? You sold the well to the farmer.” The man replied, “I sold only the well to the farmer, not the water. He has no right to draw the water from the well.”

The Emperor smiled and said to him, “Good, but look, since you have sold the well to this farmer, and you claim that water is yours, then you have no right to keep your water in the farmer’s well. Either pay rent to the farmer to keep your water in his well, or take your water out of his well immediately.”

The man understood. There is a price to be paid for everything whether he chooses to see it or not.

1. True wealth requires circulation

True wealth cannot be given to you from the external world. It’s never for sale. It doesn’t come in a package. If you don’t generate it from the inside, you have none to give.

You block your natural circulation when you hoard money, the opposite of creating long term wealth. The block is a sign of ingratitude, in this case true of the man who sold the farmer his well.

There was a trust that was paid forward by the farmer when he agreed to the transaction, and the man held back in kind. The trust was broken. The farmer will probably tell the story to his friends and family. The neighbors who hear the story will not want to do business with the man. The man would have paid the price with his reputation instead of with money.

Money is simply energy in a particular form. Its highest use is to generate activity that creates even more wealth for everyone, but in order to do that, the money must be circulated beyond yourself.

We often talk of “smallness” in people. Have you ever met someone who had lots of money but seemed small? When the man refused to pay the full price of having received the farmer’s money in exchange for the well, he shrank on the inside.

True wealth requires high integrity, which means paying forward as much as you take for yourself. There is a balance that you can either respect or ignore but is always there. Managing your money one way leads you to fulfillment, the other to loneliness.

There is always a price to be paid. Pay with money or pay with something more dear but invisible to you.

2. Humility is your ticket

Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom.— Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s lifelong business partner)

Things are not always as they seem. Sometimes, like the man who thought he was so clever, you can only see half of the picture, if not less, depending on your role in the situation.

The Emperor had the authority to teach the man who had sold the well. (You can bet the man bristled).

I used to not be able to stand criticism. How about you?

I had a harsh word for anyone who offered a different perspective than my own. My mother had been doggedly critical of me. As a result, I became a very defensive person. My defenses got in the way of the growth of my business and my person.

Your learning steepens when you throw down your defenses.

Are you open to being taught by your peers or even your closest family and friends? Or, do you turn aside when they point out something you could learn?

It is not how right you are that determines your success in life as much as how you perceive your failures and weight your bets. When you’re truly humble in your approach, all of your business decisions shift. You don’t swing for the fences at every pitch. You weight your actions with thoughtfulness.

Eventually, your batting average soars consistently higher than others who need to be right every time.

3. Things that go around come around

The man who refused to share his water with the farmer in the story is left with two financial choices. He must remove the water from the well, or pay rent to the farmer.

The man who thought he was being so sneaky and sly will now need to invest additional money in extracting and storing the water somewhere else. He may need to buy a thousand buckets that he does not currently have to move the water, or find land to store it until it is all consumed.

Alternatively, he could approach the farmer whom he just tried to screw over and negotiate a price to rent the well. The farmer, angry at being treated so poorly, will want to charge the man such an exorbitant amount, the man will have made no money from the sale of the well and perhaps even lost.

In dealings with other people, if you’re out there looking to maximize your own short term benefit, you risk the prospects of your longer term wealth.

This story is mere fable, but what goes around comes around. It’s the way the system is rigged.

Do what is right for your long term wealth. When you see and embrace how little you know for certain in life, your energy changes. Humility and true wealth washes in. Judgment and bitterness goes out. You stop creating invisible ceilings for yourself.

Are you willing to throw down your defenses?

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