About eighteen months ago, I attended an event. It was a typical event with speakers and content that was actionable. At that event, I learned about the trap of being rich because I was surrounded by men and women who had made lots of money.
It was a day of egos and attention-grabbing like I had never experienced before. The day ended with a charity auction where each persons ego was put to the test.
“How much is your ego worth?” was what I thought as the hammer of the auctioneer went down on each luxury item that no person really ever needed in their lives.
That day showed me a lot about what it means to be rich.
The rich trap looks like this and you have probably seen it:
- Showing photos of cars/houses that either you or a friend owns
- Talking about selling a business and the money it made you or a friend
- Idolizing outlandish drunken behavior
Some example lines of the rich trap sound like this:
“They came to the conference in their bathrobe”
“They spent $300K on their expense account in a single month”
“They got a cheque for $150M after selling their business and had a massive party”
“We all drank so much alcohol that we accidentally did…”
Money can buy you a lot of nice things. It can also cause you to lose control, do stupid things you know are wrong, abuse innocent people and have a meaning for your life that will eventually destroy you.
Money isn’t bad for everyone, though. I met a guy who used his money to help those who were suffering in poverty in a third-world country and he personally helped rebuild their homes with the help of a few friends. The money he had didn’t cause him to do dumb stuff; it allowed him to chase something much bigger than the trap of more money.
What was interesting was that he had two bank accounts: one for his family and one for his charitable work. Money would flow into each bank account in an automated fashion as though there was never any doubt or decision that needed to be made again when it came to money.
One thing I have learned watching several friends and associates make more money than you or I could ever spend is that it can go either way, and you won’t know in advance, what you will become with money.
You could say that money amplifies who you already are, but I haven’t always found that to be true.
For some people, they chase money until they have taken care of themselves first and then they start to do things with it that have nothing to do with their own selfish desires later on.
There is no obvious telltale sign on who you will become with money. What I believe works is being conscious of the money trap. Knowing what can happen and understanding the different meanings you can have for your life, help prepare you for what might or might not happen if you ‘get money.’
What changed me was the gift of giving. Once I saw what giving could do, no materialistic object could ever replace that feeling. It makes you want to chase a feeling rather than an object — that’s a powerful idea.
My money story
I too fell for the money trap. There was a point where I had more than enough and used money to numb the pain of the problems in my life; I just wasn’t willing to accept.
When the money disappeared, what it revealed was that I had a mental illness, was in really poor health, and had an ego and view on life that was destructive to anyone who came into contact with me.
Only when money was removed from the equation, could I see the destruction that was left.
Money was one giant bandaid that allowed me to pretend I was okay through flashy cars and drinking so much alcohol that I would become someone else.
It was this “somebody else” that my new rich friends worshipped.
The worst thing the money trap can do
Money can mess with your ego. It can make you think you are invincible or better than someone who doesn’t have any.
What is easily forgotten is money can be taken away from you quicker than you think through so many different ways.
I had a colleague who managed to make over $100M and then lost it all through some bizarre paperwork mixup that couldn’t be undone. That led him and his young family to live in their car, and then later, a caravan.
You can’t hold onto money forever and will one day have to leave it behind. Those crisp notes we call money feel good in our pocket, but what they really buy is an opportunity.
You can use money to numb the pain of being human and the inevitable struggles you will encounter, or you can find an opportunity.
Money looks like it solves all problems, but it doesn’t. Money is both an opportunity and a trap. You get to choose and that choice can be made in advance.