Organizational Values: What Is Real Wealth?

Recently I had the privilege of spending three days with a group of two hundred and fifty ranchers from across Western Canada who belong to an organization called Holistic Management (HM). HM is based on a decision making framework which results in ecologically regenerative, economically viable and socially sound management of the world’s grasslands. These down-to-earth, authentic families are clear about their organizational values and their goals.

One of the key principles I have learned from them over the years is to have a clear distinction in your mind between “quality of life” and “standard of living.” While I presented a series of sessions during their conference on the human side of family and business, my concluding keynote was about the real meaning of wealth. Here is a synopsis of that presentation, entitled, “I’m a wealthy man because…”

  1. I’m a wealthy man because of my inheritance of values and character. My parents both died essentially broke. But what would you rather get from your parents: a rich financial inheritance with no character and values, or character and values with no money? With character and values, you can create wealth, and much more. Character is like the goose that lays the golden eggs. Strong character – the courage to face the demands of reality; a commitment to living a principle-centered life; to bring greater value to others than you ask in return – will always be more powerful than money because of the freedom it brings and the wealth it creates.
  2. I’m a wealthy man because of the mentors who have influenced me over the years. My parents and ancestors top the list, but they also exposed me to some great teachers including the world-renowned family therapist, Virginia Satir and Jack Gibb, who taught me about trust. Another mentor was Norris Lowry, a hired hand on our farm who taught me about hard work, how to shake a hand, and the motto, “Happiness is not a destination; it’s a method of travel.”  Other mentors include my good friends and colleagues, Jim Reger, Murray Hiebert,  Bernie Novokowski, and Don Campbell. Then, of course, there are my daughters, Mellissa, Hayley, and Chandra, and my life-partner, Val.
  3. I’m a wealthy man because of being taught to be giver, not a taker. North Americans used to contribute to the betterment of all. Now we are “consumers,” – which means, “people who use up, waste, destroy, and squander.” I was taught early on to give more than you get paid for, to build rather than destroy, to help rather than hinder, and try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. While I don’t do this anywhere near perfectly, living these values makes me a wealthy person.
  4. I’m a wealthy man because of the love in my life. Love, like health, is precious. Rather than a fleeting emotion, I am learning that love is a verb, not a noun. Love is the result of both a decision and of learning to give of myself to others. My life is richer, deeper, and more fulfilling because of the love that surrounds me. This past week, my daughter and I went to hear Deepak Chopra and after his brilliant presentation, Hayley asked if I want to be as famous as him. (Thankfully, I don’t think I’ll ever be famous in the eyes of my children.) “I don’t seek fame,” I replied, “I simply want to be used for the betterment of mankind.” I have always been inspired by the words of Dag Hammarskjold, former Secretary-General of the United Nations: “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.”
  5. I’m a wealthy man because of my health. Health is a true source of wealth. Without it, joy is not impossible, but difficult. Health habits create quality of life and the older I get the more this gets tested. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” it is said. Living without pain is a gift to be sought after. There’s no guarantee of health to any of us, just has there is no immunity from death. Like love, I guard my health with gratitude and tenacious care.
  6. I am a wealthy man today because of my awareness that I can’t do it alone. I haven’t relied enough on others in my career. I’ve been a pretty independent “lone wolf” consultant who likes to maintain control. But I’m learning to let go and let others help me, let others bring strength to my business where I have weakness, let others help get the creative juices going through collaboration. My business is a tool to create what matters in my life, and I am wealthy because of the team behind me.
  7. Finally, I am a wealthy man because of my faith. Success is not defined in my life by the world’s standards.

Success is measured by the touchstone of my conscience – through the eyes of my creator. I have been rich from a financial standpoint, and I have been poor, and believe me, I’d rather be rich. Money won’t make you happy. If you are miserable and you come across a rich financial inheritance, then all you’ll be is a miserable rich person. But money buys options, and there’s nothing wrong with options. To paraphrase the great business philosopher Zig Ziglar, “Money will buy you a house, but it won’t buy you a home.  Money will buy you a bed, but it won’t buy you a good night’s sleep. Money will buy you a companion, but it won’t buy you a friend. Money will buy you a piece of real estate, but it won’t buy you peace of mind. Money will buy you a trip around the world but it won’t take you on the journey to your soul.”

Take some time to explore what wealth means to you. There really is a huge difference between a standard of living and a quality of life. I wish for you to have both, for in one is an expression of success, in the other, significance. Significance is the true source of wealth, for a life without significance and meaning is a life not worth living.