Someone once said that wealth is what you’ve got left even after you’ve lost all your money.
In today’s business terms, wealth is goodwill; the invaluable resource that remains on the books despite what the rest of the balance sheets say. In social media, it is your reputation – or even the “personal brand equity” you’ve built up that goes above and beyond whatever blog posts you write, or how many e-books you manage to sell.
From a human perspective, wealth is abundance. Some might just call it “success,” “wellness” or even simply “happiness.” But I think each of these terms is a bit limited, in their own way. Some better notions might be: quality; the good life; and the ancient Greek notion of “arete,” which can be considered some mix of excellence, accomplishment, and success in living a good, virtuous life.
The question is what do humans need to thrive, not just survive? Abundance, by definition, is surplus. What you’ve got above and beyond your survival needs.
True wealth is lasting and doesn’t disappear with the ups and downs of the stock market and or your company’s restructuring decisions.
The Hierarchy of Personal Wealth
I think there are at least three obvious categories of personal wealth. Please suggest others if they don’t fit into this model. I’ll list them here in order of the most basic to the more complex, with each one depending on the one before it.
Like I said, obvious. You may not realize it until you lose it or find it endangered. Talk to anyone with a life threatening condition or recovering from a serious illness and ask them what they value most. Our health is like the air we breathe. We need it to walk on, and usually, most of us are born in near-perfect health. If the word “health” doesn’t work for you, just think “energy.” How much energy do you have at the end of the day? Or the week? For some people, a better word here might be “vibration.”
Everyone is born with some set of talents, obsessions, or other graces that give them some competitive advantage – and I’m not talking about superficial things like how a person looks. Perhaps you’re able to think very logically and are good with mathematical problems and spatial reasoning. This is a gift. Everyone can learn it, but maybe it comes easy to you. So easy that you don’t even notice it. It may not be what you want to do with your entire life, but it is something you can work with as leverage to get you going in the right direction. Don’t waste it!
For lack of a better word, these are all of your positive relationships. Maybe they are there for friendly support, maybe these are people in your mastermind group or close business associates and colleagues. Everyone ranks somewhere on this dimension. Think about measuring your personal wealth by this criterion. Who’s got your back? Who will help you back up again? Who’s with you when you’ve lost your job or your direction in life? Just one or two people? Just your dog?
These are just some suggestions to get you thinking about some additional ways to measure your true wealth. A friend once told me that her investments were her family members. And we’ve all heard stories about the proverbial wealthy magnate who died unhappy, lonely and cut off from most measures of meaning in his/her life.
Without these forms of personal wealth, all the money in the world probably isn’t going to make you much happier. It can be easier to focus on money, because improvements in monetary wealth can be measured in numbers. But we need equally to look at the other pieces of the puzzle that makes up the good life.
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