Money, money, money—it’s taken me this long to talk about money. It runs the world and every single day as an adult you have to engage with this thing called money. Isn’t it fascinating? This is the very subject in which we as adults have to engage with everyday, this idea of money, but yet it’s the very subject that isn’t even remotely talked about or studied (or understood) in school. 

What am I talking about? Management of personal finances. Good financial responsibility. Good financial management.

The right attitudes when it comes to saving money.
The right attitudes and behaviors when it comes to investing money.
The right attitudes and behaviors about spending money. 

Emotional Damage

I find that many experience emotional spending. Emotional spending is never a great idea. Emotional spending is exactly the type of spending you don’t want. Emotional spending equals emotional damage.

These are the things that you don’t learn in school about how to manage money, the right behaviors, attitudes, how to control your emotions around this. Maybe it’s just because the teachers in schools these days don’t know financial responsibility yet either. Maybe that’s why maybe it never comes up. The teachers themselves aren’t actually good with money and maybe that’s why they’re there. Maybe that’s why they’re teachers because let’s be honest, certainly, ain’t nobody gettin rich being a teacher. 

We all know why the teachers are there. The teachers are there because they have a higher calling in life. But we have to be intellectually honest here, being a teacher is not a great way to become extremely wealthy. 

So, let’s get to the point. Here are 7 lessons of money I’ve learned over four decades of life.

1 – Learn to manage your money.

Learn to manage your money. This is gonna be easy and quick. Detail out your spending. Go to an Excel or Google document or free cell-based system and detail out your spending. It is fascinating to me how many people in life do not understand what their accounts look like. Understand net versus gross income. Understand entertainment costs versus living costs. Create a budget. Stick to it. When you’re blessed with more money, slam it into debt and don’t increase your lifestyle if you don’t need to. That’s pretty much it. 

We talk a lot about ‘seeing the whole’ of a complex problem in Agile and Scrum. Likewise, we need to be able to see the whole of our accounts. We need to know where the money flows. When you can see where the money is going, you can control the inputs and outputs.

2 – The pursuit of pleasure it leads to poverty in life in more than one way.

The pursuit of pleasure costs money. The pursuit of pleasure it leads to poverty in life in more than one way. I have met individuals, mostly men—who live a lifestyle of pursuing pleasure and that leaves them broke in all sorts of ways.

It leaves them broken always, both tangibly and emotionally and spiritually.

The pursuit of pleasure is that it is insatiable. Pleasure is insatiable. It is impossible to satisfy. Trust me I’ve tried it. I’ve tried it when it comes to cars (and other things as well). The fact is that money will never help you satiate the desire. It’ll only be a cost accounting. It’ll only be a cost center in your life. 

Living for the pursuit of pleasure will only cost you everything. It’ll leave you broke. Well maybe not broke if you have trillions of dollars, but it’s gonna leave you broke – emotionally and spiritually. It’s going to leave you empty because pleasure without purpose, is a dead soul. Pleasure without a greater purpose produces very empty life. 

Haven’t you heard the stories of celebrities who’ve pursued pleasure for so long and feeling empty inside? All the sex, drugs, rock’n roll, I guess, is the devil’s promise – empty and impossible to fulfill. You end up being spent. You can’t have all the sex in the world. You can’t have all the drugs in the world. And you certainly can’t have all the proverbial rock’n roll in the world. At the end of the day, even the biggest rock stars, even the biggest celebrities and those who you think have it all, end up often, unfortunately with a gun to their head because they’re so depressed. They have been left empty in life. The pursuit of pleasure leads to poverty. More than just money, it leaves to poverty of soul. Don’t get sucked in to the world of pleasure and money. It’s not a place that is worth being, or living in.

3 – Being motivated by money makes you miserable. 

I can raise my hand. I have gone through phases in life, my friends, in which I have been motivated by money. It makes you absolutely miserable. Why? Because the people who are motivated by money are never content. They’re never content you’re always frustrated about the money aspect of X, the money aspect of Y, the money aspect of Z. It ruins all your experiences. 

I’m speaking from experience. Being money motivated ruins everything around you. It puts a gray cloud on everything that you do. I can tell you examples of periods of my life, early in our marriage in which it was just a phase of life that I had to go through. I was more money-focused and it just sucked the life out of everything. I remember I couldn’t even go to the aquarium without complaining about the price of the aquarium, complaining about the price of the parking ticket, complaining about the price of the popcorn, complaining about the price of whatever it was.

What’s wrong with me? I had plenty of money at that time. I wasn’t starving. We were going to the damn aquarium. Why do I gotta be complaining about the money aspect when I already committed to going? You see people who are money-consumed, they’re motivated by money, they see everything through the lens of money and they’re calculating the costs all the time. It’s frustrating. It’s terrible to be around those people.

One of the biggest problems with being motivated by money is it makes you compromise your values and your character and even common sense. It frustrates you constantly. It makes you compromise that which you hold to be valuable because the next deal, the next opportunity to make just a little bit more money is far more important at that moment in time than your character and your personality and your integrity. 

You know a couple of ironies that accompany this mental disease?

Irony #1: Your family suffers the most. Even though your desire is for them to enjoy the benefits that money may produce for them in their lives and the opportunities. You might say that’s crazy talk, it sounds like you can’t even win. I’m working for them aren’t I?! Yes, and no. Yes, you’re motivated by money. Yes, your family gets to reap all the rewards of all of your hard work. They get to drive nice cars, live in a nice place, go to nice schools, get nice things. No, they don’t enjoy the time with you like they should.

I’m here to tell you, hand raised, Scout’s honor, the irony of being money focused is that your family suffers the most. They’re the ones that can’t stand to be around you. They’re the ones who are always hearing you complain. They’re the ones who are always thinking that you’re going to nickel and dime everything. When you’re having fun and you want to have great experiences in life, the cost should not even come up within the calculus of those decisions. 

Irony #2: Being money oriented actually constrains your ability to make even more money. Spending time with money can never compare to spending time with people. 

Another way of saying this: Agonizing over all the details of money in your life in every situation that comes by can never compare with spending time with people.

Figuring out problems to solve is far more valuable to the world than trying to retrofit your product or service so you can squeeze more money out of your customer or squeeze more money out of this event or squeeze more money out of this particular circumstance. 

You know what makes more money? Not squeezing people. Not bleeding whatever is left of what you got. Spending time with people is where real money is made is; where real problems can be solved; where real conversation can happen. This is how you make more money. The irony is that being money-oriented, being money-motivated, being money-focused, actually constrains or limits your ability to make more money. 

Money motivation at the end of the day is the antithesis of mission motivation. Mission-motivation gives you the ability to say “no” when it comes to money. When you’re money-motivated, guess what? You never say “no” to more money. The problem with never saying no is you end up saying yes to everything. And in turn, over time, you always end up compromising your values because you say yes to everything and then you try to figure out a way to get out of it.

One of the biggest problems with being motivated by money is that there’s this thing called death… it’s somewhat inescapable…

4 – You came with nothing. You will leave with nothing.

You came into this world with nothing. Guess what? You will leave with nothing. Money can only delay death. Money doesn’t avoid it. At the end of the day, you came here with nothing and you’re going to leave this place with nothing. 

You need to see money for what it really is. Money is merely a tool. That’s all it is. It’s a tool within your tool belt. Tools don’t extend your life. They are there to make your life better. Tools don’t remove responsibility for you to do the right thing in life, but tools help you do the right thing and make it worth it. What I really mean to say here is that we should spend money on worthy causes, spend money on worthwhile experiences, spend more money on your family, and your family’s experiences over others.

Put your money towards things that are worthwhile, not to the pursuit of your own pleasures. We’ve already experienced that. You already know what that looks like. You’ve seen the stories. You’ve seen the VH1 behind the scenes, the MTV reel or whatever. You already know what that looks like. Since money can’t avoid death, it only delays it, use money as merely a tool to make the experiences in life worth living. 

You also can’t accumulate enough and even if you accumulate enough at the end of the day, it’s not going be yours. It’s going be someone else’s. One thing that’s come to me in multiple rounds in my life, a stark realization that everything that I’ve built and everything that I’ve worked so hard for is actually going to end up being owned by someone else later down in life. 

For example, I built a wonderful and beautiful home, but at the end of the day it’s not going to actually be mine. It’s going to be owned by someone else. Someone else is going to buy it. They’re gonna live in it. They’re gonna do things differently. They might extend it. They might remove certain parts of it. But at the end of the day, it’s not mine. I’m going to perish and going to go away and none of it really was mine. None of it really mattered, actually.

5 – When it comes to money, learn to know a good deal. 

Learn to know a good deal. Let me tell you the number one best kind of gut check when it comes to deals. It has to feel and sound like a good deal before it’s actually a good deal. This is generic, might not be helpful, but #5 is learn to know a good deal. Everything has a cost to it. Everything has a cost – physical, emotional, spiritual.

Everything has a cost.
Everything has a cost.
Everything has a cost. 

Learn to understand the long-term costs of decisions. The more that you get better at this, realizing that everything has a cost, the larger picture of that cost comes into play.

Oh that car that you wanted to get? That 1982 junker that you really wanted and that you told your spouse that you’re just going to fix up and it was gonna be easy? What’s the long-term costs?

Learn to know a really good deal. It has to sound and feel good in all ways before it’s actually a good deal.

You have to count the cost. Everything has a cost – physical, emotional, spiritual. Learn to understand the long-term costs of these decisions that you make.

Cost is only an issue in the absence of value.

Learn to purchase goods and services that align with your goals and personal values. You’d be surprised how constraining this is in a good way. If you actually purchase things based on values, you purchase things that are aligned to your goals, then you actually don’t purchase that much. 

A lot of the crap that we buy, a lot of the junk that we buy with money is for mere entertainment. It’s time bandits. It steals time from you. It takes away from your goals. Let’s look at this in the positive, if you were only purchase stuff that are aligned to your goals, you wouldn’t have a lot. You wouldn’t own a lot. You’d have a lot of useful tools for making money… and things that actually enhance your life.

I’ll give you my one of my best examples: When I was going through my three master’s programs, I lived in a single apartment. I rented out a room a 10×8 room essentially that was like $300. When I would sleep, I could almost touch both sides of the room with my feet and have my arms stretched out. I was beyond minimalistic. I was optimized!

I lived super cheap because there was no point in purchasing anything opposed to just making sure that I can bring money in that’ll be slammed towards the cost and the expense of these master’s degrees. I did that for three-and-a-half years. I grinded through that. I only spent money on things that were aligned with my personal values and my personal goals. You’ll find how much money you save when you align yourselves to your right goals into the right things in life. 

6 – Money doesn’t buy happiness. Sharing your wealth is real happiness. 

I’ve heard plenty of people say that this is quote is bullshit and I have heard plenty of jokes like, “I’d rather be crying in my Lambo than in my Honda.” Yeah, I get it. I get it. Money doesn’t buy long-term happiness, but I’ll concede that money can buy short-term happiness. It really can for a moment. It’s kind of like the pursuit of pleasure. It’s an insatiable idea of this happiness. Yeah it comes and it goes, but it’s fleeting and it’s for a moment in time. 

The best ways to be happy is to share your wealth with others.  

Or said differently, money can buy happiness temporarily… as everything tends to grow dull over time. Does it not? Doesn’t everything tend to grow dull? Even the Lambos, guys! Even the Lambos tend to grow dull over time. Even if you put flamethrowers on there and straight pipe that thing and it’s the loudest thing that you can hear for two miles away… It still gets dull. Even the race cars get dull. Every pretty little thing gets dull. 

This is the nature of the world. Familiarity breeds contempt over time, does it not? You don’t appreciate it like you used to. Money can buy happiness temporarily as everything tends to grow dull over time, but sharing your wealth with others consistently allows for richer and fuller experiences in life. I love sharing my wealth with others in experiences because sharing my wealth with others, that brings in my mind: eternal, eternal contentedness, eternal well-being, eternal feel good, and good juju.

There was once a famous prophet back in the day who talked about money pretty often. He generally, when it came to money, said to use money to influence others, to use money to help others, to use money to take care of others, and so you too shall gain in those rewards. You too, shall gain in that contentedness. You too, shall gain in the value of giving life to others through your wealth. I like this idea from this old prophet back in the day. I think he knew what was up. 

7 – Being all you can be in this world is possible for everyone. 

Being all you can be in this world is possible for everyone.

But being rich, being rich with material wealth is not for everyone. Sorry guys. I think that’s just something that people need to wake up to. 

Being all you can be is possible for everyone. Yeah! You could be everything that you can be. You can be the best version of you. You can be the most contented and successful and grateful individual of the life that you’ve been given by the good Lord above. You can be all that you can be, but being rich with material wealth is not for everyone. Sorry, not sorry. 

Having lots of money doesn’t mean that you’re successful or even happy or content or even that you’re a good person. I think we could probably think of a plenty of examples of where people have lots of money, but they’re not good people. Having lots of money just means that you have lots of money. That’s it.

Where should your identity be anyway? Having your identity inside is where your real wealth is. How do I know this? I’ll give you my best example:

My kids don’t care about my money. Just like I didn’t care if my daddy had money. 

I didn’t care if my dad had money. I just cared that he spent time with me. In actuality, he didn’t have much money anyway and I didn’t care about my dad’s financial position. I just cared that he was there. I just cared that my mom was there. I just cared that my brothers and sisters were there during that sporting event, during that spelling bee, during that competition, during that moment when I really needed them. That’s what I cared about. Nothing else mattered. 

If I looked back into my old life, my younger life, my formative years, my elementary, my middle school, even my high school—I never cared about what money my parents had. Frankly, it wasn’t even within the calculus of my decisions back then anyway. I tell you, even if it were one of the options, it would be probably one of the last options. 

The first option, the thing that I cared most about is that they were there, present in my life. Being present having experiences using money for experiences, using money to help others, using money to further others only brings back good treasure in life to you, good blessings, good juju to you. 

Nobody cares about the money you have. They care about what’s inside. If you are one of those individuals who are greatly blessed with lots of wealth, people will bless you even more if you use your wealth for and with them. If you use your wealth to create awesome experiences to help people, to put them to the worthy causes in life. That’s where real riches are. That’s where real wealth is. That’s what they don’t teach you in school.

If you ever get caught up in thinking you’re important. Just remember, people are celebrating your position, your title, not you. Someone else will own that title, that position, that success when you’re dead. Only the relationships remain.

All the best,