Published by Ron Carson
As I arrived in Minnesota to meet with a client who had just achieved his life’s goal of selling his company, I was looking forward to hearing tales of high-stakes deals. At 73, he had sold his real estate development firm in Minneapolis for $174 million and had scheduled a meeting with me to discuss how to invest the proceeds of the sale.
I was surprised that my client, who’d pulled up to the local municipal airport in his well-used pickup truck, seemed depressed and unsettled.
“I always thought this would be the happiest day of my life,” he said. “I messed up. I’m divorced. I have a daughter I’m not that close to. I really don’t have any close friends—they really were work associates. My health isn’t great. My whole life was about the pursuit of more. I worked 15 hours a day to get it. The truth is, I had enough years ago.”
His story shook me to my core. As wealth advisors, we naturally want to help our clients build their assets—but that is not an end in itself. If we have done our jobs well, they will be free to enjoy what makes life meaningful: faith, family, friends, community, good health or whatever else really matters for them.
My client’s comments were a painful reminder of how many business leaders achieve their professional goals at the expense of the rest of their lives. And it isn’t only crazy-busy, hair-on-fire entrepreneurs like him who miss out on life.
Owners of lifestyle businesses often end up with similar regrets. Many are happy maintaining their business without growing it because they have a “servant” mindset. They are more motivated by bringing value to their customers than the prospect of creating the next Apple. Unfortunately, without real growth, they are perpetually scrambling on the hamster wheel of success. They work long hours, just like my client, and miss out on important parts of their life. They’re afraid of taking a day off, let alone a vacation, for fear of losing business. Or they spend too much time away from the business on other pursuits and find that they can’t keep pace with the leading firms in their industry. That jeopardizes the existence of their firms and ultimately prevents them from enjoying their life outside work, too.
To run a thriving business while enjoying a meaningful and balanced life built around your passions, you need the Sustainable Edge.
When you have the Sustainable Edge, you really can “have it all”—according to your own definition of what “all” is. Making the right business decisions will lead to growth. That in turn will feed balance in your life. That balance, in turn, will feed more growth. It is a virtuous cycle that will fuel itself forever.
Achieving the Sustainable Edge is the most direct route for business owners to what I call True Wealth: all that we have that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.
True Wealth is something you can’t quantify. Essentially, it is a life that is full of the relationships and personal, emotional and spiritual rewards that really matter to you. It is having the freedom to enjoy experiences you will always treasure with the people who matter most in your life and the lifetime memories that result. It is having the ability and emotional wherewithal to do things for others without expecting anything in return. It is about savoring each day you are blessed to live and spending it as you would if you knew it were your last.
Achieving the unexpected joys of True Wealth takes planning. You must first figure out what True Wealth means to you and then build your priorities around this. It’s not about adding things to your to-do list. It’s about stripping them away, so you have more time to enjoy life’s richness.
Achieving True Wealth requires a commitment, too: You need to grow your business by a minimum of 15% or more per year to attain it. That pace of growth gives you the breathing room to achieve balance, which in turn leads to more growth.
Every business owner must make a critical decision today: Will you let your business crowd out everything else you value in life. Or will pursue Truth Wealth? While my client cannot undo the choices he made that led to where he is today, he still has time to move forward and build a life where he is focused on what truly matters now. And so do you.