By William Harper
Being a successful entrepreneur or rich man with a rich life is more than just acquiring as much money as you humanly possibly can before you die. It is more than just offering a product or a service for consumers to buy through a business outfit that you own. It is more than having people to manage and tell people what to do. It is more than being rich financially. Even though all or some of these things may be a part of being a successful entrepreneur, they are simply the byproducts of what is truly important.
There is a part of being an entrepreneur that does involve achieving or accomplishing a goal while there is a part that transcends all of those benefits. We all have been placed on this earth with a purpose and a role to play that must be accomplished successfully. We are to bless others or as the Bible states, we are blessed to be a blessing. We are all here to be generous.
I have learned that possessing, developing, and growing a generous heart is probably the most important asset that a successful entrepreneur can have. This opinion was put into proper perspective when I read a story from The NewYorker about the $40 Million Elbow. I do not know if you are familiar with the 1932 Picasso portrait entitled “Le Rêve.” Well, I vaguely remember it in my art-history textbook from college and I remember seeing it in my children’s history photo sheets of famous artist and their art. This painting was of Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter and Steve Wynn, a multi-millionaire who collects art masterpieces. Wynn bought this painting in 1997 for $48.4 million. Recently, he decided to sell it to hedge-fund mogul and avid collector Steven Cohen for $139 million.
Wynn hosted a party the weekend before the exchange would occur and during the get-together, he was standing in front of the painting talking with guests about Picasso. Unfortunately, Wynn suffers with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects his peripheral vision. Due to this disease, he stepped back and punctured the painting with his elbow. Everyone stopped and Wynn said ‘ I can’t believe, I just did that. Oh, S—. Oh, man.”
Wynn turned and poked his pinkie finger into the hole and observed that a flap of canvas had been pushed back. He turned to his guests and said, “Well, I’m glad I did it and not you.” I tell you this story because when I read about it I found it unbelievable. I actually felt sorry for him. I kept thinking about Wynn’s final statement “Well, I’m glad I did it and not you.” This statement came from someone of great grace, character and integrity. Wynn did not get upset nor act ignorant, he simply said, I’m glad I did it and not you.” In other words, better me than you, because at least I can afford to have done it.
Being rich or living a rich life goes beyond a $3,000 tailor-made suit or living in a multi-million dollar home. It goes far beyond what can be done for me, it begins and ends with how I can help someone else. When I think about being rich and living a rich life I think of generosity. I think of being generous with my time and money. As a matter of fact, I have seen and experienced where a helping hand can go further than a $10,000 check.
Steve Wynn’s comment taught me a lot about generosity. In the story he wasn’t actually giving anything to anyone he was the one to receive something pretty grand which was a $90.6 million profit. Mr. Cohen would have been the generous one. I learnt a lot from his reaction. It is the small things in life that may yield you the most. This made me think about my core values – what generosity really is.
I was talking to my oldest daughter the other day and she asked me about whether men should automatically pay for a date or if it should be equal. The first thing that I told her was that life isn’t fair and it is not necessarily equal for everyone. There is nothing more unattractive than a cheap man. Not only that it will show her whether or not he is a generous person. I told her that her mother NEVER had to pay for dates and it was not out of some obligation or that I was expecting something in return but because I found value in her mother beyond what her mother could do for me and wanted to show my generosity in paying for the date. I wanted to pay for the date because that was a way in me saying thank you for being such a wonderful human being, I enjoyed your company and I would love to go on another date. Then I shared with her that that same spirit is what allowed me to become the successful business man that I am today.
There were many times when I was in my early 20’s trying to make it BIG and I would grab the attention and time of someone who was actually an influencer and I would offer to take them to lunch and them not knowing that I had to save up to afford the lunch, these CEOs would not allow me to pay even though I was the one requesting the lunch. They knew that a young buck like me couldn’t afford where we were eating. They knew it yet they always paid. There have been times that I would receive tickets to a baseball game from business people in order for me to be introduced to others that may be able to help me. I have received cards in the mail just thanking me for taking them away from their busy schedules and breaking up the monotony of their day. But on the flip side of that I remember calling and working out for many families dinners when they did not have them. I have given out clothes year after year. I have given Gatorade to an underprivileged golf camp. But I can say the most generous and thoughtful thing that I have learned was through my 9 year old daughter.
I am the Director of an outreach ministry and we were given boxes full of new clothes. The day I was going to drop those clothes off, my daughter asked me if I could spare about 4 of the men’s shirts. I asked her why, she said that she wanted to give them to 4 of the kids in her class because they did not have art shirts and because I gave her one of my old shirts that covers her like a dress and it kept her clothes clean and it was the best. She said she didn’t want their clothes to get dirty and for them to have a good art shirt like hers. She thought about her classmates without them ever asking her for it. My neighbor’s cat got lost and so she designed flyers, printed them out and along with her sister hung them up. That meant the world to our neighbor that she cared that much to actually do something.
The funny part is that my daughter didn’t give millions of dollars away, but her level of generosity was definitely worth it. If we see a need and help to fill that need we would live a rich life. Generosity shows its beautiful face in many ways. Saying “I love you” to a loved one, buying someone’s favorite gum, connecting with people, inviting them for dinner, sending them a link to something that they were down about. It does not have to be expensive because generosity is seeing what is needed (being observant of people) and then filling that need.
Living a ‘Rich Life’ doesn’t mean that it is all about money. In fact, money probably is the smallest element to living such a life. Living a Rich life means to connect with your core values and having a desire to give those to others. Although I grew up being taught how to be generous my mother cooked Sunday dinners for her friends every Sunday, my father cut people’s grass for free who couldn’t and still does and he is 78 years old. But I have come to know a level of generosity through my children that has affected my business.
If you see someone who is struggling to sponsor someone don’t just say ‘oh it will happen, you will get there’. Pick up the phone with them and get on a three-way. Take the time to teach them the skills to being a better person. Send them information regarding how to sponsor. Send them emails of encouragement, Create a manual that provides value because if that person has that problem there are others too. These and many, many value laced things allow you to be generous and trust me that generosity doesn’t just stop with them, you will reap what you sow. You will be rewarded handsomely. Give value to the world and trust me you will live a rich life. I promise you it does come back 100-fold to you.