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Use the money, don’t let the money use you.
Some time ago I was in a fancy restaurant with my wife. We had a great meal and I had known the owner for decades.
I saw a young Marine and his girl eating a couple of tables away. Think small town Texas rock hard movie handsome blonde haired crew cutted stud and his girl as beautiful as Texas bluebonnets in a flowery dress just a bit off the current style.
As packaging that frock contained a full blooded Texas high school cheerleader just a bit awed by the big city but gamely mixing with the beautiful people. And her fellow was just home from war and belonged only to her. It was poignant.
I could read his medals and knew he had seen action, had been decorated for bravery and was freshly home from war.
I couldn’t take my eyes off them. It was looking at real life dead in the eyes —- not New York Times life but real life where living and dying is real.
My wife and I left the restaurant and she stepped outside to summon our car from the valet and I lingered ostensibly to say good bye to the owner.
I slipped him some cash and and told the proprietor that the young Marine and his gal were now my guest. It was $200.
The proprietor smiled and looked me in the eye and thanked me.
When I got into the car and my wife asked me what had taken so long, I hesitated to respond.
She laughed and said I know exactly what took you so long. You paid for that Marine’s dinner, didn’t you?
I didn’t answer because if I had tried I would have broken into tears. Not because I am a sensitive guy but because in that tableau I saw my own life reflecting back.
And, that, my friend is how the fuck you use money.
You make it celebrate life and you make it dance to your own memories and you pass it along.
Later I was back in that same restaurant and saw the proprietor and he said that the young Marine had proposed marriage and his girl had accepted.
Is this a great life or what?
Why do we do anything? Who really knows?
This I know —-
When I am alone in my own head with my hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities wrestling —- three falls to each and then the winner and if I don’t like the winner, then a rematch —- I cannot remember anything more joyous than floating in the ocean where the water is way over my head or body surfing.
The feel of the salt and sun on my skin is the same whether I am broke or flush.
I know, I have been both.
Do you think Bill Gates feels better than me? I don’t think so. It is not possible. Is there more joy available?
In a week, I will watch my beautiful Perfect Daughter graduate from college. She is smarter than me. More sensitive than me. More worldly than me. More clever by twice. I was only her enabler.
I am waiting to see what she accomplishes because it is going to be way more than I ever imagined and I have a wild, untamed imagination.
When I think about the accumulated wisdom of the AVC.com salon and its unquenched energy, I smile. It is rueful smile as I see the hard edge of genius, the light of brilliance and the warmth of accomplishment.
But I also see the impatience of both youthful exuberance and the insanity of entrepreneurship.
Money and stuff is stupid. I hate stupid. I hate stupid more than anything else I have ever encountered on that side of the ledger. It is a barter which does not involve your soul.
The currency with which you are really paid is your measure against yourself. I jumped out of airplanes because I wondered if I could do it. I could.
I started businesses to see if I could do it. I could.
Don’t let life buy you with lucre. Worse yet, don’t let it rent you.
Trade for more dear stuff —- the satisfaction of having plotted and followed your own course, the thrill of having walked the high wire of life with no safety net, the mutual respect of good people, the love of a good mate and a full draught —- not a shot glass —- of all that life offers.
Go bite the ass off a bear every day of your life and then tell me you can keep score only with money.
If the gods favor you —- as they will, my friends, I promise —- and you get to the Pay Window, do good works with your money. Money is only useful for good works. How many freakin’ cheeseburgers can you really eat?
Don’t be afraid to be kind to yourself, you will deserve it.
In the end, you will be richer for it. I know.