I started working in the financial field in 1996. I knew that I wanted to help people, and I also wanted to make money. Getting out of college there was no option to move back in with my parents, so I had to get out there and look for things, but I really didn’t make any money for a long time.
I made about $22,000 a year at that time, and five years later I had clawed and climbed my way up to about $26,000. And then I figured something out. I had an epiphany–or an enlightened moment, whatever you want to call it, where I realized I was going about things completely the wrong way. I realized that I was focused on what I wanted, but not on what I was willing to give in order to get what I wanted, and as long as I approached my business in this way, I would never succeed.
From my observations and experience as a financial advisor, it seems that many people getting out of college are in the same rut that I was in. They know what they want to get, but no one along the way ever told them that they’d have to be willing to give something first.
Many, if not most of us have been taught to focus on getting the big dollars and the big job, whatever it is, but we rarely come to understand that what we get really has nothing to do with what we want to get. If you’re solely focused on what you want to get, chances are you’ll get nothing. But when you figure out what you want to give and what you want to be–you can then have whatever you want.
It’s a weird paradox, but the truth is that when you let go of wanting anything, you can have everything. There’s a great book out called Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig. If your goal is to make a lot of money, I really recommend reading this. It’s an unbelievable book that shows that the anticipation of getting something is overwhelmingly more exciting than actually getting it. And if this is true, what would it mean for us if we knew that the anticipation of winning the lottery or hitting the jackpot in any literal or metaphorical way is actually more exciting than winning it? Most addicts will say that the anticipation of a high is in fact much more exciting than the actual high itself. So what does this mean for us?
We tell ourselves that if we get a college degree we’ll be fine. Then we get the degree but we still don’t feel great, so now we’ve got to get something else; the money and the job. But then we get the good job and we still don?t feel like we thought we would.
We all know people who have a lot of stuff–a lot of money and a great job. Many of these people are focused on what they want to get and getting as much as they can–but things still aren’t working so well. People are still starving, there’s still hatred in the world; there are still companies going under because of massive amounts of greed.
I’m now a successful financial advisor, so I often get invited to other companies to speak to their advisors. And I’m usually expected to tell them how they too can get more, but when I show up I tell them the same thing I’m telling you today. The question I’ll always ask is, How many of you remember thinking that if you could make $100,000 a year, you’d have everything you thought you’d ever want and need?? I then ask them to go back 15 or 20 years, when they were just starting out, making $15,000 a year and thinking, if I could just make that $100,000, I’d be happy, life would be smooth sailing and everything would be perfect. More often than not, every single person in the room raises their hand and says they remember thinking that. My next question is: How many people feel today the way they thought they would feel when they got the $100,000?? It’s very rare that I look out and see someone with his or her hand raised.
I had a radio show for a number of years called Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity. In doing research for the show, I’d talk to people all over the country who made millions of dollars a year, many of whom were also really miserable. But, somewhat to my surprise, there was one group of people I found that were happy and successful–and it had very little to do with how much money they made. These were the people who were doing what they truly loved to do.
I had a guy on the show who was a ski instructor for handicapped children. He got to ski all year round and made about $30,000 a year. He was by far the happiest person I’d ever met. And what I learned from him was that the only way to really generate long term happiness is to wake up every day looking forward to what it is you’re going to do.
If this is in fact true, then this means you have to have some idea of what you want to do with your life, because being is way more important than getting. Getting doesn’t mean anything. I’m sure I won’t convince everyone reading this article that this is true. But I’m willing to bet that you’ll figure it out on your own when you keep getting and getting and getting and finally realize you’re miserable anyway–because it will never be enough.
The most critical thing for any human being is to know what they want to be in life. There is no other thing. You then don’t have to figure out how to be happy because happiness is an illusion. The people who are truly happy are those who are so focused on what they’re doing that they don’t have time to think about whether they’re happy or not. Every morning when they wake up, they think they have something to contribute to the world and if they don’t do it, they’re simply going to burst. So it’s critical that you figure out what you want to be.
There’s an old story about a Zen master who goes to a town and all the villagers run out to meet him because they want to become enlightened. And the Zen master says, If you give me your complete undivided attention for 24 hours, I’ll grant you enlightenment. You can probably guess how many people were enlightened by the end of the day.
When we think or read books about happiness or enlightenment, we get many images of the mind and how it works. Many say that our minds seem like a busy intersection, a gerbil running on a wheel, or a huge orchestra without a conductor. Only you know what your mind looks like, but how many of you would say you are in control of it and what you’re thinking about?
Let’s try an exercise. I’d like to ask you to stop thinking any thoughts for the next minute. You can close your eyes. In fact, I’ll just ask for 15 seconds. And if even one tiny word pops into your head, you have to open your eyes and say stop. No pictures, no thoughts, no words. Try it for 15 seconds. Create a complete blank without any thoughts in your head. Ready? Go.
How’d it go? I see you smiling. Because it’s impossible to do.
I’ve recently written a book also called Beyond Success; Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity, that was just published by the American Management Association (AMACOM). In it, I talk about four CORE values, or what I refer to as the Four Pillars of Success.
PILLAR ONE is that we have to have some practice rooted in silence. I don’t care what it is. I stand for all religions and spiritual practices: whatever it is that allows you to get in touch with your Source. Because in my mind and on an energetic level, it’s almost like we’re an electrical appliance, or a hybrid car; one of the old ones that you had to plug in. At some point in the day we’ve got to plug in. I recommend at least 5 to 15 minutes every day. I don’t care if it’s sitting in the shower if that’s the only place you can find any quiet, because that’s actually where I get mine. Fifteen minutes every morning in the shower with the water running, in the quiet, because I have an autistic child that starts talking at 6 AM when he wakes up and doesn’t stop until 10 PM when he goes to sleep, and that’s about the only 15 minutes of silence I can find. So we have to have a practice rooted in silence, and from a scientific measure, we’re just recharging our energy. Otherwise we go out in the world and have nothing to share. I don’t think it’s an accident that the words “silent” and “listen” are made from the same letters. To truly be able to listen to others you’ve got to learn to be silent.
PILLAR TWO is that we have to have an idea of what our unique creative expression is in the world: i.e. what each of us feels we’ve been placed on this earth to do. And it doesn’t have to be right. Because as Norman Schwarzkopf once said in a seminar I saw him give, was that the worst thing he saw in the army was that no one was making any decisions. The only way to know that anything is right is to make a decision, and if it’s wrong, correct it. I would say the same thing with respect to this, because most of us spend our entire lifetime waiting for someone else to tell us what our unique expression is, or kind of knowing what it is but waiting for someone to come and reinforce it. So pick something, literally, that you sense is your unique expression, and seek to build a life around it that offers something to the world.
PILLAR THREE is that you have to have a forward vision, three to five years out, of what your unique creative expression looks like in the world. The way I teach people to do this is to have a two to three minute movie that you can play in your head all day long, especially as you go to bed at night. A two-minute movie of you and what a day in the life of you looks like. Are you singing to an audience? Are you the best plumber in the world? Are you the best insurance salesman, doctor, accountant or basketball player? What does that vision look like three to five years out in a perfect day in the life of you? And then give it up to the Universe because in all likelihood that vision, while it may come true, will find reasons to change and grow as you make it bigger and better. We need to give our energy a direction to move in. It’s critical that we do that. Otherwise, we flounder. It’s like getting in our car without a navigation system and driving around with no idea where we’re going.
PILLAR FOUR is that what we do has to be grounded in service. There is nothing to get. If I can leave you with any message, it’s that. There is nothing to get. There’s no money to get; no love to get; no sex to get; no happiness to get. There’s nothing to get that isn’t already in us. The world shows up and reflects what we are. If we have lack in our life, it’s because we’re holding on to lack within ourselves. If we?re seeing things we don’t like, it’s because we’re seeing things within ourselves that we don’t like. There is nothing outside in the world that we could possibly get that could fulfill us except to fulfill our own dreams of who we are.
So what is success? If I had to give a definition, I would say success is to be aligned with our unique creative expression in service to the world as much as possible. I’m going to say that one more time. To be successful is to be aligned with our unique creative expression as much as possible in service to the world.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t get out there and vote, or speak out against things that aren’t appropriate, but if we’re not aligned with our unique creative expression and bringing that to the world in service, then we’re not transforming the world. The world is literally a reflection of us, and if we don’t know what we’re doing, and feel filled with void and lack, is it any wonder that the world shows up like that as a reflection? It is my hope that these ideas will leave you thinking about you, what you’re doing here and how you’re aligned with your energy. It’s my sincere belief that this is what will truly change the world.
Jeffrey Gitterman is an award winning financial advisor and the founder and CEO of Gitterman & Associates Wealth management, LLC. www.gawmllc.com. In these challenging economic times, Jeff recently co-founded Beyond Success, www.BeyondSuccessConsulting.com, a consulting firm that brings more holistic and spiritual values to the world of business and wealth management. His first book, Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity, was recently published by AMACOM, the publishing house of the American Management Association.
Over the past several years, Jeff has been featured and interviewed in several national and local print, TV, and radio programs, including Money, CNN, Financial Advisor, New Jersey Business Journal, and News 12 New Jersey. In 2004, he was honored by Fortune Small Business Magazine as One of Our Nation?s Best Bosses. Jeff also serves as chairman of the advisory board to the Autism Center of New Jersey Medical School, an organization that raises significant monies each year for autism research and support services.
For more information about Jeffrey Gitterman and Beyond Success Consulting please see:
Beyond Success Consulting
Gitterman & Associates Wealth Management, LLC
Adapted from Beyond Success: Redefining the Meaning of Prosperity
Jeffrey L. Gitterman
(c) 2009 Jeffrey L. Gitterman
Published by AMACOM Books
All rights reserved.
A Division of the American Management Association