Several days ago I received an invitation to watch a new documentary online at no cost. When I saw the title of the documentary I have to admit, I was skeptical. "Prosperity" My first thought was that it was some get rich quick scheme. Second thought was a TV evangelist urging me to become a Christian so I could become, miraculously, a multi-millionaire. After reading the overview, my third thought was that it was made by a liberal shouting the same old rhetoric against corporate greed and climate change as he flits around the world in his private jet.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was none of the above!
In Prosperity, Pedram Shojai demonstrates an approach to money, personal and global responsibility and success in one of the most balanced and thoughtful ways I have seen. If you click this link, it will take you to his website, where at least for now, you can register to not only view the documentary free, but also watch a number of insightful interviews. I highly recommend taking the time to view this film.
In his side interview with Patrick Gentempo, as well as in the film itself, Shojai talks a lot about one's "philosophy" of life, money and purpose. As I processed what I was hearing, I began to realize that I actually do have a philosophy about this. As a matter of fact, every single person in the world does whether they know it or not! My philosophy will look different than yours, and that's not only okay, but it's also good. My purpose in blogging on this is not to convert you to my philosophy, but rather to encourage you to think about and define your own philosophy in order to analyze it to see if it is healthy, responsible, sustainable and that the way you are living actually reflects what you "say" you believe.
I have always been an entrepreneur and a networker. My first business, at age 7, was a lemonade stand. This is where I first leaned that net sales does not equal net profit. At age 10 I created a joint venture with two of my best friends. We formed a bicycle repair shop where we were the sole customers. Sadly, and not unexpectedly, it failed. Lesson learned. A business must have a customer base. In 1983 I entered the world of interstate transportation; my life's goal from the age of 3. My first interstate trucking job was as a private contractor for Affiliated Van Lines, Lawton, OK driving a moving truck I leased from them. Those first couple years I have never worked so hard for so little. But WOW, I didn't care!
I was finally living what I had long dreamed of and so impatiently waited for.
I was having a blast. Let me tell you, trucking was fun in the '80s. I had few bills, no real home to speak of and as I crisscrossed the USA I was a free spirit. Eventually, reality set in and I began to realize that making a profit is actually an integral part of running and maintaining a self-sustaining business, no matter how much fun I was having.
Fast forward 2,000,000 miles and 28 years
I still loved trucking. I still loved business. Not nearly the same fun it used to be, but I still loved the challenge of surviving and prospering in an ever changing market. However, over the previous years my philosophy regarding the purpose of business, what success looked like and how all this affected my life had continued to change. Success began to look less like gross income and more like time at home. Charity and mission, not only financial but in time spent, became a part of my business plan. What I didn't realize is that through all these years and experiences my philosophy was being developed, and in-fact still is.
Eventually, all this prompted our move to Honduras.
So here we are, 5 years later. Still in Honduras, still an entrepreneur and my "philosophy" is still slowly growing and changing and adapting to fit a new world view and new experiences.
If you are like me, your own philosophy has probably been a fluid journey of change as new events impact your life, new technology is made available and new ideas and opportunity present themselves. Or, maybe your philosophy has never changed or you've never spent anytime considering it.
Here are a couple of thoughts, posed as questions, that have an effect on our philosophy
- How do you view money and it's purpose and value in your life?
- Do you see wealth as the end result or as a means to an end? If so, to what end?
- Do you see your personal responsibility as being only to yourself, or does it extend to your your family? your neighbors? your community? your country? your planet?
- How and in what do you invest your dollars, your time and your emotions?
- Do you believe that you can actually make a difference in the world?
- Do your actions actually match your values?
How you answer these questions, in part, defines your philosophy
The last question I posed has actually been my focus this past year. I have worked through the others and have defined my philosophy regarding those, but as I critically analyzed my actions versus my professed beliefs, there seemed to be a fairly large disconnect. Oops!
Belief; an employer should treat his employees well, not only financially, but the "whole" person.
Living it out:
Within the Spanish Institute of Honduras we employ between 15 and 20 people. Two years ago we began to review our "actions" versus our "beliefs" with regard to our employees. Because our employees do not fall under the full-time or permanent employee status, there are not many laws that govern us. As many employers do here, we could have taken full advantage of this to satisfy our own greed. It's an all too common practice. We have always paid our teachers a just wage, but as we reviewed our philosophy versus our actions, we realized that we were failing to care for the whole person. Recognizing this, we implemented 4 weeks of paid vacation a year to ensure our employees have time to rest and spend quality time with family. We now provide a private counseling session once per quarter (and in cases of emergency) for each of our teachers. Through a pastor friend we began a half hour devotional time for them twice a month. Job stability is an important factor, so recently we invested a considerable sum in developing an online class platform to enhance and fill out the work schedule, In January, cost of living raises will go into effect.
I say all this to say that as we work to live out our philosophy it often comes at a cost to us. If making money to make money so we could buy more stuff was our only goal, well I guess we'd be running a sweat shop, wringing every cent of profit out of each poor soul. Because that is not our philosophy, the rewards we receive are gratifying and in line with our beliefs. Knowing we are doing our part to bring work to a country that desperately needs jobs while fulfilling our responsibility to care for others outside of the family boundaries, not only brings personal satisfaction, but also brings long-term financial rewards, a by-product, full circle, self sustaining process that if properly reinvested continues to grow and prosper. (This same philosophy applies to our clients and providers as well)
Currently, I'm working on a new business model that even further puts action to our philosophy. I'm excited about the future and the opportunities I see to expand our sphere of influence and world impact. We really are working hard to make sure that our actions match our philosophy, because if they don't, then I would propose to you that our actions are a more accurate reflection of what our philosophy really is.
The film, Prosperity, points out that there are now many, many ways that you and I can live out our philosophy that 20 years ago may not have been available. Are you concerned about greenhouse gases? Hybrid cars and solar energy is now available to you. Do you abhor unfair labor practices? Buy products from companies that do not use low paid, foreign labor. Does corporate greed turn you off? Choose a mutual fund that does not invest in that type of company. Do you believe that chemical fertilizers are bad for your body? Buy organic. Big banking is bad? Choose from any number of small niche banks or locally owned community banks. Sure, all these choices may affect your bottom-line, but then again, is it really all about the money?
We have more opportunities then ever before to live out our philosophy!
Let's do it!