What Is True Wealth?

Is Money the Source of Wealth?

What is wealth? How do we define wealth in the West?

I think most would agree that universally in developed nations it is by the size of your bank account. By how much liquid cash you have available to spend.

It is not even by the amount of assets you possess because we have this saying, “asset-rich and cash-poor”.

It is true that if you have a lot of cash, and “money is no object” as they say, then you can buy anything you need or hire someone to do it for you.

You can buy the best organic food, travel to exotic lands (first-class), drive expensive cars and live in an expensive home.

We have the habit of looking at that and saying, “oh my, there is a wealthy man or woman”. And, although there may be various cynical views of rich people (“money cannot buy happiness”, “rich people are selfish”, for instance), many people have a wee bit of money envy at what they perceive may be the “good life” they are missing out on…

But is money the only source of true wealth? If we look a bit deeper, we can all agree that it is not…

Health is a Form of Wealth

My awesome dad used to always tell us kids that, “without your health, you have nothing. You cannot enjoy anything, not your family, your friends, your job, and no amount of money will substitute for great health”.

Imagine asking Steve Jobs who sadly passed away young in his later 50’s what he would have willingly traded for recovery from the cancer that robbed him of vitality and ultimately his life. I would guess that he would have been willing to give away his entire fortune for a guaranteed recovery to full, vibrant health.

So, if you are reasonably healthy, count yourself wealthier than a man or woman with a huge bank account in poor health.

And, here is an irony too, how many people (much more in the past than now with health and fitness being so popular with the masses) can be cynical about people who invest wisely in their health, budgeting extra money for organic food (that still gets scoffed at in certain circles).

There is another definition of wealth that I heard from a man who was material rich yet gave it all away to serve street orphans in Kenya. This definition really blew me away, had me think deeply on it for a long time, and changed my thinking forever…

Charles Mulley and Lives Transformed

The man’s name is Charles Mulley, and his story is so incredible that they made a Hollywood documentary on his life last year, which by the way I highly recommend, having seen it 14 times now!

He does not mention his definition of wealth in the movie, it was in his biography that I read it.

First, just a wee bit of his story…

Charles was abandoned at age 6 in rural Kenya by his alcoholic, brutal father, his mother and siblings as they could not afford to take him to look for a piece of land they intended to buy.

For 10 years he had to beg and steal for food. At age 16 he walked to the city of Nairobi and banged on doors looking for any menial job.

An East Indian woman took pity on him and hired him to work around the house. Because he worked so hard, she recommended him to her husband who managed a large farm. From there he become manager of 800 hundred farm workers.

He saved every shilling he made and eventually bought a matatu (taxi) and worked 20 hour days driving it, saving money, and eventually buying another matatu, which grew over time into a whole fleet of buses with people working for him.

He then opened a tyre shop (spelling is Kenyan!), a welding shop, a repair shop, an insurance company, and a real estate company.

This led to an exclusive contract to deliver oil & gas to all of Western Kenya.

He became very wealthy and travelled the world. He has a wife and 8 children.

One day after his car was stolen by some street boys in Nairobi, he became haunted by the anger he saw in their eyes – he saw himself before the break he was given.

So, with a deep internal calling he decided to give up all his wealth, and never, ever work for money again. He and his wife (and eventually all 8 kids) started taking in street kids and transforming them through love, food, schooling and a safe place to call home.

Ok, now for the punch line….

So, when asked by a young man from the West what is his definition of wealth is after having attained it and then giving it all away, this is what he said:

“Most people will disagree with me on this. But for me, prosperity is a changed life.

“The young man had never heard of that before. Here was Charles Mulley, an abandoned child who became extremely successful only to give it all away to help those who were just like he had been. He had experienced what it meant to have no prosperity, what it meant to have prosperity in abundance and what it meant to share very last bit of his prosperity with others. And, yet his definition of prosperity had nothing to do with money or possessions.

“A changed life?”, the young man repeated.

“If a person from the street gives their life to a [higher purpose] and then decides to help other people, that is prosperity…but if someone who already has money gets more of it, how is that prosperity? If someone has enough to eat, who has enough clothing, if all they do is get more of it, how is that prosperity?”

Powerful, yet how often do young people today in the West admire a man who has a stable of performance cars in his garage – not just one, but many.

Josephat Barasa and The Food We Eat

Today, here in Kenya, I heard a man give a talk about permaculture. His name is Josephat Barasa, known as Mr. Permaculture here in Kenya. An eloquent and wise speaker, her had this to say:

“If you cannot grow your own food, you are not rich”. His idea of wealth is growing pure, healthy, organic food on small plots of land.

Imagine if there was no source of income for anyone anymore because a of a world-wide economic collapse, and yet you could still grow and eat your own food. Imagine everyone eating wholesome, homegrown organic food on the planet.

Josephat says that the biggest ravaging disease of Kenya is no longer HIV/AIDS – it is cancer, and it is coming from chemically treated, heavily sprayed food. It may look normal and even healthy, but it is full of toxins that the body cannot digest!

Again, food is tied to health, a form of wealth we can all agree on.

Anurag Gupta and Consuming versus Creating

My friend Anurag Gupta taught me many years ago the distinction of creating versus consuming – that the greatest joy in life is not consuming, it is creating.

A simple example is when we go and buy lunch at work and come back tired and lethargic from having paid for and consumed that lunch.

Contrast that experience with growing organic food (or buying it if you cannot grow it) and then cooking it with and for your family or friends.

That act of creation is pure joy is seen in the right light with the right attitude…

To Summarize

There are many forms of wealth in addition to money:

  1. Good health
  2. A changed life
  3. The ability to grow your own food and be water self-sufficient
  4. An attitude of creating versus consuming

Thanks for reading…