When I was a little burr-headed kid, our family went through some tough financial times. Most families have a moment of money problems at some point. A job layoff can take your breath away. An illness can leave you completely broke. The little kids in the house don’t know exactly what’s going on, but there’s more stress in the air. They are told, “Times are tough, so we can’t go on vacation this year,” or “We have to move,” or “Christmas is going to be slim,” or “The boat has to be sold.”
My parents were in the real estate business and were building homes. The economy went sideways and left them in a mess. They worked hard, but it didn’t matter. Outside forces brought trouble to our house. We never went without food, shelter, or anything else, but the air changed in our home. All I knew was that money would solve the problem, so I vowed that someday I would be a millionaire. I doubt I even knew what that meant, but in my little burr head I thought that meant money would never be a problem.
When I graduated from college, I was still broke, but this dream of becoming a millionaire was pulsing inside me.
I am a spender by nature. I’ve always enjoyed spending money. Of course, when I was young and immature, that idea of spending for fun led into the trap of thinking if I got enough Stuff, I would be happy. The high I got from buying things was and is real. I’m the guy that thinks they check your receipt at Costco or Sam’s Club at the door to prove you actually spent the required $200, like it’s a law or something.
I would never have admitted it out loud, but there was this stupid idea down deep in my head that if I got enough Stuff, I would be happy and safe, or if I got the right Stuff, people would be impressed. Yeah, I know, Shallow Hal, right?
With that driving force, I went about the business of earning piles of money so I could spend piles of money. But a funny thing happened on the way to the ball— the Stuff became . . . unsatisfying. There was never completion or peace after a purchase, only the need to buy something more.
No matter how many cars I bought, or fancy dinners I ate, or cool places I traveled to there was always something still missing. Stuff just doesn’t do it.
I also met God during this time who did bring peace and completion. I realized I was pouring Stuff down a spiritual hole, and Stuff is not designed to fill that hole. No matter how many cars I bought, or fancy dinners I ate, or cool places I traveled to there was always something still missing. Stuff just doesn’t do it. If you eat enough lobster it eventually tastes like soap.
So, by the time I was 26, I was a millionaire making $250,000 a year . . . but if you eat enough lobster it tastes like soap. Yep, I became a millionaire and was bored with it.
I discovered giving. Generosity. Now that was and is real fun! It’s easy for most Spenders to become Givers. A new goal popped into my head: Someday, with God’s help, I want to give away a million dollars in one day.
Right after that, I went broke and lost everything. Well, so much for that goal.
That was 30 years ago. During the following decades, we slowly began building wealth . . . while always giving. We had discovered much more joy in giving than in Stuff.
I’m fine if you want some Stuff—get you some. I have some nice Stuff, but when you look for joy in Stuff, it will always let you down. The more Stuff you own, the more repairmen you have to know. Giving never disappoints. Generosity is always fun.
God has allowed us to give a lot of money in the last 30 years. Oh, and a cool thing happened right before Christmas this year. We gathered our 910 team members, our café team (an outside vendor), our pastor and his wife, and folks from the local children’s home (house parents and social workers that serve orphans, foster kids, and other at-risk kids). Seventeen buses rolled up out front of our offices to take all these people to the mall for a $1,000 shopping spree. We gave each of them $1,000 cash. Plus, we gave extra money for the kids in the children’s home and the people who give their lives away for the kids. When we got to the mall, we held a drawing and gave away tons of other items, including a $5,000 gift card and a car.
That’s right. God did it. He allowed me to give away One Million Dollars of His money in one day. He loves that little burr-headed kid turned Giver so much that He allowed me that privilege.
If you eat enough lobster it tastes like soap, but when you eat at the table of generosity, you leave the table having tasted the best there is and fully satisfied.
Dream the right dreams, then dream them big.