The Wealthy Window Washer
A window washer's letter to his two baby girls on his struggles of searching for wealth & contentment.
Don’t want to read? No problem! You can listen to me reading the article to you by clicking the play button above.
Welcome to the 1st edition of The Wealth Letters, a collection of insights written by people from all walks of life (the everyday unknowns to the titans of success) on the pursuit of wealth, wisdom, and meaning.
If you haven’t done so, please read or listen to the manifesto before diving in to the collection, as it will give a clear vision of the project; the Who, What, and Why.
Thanks for reading The Wealth Letters! Get free Wealth Letters weekly to your inbox:
I challenge you to read or listen to this letter as if it is being written to you personally. Be willing to be vulnerable and open your mind to ideas and suggestions that have proven worthwhile in another’s journey. Do not blindly accept any and all advice given, but rather take in the information and distill it down to if & how it can be applied to YOU and your unique self.
Michael Jordan said that he imitated Dr. J.
Kobe Bryant said he studied and imitated Jordan.
But, they mixed in their own uniqueness.
While not everything will relate directly to one’s current situation at the exact moment, there may be some gems that will be worthwhile in time.
The following letter is written by Jordan Olmscheid. Jordan is a girl dad, husband, Christian, small business owner, and curator of The Wealth Letters. The letter is written to his two daughters and outlines his struggles, findings, and conclusions on his search for a life of wealth and contentment.
Objectives / Overview:
We are designed to work. How to turn your job into your mission.
The definition of wealth
Investing with simplicity
How to manage risk
Get the big 3 expenses in check, and spend the rest freely
The one thing in life that is actually too good to be true
You were created in the image of God
Who are your battle buddies?
Mentorship for success
Things don’t always make sense, but they don’t have to
Comparison is the thief of joy and true happiness
We were made to thrive
Dear Evelyn & Lillian,
Austin Kleon has a theory in his book, Steal Like an Artist, that says:
“When people give you advice, they are really just talking to themselves in the past.”
So, even though this letter is designed for you both, it also is a form of myself talking to myself in the past. If you read The Wealth Letters Manifesto, please understand that I do shower after my long days of playing with animal droppings and other indistinguishable elements (I don't want you to have to smell a dirty diaper on me any more than you need to on yourselves already. Although, Evelyn, you are getting close to graduating to a diaper-free life)!
Also, it may seem at first glance that I don’t enjoy my work, but this is not true; it may not be what I originally set out to do, but I do enjoy my work. I am blessed in this regard as many absolutely despise their work. This is unfortunate, being that most of us will spend the majority of our living years doing just that...working. But take heart, we were designed to work!
The Bible says in Genesis 2:15,
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
The Theology of Work Project sums this verse up nicely by saying that “God gave Adam and Eve specific work to do, both physical work (gardening) and cultural / scientific / intellectual work (naming the animals). All the work we do is rooted in God's design for humanity.”
So, do not look at work as a penalty; look at it as a blessing! Look at it as something we were designed to do!
I love how Arthur Brooks, Harvard Professor, talks about meaningful work and “turning your job into your mission.” Brooks provides a parable that illustrates this well:
There’s an old story about a guy who is walking down the street and he sees somebody who is putting one brick on top of another, and he asks him, “So, what are you doing?” The man replied, “Well, obviously, I am just laying bricks.” There is another guy next to him doing the same thing. So, he asks him, “What are you doing?” The second man said, “Well, I am building a wall.” There is a third guy doing the same thing, and he asks him, “What are you doing?” The third man said, “I am building a Cathedral.”
So, Evelyn and Lillian, what’s your answer? “Are you laying bricks or are you building a cathedral?”
Mr. Brooks goes deeper on how to turn your job into your mission:
“If you want your job to be a mission, and be truly meaningful, you need to do two things: earning your success and serving others.
Earning your success is the opposite of what social psychologist, Martin Seligman, calls “learning your helplessness.” In his research, he found that learned helplessness occurs when people feel like they don’t have any control; no matter what they do, it doesn’t really affect the outcomes. It is really clear in the research that this is correlated with depression and anxiety. The opposite of learned helplessness is earned success, where you are creating value with your work. To do that, you need a feeling of accomplishment and a path forward. So ask yourself this in your work: “What am I doing, what am I accomplishing, and what is my path forward?” If you think where your work is leading you, how it is creating value, and how the value you are going to create is building on the value you are currently creating, you will be building a cathedral.
The second thing is that your job cannot be about you, primarily. You need to serve other people. Think to yourself, “Who am I serving?” I know some days that can be hard, but in some way, shape, or form something that you’re doing should be able to get to somebody who needs you; somebody with less power than you; somebody who will benefit from your work. Think of that person. Dedicate your work to that person, and watch your satisfaction grow.”
Girls, you are going to be confronted with a question, early and often, and it is a question that you are going to need to pursue what it means for you personally: What is wealth?
The definition of wealth from the Cambridge dictionary (a dictionary is a book we used to use before Google to help us with the meaning of words) states that wealth is:
a large amount of money or valuable possessions that someone has
a large amount of something good
I know what my heart is naturally drawn to when I think of wealth…money, possessions, status of my job, and respect. When I think of it, it is no surprise why I think of wealth this way. Watching all my favorite sports stars growing up and game shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, it was ingrained in me that wealth = money & possessions.
But is there more to it? Short answer is yes. Look at the second definition of wealth from the Cambridge dictionary and you will see "a large amount of something good." This is where I challenge you to shift your mind…away from just money & possessions.
Wealth has components; multiple components that all need to be balanced in one’s life. Too much focus of one area may lead to an imbalance in others. We have to balance our financial, physical, mental, social, and spiritual wealth for optimal effects.
Dave Ramsey, who has helped millions of people understand how to have a healthy relationship with money, gives insight on what it means to be wealthy:
“Being wealthy goes much deeper than driving a BMW, owning a vacation home in the Bahamas, and wearing designer clothes. True wealth is about three things: making an impact through giving, leaving a legacy, and having options for how you live your life.”
Many have said that "money doesn't buy happiness.” But girls, as your grandpa says, "I would sure like to give it a try." Even though I KNOW this to be true, I still struggle with thinking that money will make me happier, and find myself often caught up with worldly things. But, it really hit me that maybe money isn’t the cure when I was cleaning windows for a financially wealthy homeowner and businessman. We got to chatting about the business he built and sold, his multiple vacation homes, season tickets to the MN Twins, among other things; and at the end of the conversation, he said something that hit me square in the jaw:
“Looking back, if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have spent so much time working building my career and chasing more money. I ended up getting in a divorce, and I missed out on my kids’ years growing up. I wasn’t as present as I should have been. I will never be able to get those years back with my kids.”
- Anonymous window cleaning customer
Don’t worry girls. My 80 hour work weeks I put in while building my business is done. I won’t miss out on you due to my work. But, I also don’t want to miss out on you by being consumed by the desire for more money and financial freedom. My mindset on achieving wealth will always be evolving as I strive to actively pursue how to be a better dad, husband, christ-follower, brother, friend, etc, but I want to provide some wealth wisdoms from my, currently, 32 years of life.
Please understand that money is not what life and wealth is all about, and money, on its own, does not equate to happiness. However, I do feel that having a healthy relationship with money, and building a strong financial foundation will give you more brain space to focus on the other important things in your life, rather than stressing about your finances. In addition, most of us do need money in order to provide for ourselves and our families (and, you both very likely will need money too). Because of this, I need to start by talking about money.
1) Invest your money with simplicity & low costs.
Listen to JL Collins from his book on how to take The Simple Path to Wealth. Mr. Collins has a place in my heart because he wrote the book for his daughter with the hope to help her navigate money successfully; just as I am now writing to you both, hoping I can save you from some of the mistakes I have made. JL tells his daughter to save a portion of her income (more is better), live on less, and invest the difference. Invest in low cost index or target date funds with low fees. Many employers have these options available to their employees, and you can even invest in these vehicles without an employer through an IRA. We can talk about this more when you are ready, but for now, understand the The Simple Path to Wealth in one sentence:
“Live on less than you earn, and invest the difference.”
Mr. Collins even writes about the Simplest Path to Wealth of all, which is perhaps the utmost easiest way to invest it and forget it, which is through low-cost target-date funds. You put in an age that you think you will stop working at, and the fund will invest your money for you, and will get less aggressive as you age all on auto-pilot. If you don’t want to have to think at all about how to invest your money, then I suggest taking JL’s advice and investing your money into a target date retirement fund!
Warren Buffet, one of the greatest investors in history, agrees with JL on investing simply and with low costs when he wrote in his annual shareholder letter to his investors in his company, on how he will have his money invested in his trust upon his passing:
My advice to the trustee couldn't be more simple: Put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard's.) I believe the trust's long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors — whether pension funds, institutions or individuals — who employ high-fee managers.
Again, you may not understand what an S&P 500 index fund is, but that is not what’s most important here. What’s more important is that you heed the advice of one of the greatest investors and money managers the world has seen, when he says to invest with low-cost & simplicity.
John Bogle, founder of Vanguard (one of the largest investment firms in the world), and creator of the first ever index fund (which is where I advise you to invest your money); also stresses that there is a simple investing formula in his book, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns:
“The winning formula for success in investing is owning the entire stock market through an index fund, and then doing nothing. Just stay the course. Once you have bought your stocks get out of the casino and stay out. Just hold the market portfolio forever. And that’s what the index fund does. This investment philosophy is not only simple and elegant. The arithmetic on which it is based is irrefutable. But, it is not easy to follow its discipline.”
Sounds so easy doesn’t it? But, why then, does Mr. Bogle say that it is not easy to follow? I will tell you why: Because we are human beings that get caught up in fear and greed when it comes to our money.
It took first-hand experience for me to realize that the simple formula for investing is, indeed, simple, but difficult to follow. In the past few years with the COVID pandemic, high inflation, and rising interest rates causing the stock market to move up and down by 30% or more in short order, I did not “stay the course” as John Bogle advised. I got scared when I saw your mother and I’s hard earned money seemingly dwindling away as everyone was saying that, “This time is different! The stock market is surely going to plunge further! We are headed to another Great Depression because we are in a world-wide pandemic!”
Your mother and I had been diligently saving on our high-income teaching salaries for years. Yes, this is sarcasm - as they say, “You don’t get into teaching for the money.” For me to see years of diligent saving being wiped out in short order causes one to do irrational things.
I thought I knew better and got out of the market. And guess what happened? You got it! The market recovered quickly and furiously; giving me a punch in the gut and saying, “I told you so! You should have listened to Collins, Bogle, and Buffet!” I consider myself to be an educated individual when it comes to money and finances; and yet, I made the exact mistake that I said I would never do, which was to think that I knew better than the market.
Sometimes we need to experience things ourselves to truly believe it. Well girls, I experienced the downfall of thinking I knew better than the market. Don’t do this…invest your money with simplicity and continue to do so over time; I assure you that you will be rewarded over the long-term.
Ok, one last simple formula for you on this mammoth we have to deal with in life called money. Bob & Linda Lotich, authors of Simple Money, Rich Life gives us four short statements for how to have a healthy relationship with money, which is:
“Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can. Enjoy it all.”
Bob and Linda take the “give all you can” statement to the extreme: They have a goal of giving away their age in % of their income every year! Think about that, if they are 40 years old, they will give away 40% of everything they make. For the Lotich’s, they are living proof that they can live a rich life while still giving away a large portion of their money. Please, take the time to read their book as it offers so many more insights worth “stealing” on how to live a fruitful, enjoyable life where one can be christ-centered and have money! It doesn’t need to be an either-or thing.
Are you seeing the trend here girls? When it comes to money, you must, of course, make money. But, if you notice from Mr. Collins, Mr. Buffet, Mr. Bogle, and Mr. & Mrs. Lotich; they stress the importance of saving and investing for your money to truly grow for you.
2) If you must attempt to be smarter than the market and invest beyond the simplicity of index funds or target date funds, do so with strict risk management.
News flash girls…you are not smarter than the stock market! When you feel that you are, please re-read the previous sentence! If you have read the previous sentence twice over, and you still believe you can be smarter than the market, then please do what you must; but do so with strict risk management.
Peter Brandt, professional market trader, and author of the book Diary of a Professional Commodity Trader: Lessons from 21 Weeks of Real Trading, is a master of risk management who has made his living from speculating and trading the markets. Does this mean he is smarter than the market? Not according to Mr. Brandt:
“Amateur traders ask whether a market is going up or down. This is the wrong focus. We have no control over markets. None.”
So, if Brandt agrees that we have no control over the markets, then how has he been able to make a living by trading and speculating? It all comes down to managing risk:
“Gamblers obsess with big potential upside windfall profits. Intelligent speculators obsess with managing downside risk.”
Did you catch it? Mr. Brandt is obsessed with managing his downside risk. Evelyn and Lillian, if you must speculate, be obsessed with managing your risk.
Kevin Marder, past hedge fund manager, founder of Investor’s Business Daily, and creator of the Marder Report, is a market speculator like Mr. Brandt, and agrees that we cannot outsmart the market:
“Am I smarter than the stock market, or is the market smarter than I am? That is the one question every investor must ask himself. Your answer may have a sizable impact on your results.
In 1990, after reading the Bill O'Neil classic How to Make Money in Stocks, I became a chartist. I retired my crystal ball. I began substituting fact and precedent for opinion and prediction. I realized that it didn't matter what I thought; the market would go about doing what it was going to do anyway — either with me or without me.
So, I chose to admit that the market was smarter than I am. Now, that can be an exceedingly difficult thing for an investor to admit. But the fact of the matter is that the market does not know who you are, what Ivy League school you attended, or what a success you are in your non-investing career. None of that matters. I am, however, just smart enough to know that the market is smarter. And that is the key.
What I do know is that the market is quite good about discounting, or pricing in, everyone's opinions and forecasts. And, fortunately, that is all that is needed to be on the right side of the market.”
Mr. Marder is a speculator, yes, but he understands that he cannot control the market. He understands that he is not smarter than the market. Ultimately, he understands the importance of managing risk and preserving his hard-earned capital.
Paul Novell, blogger at Investing for a Living, has a background in electrical engineering and investment management, and is currently retired and living off of his investments. I bring Mr. Novell up because he is doing what we all hope to do in time, which is to be able to live off of our money - which, if you recall from Mr. Collins, can only be done through living on less than you earn, and investing the difference. I also want to reference Mr. Novell because he provides simple insights into the psychology of dealing with the inevitable times when our investments will go down in value. He has said two very seemingly simple things that will resonate with me forever:
“Managing drawdowns is a human superpower.”
“Drawdowns in spreadsheets are real.”
Remember when I thought I was smarter than the market and I got out at the absolute wrong time? I wish I could go back in time and realize that drawdowns of one’s investments are real, and that one should be prepared for this to happen before it happens in order to stay with one’s investment plan.
The takeaways I want you girls to understand from Mr. Brandt, Mr. Marder, and Mr. Novell is that, although they are not the “buy and hold” investors like Collins, Buffet, Bogle, and Lotich advise most of us should be; they understand that:
They are not smarter than the markets
They have no control over the markets’ gyrations
Their ultimate success comes from managing their risk
3) Get the big 3 expenses in check, and your financial life will be much less stressful.
JL says to live on less than you earn. Got it. What you spend your money on will determine the extent to which you can save & invest. MyMoneyWizard (who is a fellow north tundra resident by the way) says that the big 3; housing, food, and transportation should be the focus of your spending. He says to focus on the 20% of the stuff that makes up 80% of your spending:
“Forget stressing about the small details. Go to happy hour with your friends, and take that much deserved vacation. But focus on just The Big Three – Housing, Cars, and Food – and you’ll still save a fortune.”
Let’s re-visit billionaire Warren Buffet…I stress, billionaire. With that in mind, did you know that one of the richest men in the world lives in the same home he's lived in since 1958? He purchased the home for $31,500, roughly the equivalent of $250,000 today. How about his choice of vehicle? He drives a 2014 Cadillac XTS, which is around $17,000 today. And food? Well, he is often known for keeping his lavish breakfast meals at McDonald’s to under $4.
If a billionaire can be aware of the “big 3” expenses, I feel it is something we should take notice of. No need to have extravagant spreadsheets and apps tracking every single penny and where it goes. That doesn’t sound like fun, or feasible long-term. Instead, get your big 3 under control, stop stressing about the small details, and go live your life!
4) There is only 1 thing in this world that is too good to be true.
When I was younger, I bought a bunch of iPads from an online store that I was going to re-sell on Ebay. I couldn’t believe the find! It was a wholesale website, and I would be able to easily flip these iPads for profit. I even did my due diligence, and checked that they had an office so I wouldn’t be scammed.
Long story short, it was too good to be true. I paid out approx. $5,000 and got…nothing in return. The “wholesale store” rented an empty office as a storefront, and apparently scammed many others, including me. Looking back, it was too easy. I should have known better. I should have done more due diligence than I did.
When you hear something that is unbelievable, a can’t miss opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, please check the facts. Do your research. Perform the due diligence to ensure it is valid and reliable.
Girls, there is only 1 thing in this world that actually is too good
to be and is true…and that is God’s grace! What is grace? In simple terms, it is something given that is not deserved. Pastor Francis Chan says it simply:
“Grace is when you should be totally punished, but are blessed for no reason.”
Think about a time when you treated someone with utter disrespect, and you knew that you deserved the consequences of your actions…but, the person forgave you with no strings attached. That is grace.
Pastor Jeffrey Curtis Poor gives us a further glimpse into grace when he says:
“The Greek word charis (χάρις) is what is often translated as grace in the New Testament. This word brings a picture of kindness, showing favor, often with a focus on a benefit being given.
Grace is what God does because he’s gracious. Grace is a gift of God. Not because we deserve it or did enough good works. But instead, because God is good. Grace is a result of the love of God. It’s the unmerited favor of God.”
Evelyn and Lillian, if there is only one thing you take from my long and drawn out letter to you, it is this: We are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world. We all will someday pass on from this earth, but it is our gracious God, who by His choice and by His grace, has forgiven our imperfections and gives us the opportunity to be saved. The only thing you can do to receive this gift, is to choose to receive this gift from Him.
How do you do that? You tell Him simply. You tell Him what’s on your heart. You ask Him into your heart. You tell Him that you want Him to lead your life, and that you want to follow Him. It doesn’t need to be any more glamorous than that…it just needs to be real.
5) You were beautifully created in the image of God.
I didn’t believe this, and sometimes still struggle believing this. In 9th grade, I had everything going for me. Varsity athlete in multiple sports, 4.0 GPA, and sights set on collegiate basketball. But, one day in school changed all of that. I took a body fat % test in one of my classes, and being the perfectionist that I
was am, I wondered why my body fat % was higher than some of those around me…especially those who were not even athletes! It was a small trigger that sent my perfectionist mind down a road looking for physical perfection.
This search for perfection led me down a road to one that caused very negative effects on my physical health, mental/emotional health, and social relationships. It was a slow burn at first, but over time, things compounded. I ended up being hospitalized and being diagnosed with Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED); previously known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). This category of an eating disorder was developed to encompass those individuals who did not meet strict diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa but still had a significant eating disorder.
Over time, I continued to decline physically, mentally, and in my relationships. I was closed off from my closest friends and family. The things I used to put my focus into - friends, family, faith, school, sports - all took a back seat to my minds’ quest for physical perfection. I was able to function (barely). I was able to keep my 4.0 GPA. I still had the opportunity to play college basketball. But, I knew I wasn’t in a place physically or mentally to do so.
And so, I dropped out of going to college and gave up my greatest dream growing up of playing college basketball because I was so focused on image. I didn’t know where I was going. I was wandering. I was lost. It was a very difficult time in my life, and looking back now, I still deal with some regrets of what “could have been.”
Girls, don’t look back and wonder what “could have been.” This robs you of your joy. It robs you of what is right in front of you now. I now look at where I am today with a healthy marriage, two beautiful baby girls, a supportive family and friends group; and I know that what has happened in my past has shaped me and prepared me to do what I am called to do - which is to be a loving husband, father, and follower of Christ. If I commit to being those things, the rest will fall into place.
Evelyn and Lillian, you are beautiful. We are not meant to be perfect, but we have a perfect God who created you in his image. By thinking of yourself as anything less than that, you are saying that God is also less than that. Do not make that mistake. He loves you and made you exactly how you are supposed to be made!
6) Find your battle buddies
Your mother and I have a support group that we can turn to when life is going along smoothly, as well as when the inevitable times come when life can’t seem to be going more wrong. We are blessed to have close relationships with our parents and siblings that we can feel comfortable telling our struggles to, and asking for guidance.
Remember how I said I was hospitalized in high school due to my disorder? Evelyn, your godfather called me every single day, without fail, to just listen. To this day, we know we are there for one another no matter what happens. We are battle buddies.
Your mother and I are in a small group with other Christians who are in the same stage of life as we are. We are all navigating the trials of balancing careers, raising kids, and trying to strengthen our marriages. They challenge us to think beyond ourselves; to think beyond our struggles of the moment. Having a small group of people to do life with that you can count on, and can trust, will pay dividends to you. We are not made to navigate this life on our own.
As much as I would love it if you both would consider your mom and me to be in your battle buddies, I understand that this may not always be the case. And so, I urge you to perform your due diligence on who is going to be your team of people; your battle buddies. Will they push you to strengthen your faith? Will they give you the opportunity to be you? Will they challenge you, in a healthy way, to achieve your goals and vision for your life?
Proverbs 13:20 says that:
“He who walks with wise men will be wise. When you choose to surround yourself with good company, these people will support and encourage you on your path towards your destiny.”
Please know that I am here to help you navigate whatever it is you may be facing in your lives, and if that is not enough, know that I love you no matter what!
7) Find a mentor (or two, or three)
There is a saying that says, “Don’t re-invent the wheel.” You both are going to be confronted with countless decisions. Seemingly simple decisions like:
What do I want to eat?
What should I wear?
What movie do I want to watch?
But, you will also be faced with decisions that will not be so easy:
Should I go to college?
Where do I want to go to college?
Should I be dating that person?
Will this purchase provide positive outcomes to my life?
And, even decisions that may seem unanswerable:
Who am I going to be?
What am I supposed to do with my life?
Why am I here?
Some of these decisions you will be able to make without much thought. But, some of these decisions will cause you to truly think critically; to question which direction of action is best. This can be scary on your own, especially if you don’t have the experience to draw from to make an educated decision.
Don’t re-invent the wheel. Find those who have experienced similar decisions before you. What happened to them? How did they feel? What do they wish they would have done differently?
I own a business, and I would not be successful without the mentorship of my parents (your grandma and grandpa). Why? Because they both own or have owned their own businesses ever since I can remember. Owning a business is not something that comes naturally. It takes trial and error. It takes long hours. It takes experiencing what works and what doesn’t. These have all been true in my experience as a business owner. But, the mentorship of being able to ask my parents for guidance on what has worked for them, roadblocks to consider, and ideas to make the business better considerably shortened my learning curve, and helped in alleviating the mistakes they went through on their business journeys.
It is invaluable having a mentor (or two, or three) who you have fact-checked, studied, and done your due diligence on enough to know that their guidance and wisdom can be reliably counted upon without question. The people in my life that I can go to with a question or concern, and take their guidance and wisdom without question, is my mother (your grandma O.), my father-in-law (your grandpa J.), and my older brother (your uncle Darrin). Over time, their modeling and guidance has proven time and again to be reliable.
Who are you going to count on when you have decisions to make that seem like there is no right answer? Who can you go to, without question, and know that their guidance is reliable?
David Meltzer, speaker, author, and entrepreneur puts it simply:
“What do you want? Seek someone who has what you want, who has been there or is there, and ask them for directions. Want to own a business? Be a vet? Whatever it is, FIND them and ask them.”
8) Things don't always make sense, but they don't always have to
That’s tough for my perfectionist black and white brain to deal with. I want to know the answers. I want to know what’s next. I like having a plan in place for everything in life.
But, that is not how life always works. Sometimes, the answers aren’t always available in the moment. Sometimes, you cannot know what is next. Sometimes, your plan is completely torn apart. What will you do when things don’t make sense? When life seems to be unfair? When you are confronted with struggles and cannot seem to find the answer?
To be honest, I don’t have the answer to these questions. I have had a rollercoaster of plans that have changed from being set on playing college basketball at a top academic school, to deciding to not go to college at the last moment, being mentored on business, to going back to college, to coaching college basketball, to becoming a teacher, to working 80+ hour weeks building a business (don’t worry, that was before you both were born), to now being a physical laborer as the majority of my profession.
I don't always know how or why this avenue has been taken, but I am learning that I don’t always need to know. There is someone greater than I who has the plan in place, and I just need to let the plan unfold.
Put in the work from your end, endure the struggles, and trust that there is someone greater than you who has your back. You will find that the more you rely on Him, the more He will meet you halfway and continue to provide.
9) Comparison is the thief of joy and true self-contentment.
This is a wisdom that has been attributed to Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, C.S. Lewis, among others. Regardless of where the quote was originated, it is a powerful thought to be aware of. We are told what is beautiful. We are told what will make us happy. We are told what we should want, how we should feel, and how we should be treated. So, what happens when our circumstances do not line up with what we are told? I don’t have a million dollars, so I must not be financially secure. I don’t get to go on the 2-week vacations that I am seeing posted on social media, so I must be missing out. Everyone I see always looks so happy and seem to have it all together; what am I doing wrong?
These are questions I have asked myself. And maybe, these are questions you have asked yourself too. How does it feel to ask these questions? Does it make you feel happy? Joyful? Confident? Content? I know the answer, and you likely do too.
Mollie is a wife, mother of three kids, and writer, and her openness and vulnerability to talk about her struggles with comparison is something we should take note of. Remember how I said you shouldn’t re-invent the wheel and that you should find those who have experienced similar decisions before you? This is a prime example and I urge you to consider what Mollie has to say:
“I was idealizing somebody else’s life because it looked prettier than mine. The innocent intrigue that I initially felt was taken over by comparison and a spirit of discontentment continued to grow within me. When we allow comparison of others to dictate how we view our own lives, we enter into a disillusionment of reality that robs us of the joy we have right in front of us. Comparison acts as a powerful force that compels us to desire more, as we consequently view ourselves as less. This is when I realized that comparison had become the thief of joy in my life.”
Dr. Amy Silver, psychologist, speaker, and author gives us further insight as to how comparison robs us of our joy:
“The process of constantly evaluating our own behavior, thoughts, emotions, relationships, jobs, houses, clothes, looks, lives to each other is one of the most damaging internal narratives we can have.
It can make us miserable as we assess our own situations in comparison to the world of others.”
Evelyn and Lillian, comparison causes problems. It steals your joy and true identity. I came across this condensed parable from Brandon, a fellow window washer (starting at 18:15 into the podcast), that really forced me to think more clearly about my constant struggle with comparison. I hope this causes you to look for what you may be comparing yourself with or to:
There once was a businessman who was sitting on the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?” The fisherman replied, “Eh, just a short while.” “Then why don’t you stay out at sea longer and catch more fish?,” the businessman asked. “This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman replied. The businessman then asked, “Then, what do you do for the rest of the day?” The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually catch fish in the morning, and then in the afternoon I play with my kids, and sometimes I take a nap with my wife. In the evenings, I go join my buddies in the village for a drink. We play guitar, sing, and dance throughout the night.” The businessman offered a suggestion for the fisherman: “I have a PhD in Business Management and I could help you become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you can buy a bigger boat and have a team to catch the fish. Soon, you will be able to afford even more boats, set up your own company, and have your own production plant for a canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village to Sao Paulo where you can set up your headquarters to manage your other branches.” The fisherman casually asked, “And after that?” The businessman laughs heartily and says, “You will be rich and can retire!” The fisherman continues, “And after that?” The businessman says, “I don’t know. Maybe you will find a nice spot by the beach to live, and maybe play with your grandkids, and take naps whenever you want because you are old and tired. And, in the evenings you could go hang out with your friends and have drinks and sing the night away.” The fisherman looks at the businessman puzzled and says, “Well, isn’t that what I am doing now?”
Girls, don’t miss out on the now. It can be easy to want to get to what’s next. To want to get out of school and go to college. To want to get out of college and get into the work force. To want to get to a higher paying job, so that you can buy a nice home. To want to focus on saving your money so that you can someday retire. On their own, none of these things are bad. But, don’t miss the forest for the trees…don’t miss out on today…don’t miss out on now.
10) We were made for so much more than just to survive…We were made to thrive
I have written much too much that you are likely daydreaming at this point. But, if you have made it this far, thank you for humoring your father. I want to leave you with one last thought from the band, Casting Crowns, on why we were designed; why we were made; why we are here:
Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry
So living water flowing through
God, we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire
Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
Girls, YOU were made to thrive! I love you so very much!
The TLDR/L (Too long, didn’t read / listen):
Wealth isn’t just about money. True wealth is a balance of financial wealth, mental-emotional wealth, spiritual wealth, social wealth, and physical wealth.
Comparing one’s situation to others steals your joy, happiness, and personal self-worth.
What is your philosophy about the meaning of life? Are we here for a reason? Without a higher purpose, money means little, and happiness is fleeting.
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Thanks for writing these wonderful letters.
One can tell that you write them from the heart and some serious deep work is involved as well. Keep doing the great things.
On a lighter note...
While washing windows maybe what you do during day, it's what you do at night (clearing dust from the minds of confused about wealth). that may turn out to be your real calling.
In both cases, you're in the business of clarity & cleanliness and that's something to be super proud of.
Keep going, you'll go places.
Great writing and challenge. I really enjoyed listening to this. Blessings to you and your family.