Ancient Wisdom About Money

“Hindsight is 20/20,” is a phrase about as overused as any other. Learning from our own mistakes is a little less fun and a lot more bumpy than learning from people who have already been there.  Fortunately, we have generations of individuals who have jotted down their life experiences and thoughts related to money!

What do people say about money on their death bed? 

Fortunately for us, a palliative nurse who spent many years with those on their deathbeds wrote a book called  The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.   Guess what the number one regret was…
Let’s pause for a second and think, taking this chance to close our eyes and reflect back upon our own lives.

Many wished they’d, ‘had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.’  The second most common regret, especially of men, was ‘wishing they hadn’t worked so hard.’
Surprisingly, not becoming a millionaire, winning the lottery, or climbing higher on the ladder of “success” was nowhere on that list. To round out the list we also wished we’d ‘had the courage to express our feelings more, stayed in touch with friends, and had let ourselves be happier.

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” — Sydney J. Harris

Below is another list of regrets from those preparing to say “goodbye” to this blue planet.

The Top 10 Regrets in Life By Those About to Die

  1. “Never pursuing dreams and aspirations”
  2. “I worked too much and never made time for my family”
  3. “I should have made more time for my friends”
  4. “I should have said ‘I Love You’ a lot more”
  5. “I should have spoken my mind instead of holding back and resenting things”
  6. “I should have been the bigger person and resolved my conflicts”
  7. “I wish I had children”
  8. “I should have saved more money for my retirement”
  9. “Not having the courage to live truthfully”
  10. “Happiness is always a choice, I wish I knew that earlier”

So many regrets, so little time!  And yet, in reflecting back over these regrets there is hope!  The hope is that most of these regrets can be boiled down into having richer and more meaningful relationships with both ourselves and others.  A huge first step is choosing to be happy in this moment, to go after the things we want, and to give love to those around us.  And what if our response is “They don’t teach love in schools. Where do we learn about love?”  We’ve got you covered: Why love?

“Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way.” — Al Franken

What Are the Top 5 Regrets of Mid-Career Professionals?

We feel the tinges of regret long before our deathbeds. Around 40 years old, the realization that our youth is in our rearview mirror inspires us to take a more open and honest look at life.  This taking a second to assess our lives empowers us to make a change now, in the middle of our careers, rather than waiting until it’s too late. The Top 5 Regrets of Mid-Career Professionals was inspired by 11 years of work, “focused on career coaching, teaching and training, helping mid-career professionals “dig deep, discover their right work, and illuminate the world with it.”

The top five regrets are as follows:

  1. I wish I hadn’t listened to other people about what I should study and pursue.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard and missed out on so much.
  3. I wish I hadn’t let my fears stop me from making change.
  4. I wish I had learned how to address toxic situations and people.
  5. I wish I hadn’t let myself become so trapped around money.

Sadly, we’ve realized that many adults are living someone else’s life, rather than their own.  What’s worse than living someone else’s life is sacrificing time with loved ones for a job that we don’t even care about.  So, what do we do with this advice? A happier life starts with working less, spending more time with loved ones, and doing more of the work that we care about.

“One of the oddest things about being grown-up was looking back at something you thought you knew and finding out the truth of it was completely different from what you had always believed.” — Patricia Briggs

Personal Practice (Eliminating Regret):

Great, so what do we do with this list?  Below are three simple steps we can take to turn this information into a more meaningful life:

  1. Pick which, if any, of the above regrets that most resonates.  AWARENESS is the first step towards change! Even the simple understanding of a direction that we no longer want to head can help us pivot towards a new direction. Write these down, and if it helps for your own clarity, write what you want to move away from and what you want to move toward.
  2. Either at night or in the morning, take a minute to reflect back upon the day.  Pick out one regret and then one small step (an action that will take 2 minutes or less) to do the next day.  These might be things like asking our kids ‘how their day was’, eating one less snack, taking the time to read a chapter of a book when we get home, starting the day with a minute of meditation or prayer, or reaching out to a loved one to let them know we are thinking about them. A life of regret is not built through massive missteps, but rather consistent, small steps of not being true to ourselves and our values.
  3. Come up with our top three priorities, and examine if the amount of time that we are giving towards these priorities is in line with where that priority is on our list.  
    1. Small one or two-minute routines are great ways to make changes. Walking across the Great Wall of China can only be done ONE STEP AT A TIME.
    2. Example: If deciding that spending more time with family is a top priority, pick out one small 2 minute block today and pick a question or task to do with that family member.  Asking someone about their day, sharing a personal story, helping set the dinner table together, or small activities like Rose Bud Thorn are all small activities that can lead to bigger connections and deeper love!

“The only thing I regret about my life is the length of it. If I had to live my life again I’d make all the same mistakes—only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead

A List of Short Stories About Money:

  • The Magic Pomegranate– Peninnah Schram: This ancient tale is a story about family, giving, and generosity.
  • The Ruby – A parable told from Hindu Tradition, Retold by Jim May: This story touches on the difference between wealth and wisdom, and leads us to question how important money or material wealth is?
  • The Gizzard – Diane Wolkstein: This fable tells about how encountering luck, and unexpected riches can tear apart marriages and families, when put above all else.
  • The Table Where Rich People Sit – Byrd Baylor: This short story shows how a family considers riches to be more than just money as they count up the beauty, connection, and experiences that they get paid in as well.
  • Eyes-All-Over – Terry Jones: A man who has the ability to see beyond what most people ever get to see (including past, present, future) fails to see something far more important in people, their worth and the value of love!
  • The Song That Brought Happiness – Terry Jones: This tale demonstrates how even the most beautiful thing, if used improperly, can bring destruction.
  • Forget-Me-Nuts– Terry Jones: This story demonstrates how ignorance may be bliss, but that some things are worth remembering.

A Few of Our Favorite Short Stories on Money:

The Fisherman And the Businessman by Paulo Coelho  

  • This story highlights the irony of the rat race in a beautiful way…

How Much Land Does a Man Need

  • This story highlights the irony of greed and material acquisition in an elegant way…

The Miser   

  • A man works hard to get a bag of gold, buries it, and comes back to dig it up and look at it every day.
  • This bag of gold becomes the man’s sense of pride and happiness.
  • The bag of gold gets stolen one day, and the man is devastated.  The neighbor, day after day, witnesses the whole thing play out and says, ‘You could just replace it with a rock and come unbury and look at your rock each day.’ 
  • Moral:  Money itself is nothing more than pieces of paper or chunks of shiny (or sometimes not so shiny) metal. Don’t forget that money’s true purpose is in service of a happy, healthy life. The size of the pile of money doesn’t make much difference if one doesn’t know how to use it to feel fulfilled.

“Money buys everything but good sense.” –Yiddish (on money)

Top 10 Quotes About Money

There could be a whole book filled with famous quotes on money.  For the sake of clarity, brevity, and simplicity, we’ve narrowed it down to ten of the most meaningful pieces of wisdom around money.  They are listed in no particular order:

  • “Men do not desire to be rich, only to be richer than other men.”  -John Stuart Mill
  • When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama said, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” –Dalai Lama
  • The new roadmap says that there is something called ‘enough’…’enough’ is this vibrant, vital place…an awareness about the flow of money and stuff in your life, in light of your true happiness and your sense of purpose and values, and that your ‘enough point’ (having enough) is having everything you want and need, to have a life you love and full self-expression, with nothing in excess. It’s not minimalism. It’s not less is more (because sometimes more is more), but it’s that sweet spot, it’s the Goldilocks point.  –Vicki Robin – Your Money or Your Life
  • “If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help build theirs.”  – Tony Gaskins
  • “Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.” –Will Rogers
  • “Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.” — Frank Tyger
  • “It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” –George Lorimer
  • “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” –Maya Angelou
  • “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” –Joe Biden
  • “Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it.” —Timothy Ferriss

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