For every one hundred people who can handle adversity there is only one who can handle prosperity.
Every business owner will face a liminal dimension—a doorway—either by choice or by necessity.
Most of us expect or experience the doorway of adversity as we work toward the doorway of prosperity, likely with the sale of our company.
But be honest. Haven’t you ever said or thought, “If I win the lottery, I’d quit this business!”?
Let’s meet a couple of gentlemen who actually had that choice. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll accompany them through that doorway of prosperity to see what’s on the other side for each of them.
First, let’s meet the man who won the lottery. Like us, he is a business owner. Jack Whittaker was a 55-year-old contractor from Scott Depot, West Virginia. He had a successful water and sewer pipe business employing over 100 people. That business made him a multi-millionaire.
But a $1 Powerball lottery ticket purchased on Christmas Eve, 2002, at the C& L SuperServe changed his life forever. He went to bed thinking that he hadn’t won anything. On Christmas Day, he discovered he had the winning number in his hand.
“I got sick to my stomach, and I just was [at] a loss for words and advice,” he later recalled. When he returned to the SuperServe on Monday, he told the clerk he had won and she replied, “No you didn’t. You’re not excited enough to win the lottery.”
Whittaker was the winner of a $314.9 million lottery, then the biggest undivided jackpot in lottery history. To any wealth manager, he made an ill-advised choice: after his first check, he elected to take a one-time payout of $93m after taxes.
His first actions were sweeping and generous:
- He wrote checks to three pastors for a tithe (10%) of his initial payout of $10M.
- He rehired 25 people he had had to lay off before Christmas.
- He donated $7M to build 2 new churches and
- He donated $14M to set up the Jack Whittaker Foundation to aid the poor.
And Whittaker certainly took care of himself and his family:
- He sent his wife on a trip to Israel
- He bought his granddaughter a custom blue Mitsubishi Eclipse and gave her up to $5,000 a day in “spending money”
- He indulged himself (more on that next week).
Whittaker had planned to give his granddaughter his businesses and his property when she turned 21. “From the day she was born, it was all about providing and protecting and taking care of her,” he said.
Now let’s look at the life of another leader—of a non-profit organization. This leader authored the second most-translated book in the world (second only to the Bible). That book has been a New York Times best-seller for nearly four straight years. The author? Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church.
Warren’s response to newfound wealth from royalties of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, were not unlike Whittaker’s.
When The Purpose Driven Life went global, two things came into our lives that we never expected–a new global influence and a new financial affluence. Kay and I had to make a decision about what we would do with those resources. We decided to start reverse-tithing. We started giving away 90% of the income we were receiving and living off the other 10%, and I stopped taking a salary. I’m Saddleback’s busiest volunteer!
Warren stopped taking a salary from his church and even gave back the salary he earned during his first 25 years with Saddleback. “I gave it all back because I didn’t want anyone to think that I do what I do because of money. I love Jesus Christ,” he said.
Warren went on to say, “I drive a 12-year-old Ford, have lived in the same house for the last 22 years, bought my watch at Wal-Mart, and I don’t own a boat or a jet.”
He was quite open about sharing what shaped these decisions of how to handle wealth. “At age 17,” Warren said, “long before Purpose Driven Life came out, I began living on the 10/10/80 principle. Give the first 10% to God, save the second 10% for your future and then learn to live on the rest. So, as a 17-year-old, every week I started putting fifty cents away toward my retirement; and when you do that you learn to live on a margin and you can save an enormous amount of money. Therefore, I was already financially secure before the book even came out.”
Meanwhile, Jack Whittaker thought the qualities that enabled him to build his company—his self-reliance, hard work, and aggressiveness—would help him navigate the world of new-found wealth.
Whittaker seemed like he had it all, right?
Next week: “A Tale of Two Winners: Their Liminal Experience”
Imagine that you have actually won the lottery or somehow come into money unexpectedly. Let your body, mind, emotions and spirit “feel” this. Find your answer to “Would I retire from my business?” Now consider:
- If you want to quit your business, why?
- If you want to keep your business, why?
- In either case, how can you do more of what you love to do?
1 Bloomberg Business Week, Dec 17, 2012, pp. 68-74
3 Forbes on Warren