Last week we examined two men who experienced that liminal doorway we aspire to cross through—the one to financial prosperity. Let’s see what each experienced next.
Like scores of lottery winners, Jack Whittaker found out his business acumen wasn’t enough to navigate his unexpected new found riches. He seemed to have a solid purpose and plan in place: Whittaker intended 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.
But, within two years, this loving grandfather and successful businessman was transformed into an alcoholic, strip-club frequenting boor. He accumulated over 460 legal infractions ranging from drunk driving to counter-suing a casino. His new-found wealth stimulated hidden addictions and brought them to light.
The effects of his wealth became a cancer to his nearest and dearest relationships. His beloved seventeen year old granddaughter whom he and his wife Jewell had raised was the beneficiary of this new-found wealth. Fueled by a $5,000/day allowance, she was found dead of a drug overdose in December of 2004. Whittaker’s wife could no longer stand who Jack had become and divorced him in April 2008. In July 2009, their 42 year old daughter was found dead in a sumptuous home.
One of the most difficult doorways to pass through, surprisingly, is sudden wealth.
Jack Whittaker’s story is not isolated. You can find variations on his theme in the lives of countless lottery winners.
Contrast this to Rick Warren, who, even as a young man, had a clear plan and purpose:
“When I started the church back in 1980 I was 25 years old and I made a 40-year commitment,” he said. “I made it very public, saying I will give 40 years to this church and when I turn 65 I will turn it over to another younger leader. …So everyone knows that I will retire in the summer of 2020.”
Warren adds, “In retirement, what we have to ask is ‘What’s going to be the center of my life?’ because if you don’t have a solid center it’s going to fall apart. Then we have to say, ‘Who are going to be my life companions; who will be my associates, my circle of influence; what is going to be the character of my life; how am I going to keep growing?’ I think in retirement you have to focus more on your ministry and your mission, or ‘How can I give back to the world or make the world a better place in my final years?’”
At Saddleback, they use a program called the P.E.A.C.E plan to help keep new as well as existing retirees on the right path
• Plant churches that promote reconciliation
• Equip leaders
• Assist the poor
• Care for the sick
• Educate the next generation.
“In the last 10 years I have sent out over 20,000 members to 196 nations,” he said. “That’s every nation in the world to do PEACE related work … no church has sent out more people.” In the same breath, he passed on the wisdom gained from people’s deathbeds:
“As a pastor I have stood at the bedside of literally thousands of people as they took their last breath. I have never once had somebody at their dying moment say, ‘Bring me my bowling trophy, I want to see it one more time; bring me my certificate, my college degree so I can look at it one more time; bring me the nice gold watch I got for 30 years of service at my company.’
Nobody ever says that; they say, ‘Bring me the people that I love.’ In the closing moments of their life, what people want are those they love the most around them. We all eventually figure out that life is all about love. I just hope people learn that sooner.”
When Whittaker became awash with wealth, he didn’t have the capacity to handle its powerful effects. Even his love for his family wasn’t enough. The foundation he thought he had established no longer served him well.
From the time he was 17, Warren had established clear habits that enabled him to handle the fruits of his success. You might argue that Warren’s financial success was the result of his hard work in authoring the book. However, he even said he had no idea it would enrich him the way it has.
You’re no stranger to adversity. But, as you contemplate growing your company and look forward to the doorway of prosperity, are you currently doing enough to lay the right foundation to support it?
1 Bloomberg Business Week, Dec 17 to Dec. 23, 2012, pp. 68-74
A business owner who inspired me recently was one who committed to taking action to establish a new routine; he started a regular meeting to affirm key staff—to, in turn, live out his “big why” of being a good boss. (Incidentally, he’ll also spend the week after Thanksgiving helping to build an orphanage overseas).
- What is your foundation and how is it working for you?
- What are you currently doing to prepare yourself to pass through the liminal space into prosperity?