Today’s motivation for self improvement is driven by the need to posess and provide. The $80 000 per month executive wants his salary raised to 85K; that the driver of the Lamborghini starts to find small faults with his vehicle, and begins to eye the newest model Mazzerati with increasing desire; that the stock exchange player who has just sold his Intel shares at an impressive profit, is hoping to make a killing this week with his General Electric shares. No mansion is big enough when this restlessness takes hold, and a walk-in wardrobe containing thirty suits, four score and three shirts and a hundred neck ties is not yet good enough.
High nett worth, bigger and more diversified portfolios, greater profit margins – these are the watch words. If the earnings are sufficient to meet existing needs – why, we’ll develop new ones. A skiing holiday in Gdansk can go a long way to reducing the taxable income that the revenue authorities would otherwise get their hands on.
The purpose of writing this is not to present you with an over-simplified and Trotskyite lecture on capitalism. The purpose is not to get you to donate all you have to the local orphanage, and embark on a life of penury. The purpose is, however, to look at the question of wealth, assets and the talents which allow you to excel in the world, a little more closely, and analytically and perhaps, to attach a different meaning to the words self improvement.
Why is it that cardiac, pulmonary and neurological diseases are more prevalent among the super-tax income earners than among the destitute?
How is it that people spend $3 000 on a Rolex watch, $750 on a Mont Blanc pen, $270 000 on a Ferrari, and that hundreds of these commodities are sold each year, when there are children starving in Somalia, when illiteracy stalks the mountains of North Pakistan and the jungles of Ethiopia, when inner city off-the-wall juvenile delinquency and crime threatens many communities.
Have we lost our collective sanity? We go back to our marathon race, and our water gatherer. To avoid having to stagger towards the finish line, laden with many kilograms of unwanted water, that athlete must distribute, give to other runners around him. That’s the only sensible way a marathon can work.
So it is with life. We do not say give away all your earthly possessions and head for the nearest missionary station, clad in a loincloth and sandals, to spend the rest of your days in abject poverty. You are fully entitled to clothe, feed and entertain yourself and those close to you. There’s no shame in drawing the reward for years of study, decades of hard work and effort. The gifts that life has given are there to be used and one of the lessons to be learnt is that of balance, of allowing every component of our existence to play a proper and relevant role. But bear in mind, continuously, self improvement demands balance, that life is about sharing and not about hording.