Every man is on a quest to find and fill his life with what matters most. While finding what matters most is often a journey filled with dead ends and re-starts, by the time we reach the middle of our lives, most of us have learned that money, fame, and material things aren’t the answer. Still, the voices around us call out different answers, and we have a hard time figuring out what really matters.
Because, while we know that getting rich isn’t goal of life, money sure does make life easier, more fun, and puts smiles on the faces of those we love. So we want to make more of it. And we spend significant amounts of time, effort, and mental energy trying to figure out how to do so. Because we do so, money starts to become the end, rather than the means. It starts to become the thing of value that we seek, rather than the thing that enhances the things of value in our lives.
But, upon reflection, we know money isn’t what matters most. The billionaire convulsing and riddled with cancer would give it all away to be healthy. The rich man alone in his mansion would give it all away to find someone who loves him. The adult trust-fund child would give it all away to have actual achievements that he’s earned with his own talent and work.
“Leverage is knowing that if someone had all the money in the world, this is what they’d buy.” – John Dutton, Yellowstone
As I explained in a recent e-mail (click here to get on the list), men care about status. It’s in our nature. We’re always going to compare ourselves to each other and figure out, at least in a general sense, where we rank. But we have to be careful about the criteria we use to rank ourselves. And money is one of them. To be clear, money is good and highly useful. But it’s not what matters most. And if the pursuit of it costs you your character or causes you to neglect your relationships with your wife, your children, and your friends, the cost is too high.
As men, let’s just be honest and admit that we love beautiful women. We are visually oriented, and a beautiful woman gets our attention. The most powerful men in history have been swayed by the beauty of a woman. It matters to us. And so we’re tempted to seek a trophy, a woman that pleases our eyes and the eyes of those around us. Even worse, we’re tempted to esteem other beauties above our own – the “grass is always greener on the other side” phenomenon.
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” – Proverbs 21: 9 and 25:24, NIV
But the fact is that a woman’s beauty, while exquisite and wonderful, is not enough to sustain a relationship. Not even close. Again, upon reflection, we know this. We know it’s true that “no matter how beautiful she is, some man somewhere is tired of her shit”. We know that beauty matters, but that it isn’t enough. This truth is so fundamental that King Solomon, thought to be one of the wisest men of all time, reiterated not once, but twice in the book of Proverbs that living with a contentious woman is hell.
The woman in our life must be classy, kind, and loyal. Beauty alone doesn’t comfort the sick, support the discouraged, or take the mediocre life to a new level. But a good woman can and will. Find her, and you have a priceless gem.
The same can be said for our children. While we don’t necessarily promote their beauty, except for those idiot pageant people who dress their five-year-old daughters like a runway model, we try to highlight their abilities and accomplishments. We try to make them the best athletes. We want them to win everything. We want them to be the best player on the best team and the best student in the best class in the best school. And on and on it goes. And kids need to work hard and accomplish great things. But we have to teach them to pursue what matters most rather than what is most esteemed by society at large. If winning and gaining fame costs your children their character and relationships, then the cost is too high. For those are what matters most.
As I’ve written about on numerous occasions, too many men are without good friendships. Whether it’s work, kids, a controlling spouse, fear, introversion, selfishness, laziness, arrogance, pride, or some combination thereof, men do not develop lasting friendships. Those who have friends who know their lives, their dreams, their goals, their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their families are in the vast minority. And it’s a helluva shame, because these relationships are an integral part of what matters most. Life is better when lived in deep connection with others. We become better, more capable men. We achieve more. And our families and communities benefit as a result. But, for various reasons, few of us ever get there.
And finally, our goals matter. Not the details of our goals, but the direction. There are plenty of goals that will make life better if we achieve them. But our ultimate direction is what matters most: is our ultimate goal to increase our own happiness or to provide value to the people around us? The answer to that question will tell us if we’ll ever find deep, lasting contentment. Only those who seek to maximize their potential for the purpose of improving the lives of others will find deep, lasting contentment. The selfish man might find happiness in a great accomplishment, but it will soon be gone, leaving him with facing the stark reality that the dream he pursued was not worth what it cost him to get there.
Plenty of professional athletes talk about the emptiness they felt shortly after their greatest accomplishments. The thing that they thought mattered most really didn’t bring them what they thought it would. David Duval worked his entire life to become the greatest golfer in the world. And he got there, overtaking Tiger Woods as the top-ranked player in the world in 1999 and then winning the British Open in 2001. But achieving his lifelong goal, that thing that he’d worked his entire childhood and adult life to accomplish, did not give him lasting happiness. Instead, as this article succinctly notes, “[a]t his crowning moment, it dawned on him that golf was just a game.” Not a mission to save the world, not a source of eternal happiness, not a foundation of a content life – just a game.
Men need to aspire to high achievements. They need to doggedly pursue reaching their potential. Finding a gorgeous wife is a great thing; I have one. Raising kids to pursue high achievements in wonderful; I have four. Earning more money can improve your quality of life; I’m all about it. But none of these, alone, are what matters most. Which means that none of these will bring deep, lasting contentment.
“Contentment, the best leverage, is knowing that all the money in the world can’t buy what you have.”
Earlier I noted a quote from Yellowstone, where Kevin Costner’s character stated that “[l]everage is knowing that if someone had all the money in the world, [what I have] is what they’d buy.” While that’s a cool quote and completely true, it misses what matters most. Contentment, which is the best leverage, is knowing that all the money in the world can’t buy what you have. Character, relationships, and living for others; these are what matters most. This is the man’s life. May we all find it. Godspeed.
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