Ruts With Ornate Wood and Polished Brass Handrails

June 9, 2008

We got back from the desert Wednesday and I spent the next four days thinking about Spongebob. My kids love the show so I’ve seen a few episodes. From time to time the little guy starts shriveling up because he’s out of the water. That’s how my brain felt. I think it was the slowest to dry out and the last to rehydrate.

My slowly drying brain may be part of the reason I felt so out of it when I thought about my business during the trip. Another reason was the setting. We were in Scottsdale most of the time, staying in a resort hotel. It’s hard to relate to authenticity and people striving to improve themselves mentally, interpersonally, and spiritually in that setting. I realized my drive for authenticity and self-expression was nearly drowned out by the power of the communal rut – of affluence.

Driving past the Mercedes dealership, then the Jaguar dealership, then the BMW dealership and the Range Rover dealership, it’s easy to develop the mistaken belief that fine living is a motivation for people to become solo entrepreneurs. In reality, many of the people enjoying that affluent lifestyle have high-paying jobs and spend a lot of time worrying about keeping them so they can protect their income.

On another level, affluent living not only pushes people to live in ruts to pursue and keep high-paying jobs, it also dictates the rut for enjoying the affluence. The stores, the restaurants, and the resorts all tell us This is how affluent people enjoy their money. Fit in by liking golf, spas, high-end shopping, expensive restaurants, and deserts artificially turned into tropical oases. It’s what all the “cool kids” are doing! Then fit in by getting into the high-paying job rut, and fight like crazy to stay there because it’s tough competition.

This rut thing gets even worse. Over Sunday dinner with my wife’s family we were talking about a news report that Joanna Rowling, Harry Potter creator and billionaires, gave a commencement address at Harvard and there were protests. It seems the ivory tower snobs consider her a second-rate talent and would have preferred someone more literary.

Joanna Rowling is one of my heroes. She had a story to tell and she committed herself to writing it and getting it published. It is, by most accounts, the best-selling book series of all time. At a time when people were giving up on getting kids to read, thinking we had to “dumb down” books and shorten them, kids started reading novels again. As new books came out, longer than before, the kids kept up. Some learned the joy of marathon reading, staying up for hours reading through hundreds of pages.

What a failure! That poor woman will never make it.

I doubt Jo Rowling set out to be a huge financial success with her writing. She probably dreamed of making a million dollars, but could she have conceived of making a billion? She followed her calling and expressed her gifts and talents. She did what she was born to do, and people appreciated it so she was rewarded.

Some trailblazers are making a living, just getting by, but having a great time being rewarded in many other ways. Some have surprising episodes where they make a lot of money and then see the lean times. Some slowly learn more about generating money and increase their pay over time. And some have spectacular financial success and enjoy it so much they do it over and over.

The key difference is the purpose. If they are chasing ways to make money, they are in a rut and they will stay in a rut. They will make money in a rut, they will spend it in a rut, they will be flashy in the rut, they will go into debt in the rut, and they will be afraid of leaving the rut to find themselves.

The trailblazers are discovering and expressing themselves. When they succeed, it’s out of the rut. They spend or save their money as they wish, and they don’t fear losing status and a rut lifestyle so they don’t have to hold back and give up their dreams. They’re free to pursue their dreams and create their own success, by whatever standard they want to measure it.

They know that a rut with beautifully accented handrails is still a rut, and they just won’t settle for that.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

Updated 06/10/08 with the Rowling address video links:

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