The New York Stock Exchange roofline

Wall Street Steward Blog

How To Be A Rich Man

Recently, someone asked me “what do you want for Christmas?”  In our household, it is still a bit early to be discussing this since we do not prematurely prepare for holidays.  We are still in the planning stages for our Thanksgiving feast, and Christmas is not on our radar yet. 

Even as we approach Christmas, the focus will not be on what my wife and I might want, but instead on our children’s wish lists.  We balance the toys with a heavy dose about the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  Although it is difficult explaining to our three (6, 4, and 2) that they need to understand “Luke 2:9-14” before opening up their Buzz Lightyear toy, we certainly do our best year in and year out.

Because Christmas is more “kid focused” for me these days, I haven’t actually thought about what I WOULD want for Christmas since my oldest child was born.  So, when asked this question, it made me think deeply about what I actually would WANT.  As you read this article, I encourage you to do the same. 

For Christmas, I want to be rich.  R.I.C.H.  I want to be a rich man. 

I want to enjoy all of the things this life has to offer, none of which has anything to do with $money$.  I am NOT speaking about having a lot of money, but being rich in my soul.  To me, that is so much more valuable than being wealthy, and I think that is what people mean when they say “money cannot buy you happiness.” 

Money can buy houses, cars, and vacations, but it cannot buy warmness in your heart.  To truly be content – to truly be rich, I believe it takes a state of mind.  The best analogy I can think of is to live like you have a terminal disease.  If your doctor gave you 6 months to live, how would that change your behavior?  What would you do?  What would you not do?  How would you treat others?  Who would you spend time with?  HOW would you spend that time?

Steve Jobs said in 2005 that every morning he wakes up, looks in the mirror, and asks himself “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”  Mr. Jobs passed away October 5th, 2011, and I would bet that the last years of his life were some of the best…because he lived each day as if it were his last. 

Then, one day, it actually WAS his last. 

If having a near death experience or a terminal illness is the only way to achieve this level of living, I am not qualified.  However, my wife and I both lived through something traumatic on September 22nd, 2010 that changed our lives.  Even though I try not to talk about that night too much, I will share the gist of what happened for the purpose of context in this article.  For our close friends and family, you know some of this….for the others, read on. 

Our son Cole was born with a host of severe heart defects, and has had to endure three separate open-heart surgeries.  One at 3 days old, one at 6 months old, and his last one at 2 years old.  If you are interested, you can read his entire story here.  The night of his last surgery (9/22/2010), my wife and I were sitting with him in a recovery room.  There was a wall of wires hooked to our little boy, and he was lying in a bed sedated.  Everything seemed fine, but then all of a sudden, we noticed that the room was getting very crowded.

1 nurse
2 nurses
a Cardiologist
a PA
3 other nurses
another Cardiologist

Voices grew louder and actions were being performed with urgency.  My wife and I just sat in the corner of the room, held hands, and watched our sweet “Cole Bear” struggle to breathe.  His head was turned to his left and even though he was sedated, he was gasping for air.  Think about trying to watch a human breathe underwater…that is what it looked like.  He was suffocating before our eyes.  And we were totally helpless…all we could do was to sit there and pray.  Never have I prayed so hard, and to this day, I have never told anybody what I said in my prayer.  Not sure I ever will. 

Because of the Grace of God, and the skill of the medical people HE used, Cole survived.  At the time, I did not see any purpose for why he had to go through all of these trials at such a young age.  Now, I think I know why…

Since that day, our family has maximized each day we have had together.  We spend time with each other, talk, laugh, play, wrestle, watch TV… name it and we do it.  Laura and I feel as though every day we have with Cole is literally a gift from God, and since that day, our lives have been changed for the better.  We never know when we will live our last day, so we don’t want to waste a single day. 

That was my “terminal illness” moment and it makes everything else look secondary.  Somehow it no longer mattered to lose a job, to wipe out our life savings paying for surgeries, etc.  We have each other, and to us, that is all that matters.  The rest of the details will take care of themselves.

Since that day, little things matter.  We are thankful for each blessing.

The smell of Cole’s hair after he gets a bath.
The feeling of Ava’s silky soft hand as we walk together.
The way Lila walks across the room stumbling and pointing like Mick Jagger.
The fact that we have a home with heat and air conditioning.
That our family is not hungry.
I am thankful I convinced a beautiful lady like Laura to marry me. 

The list goes on and on.  None of this is new….but now, I NOTICE

So, I AM a rich man.  Not monetarily, but rich in my heart.  For Christmas, my wish prayer is that I never lose that urgency. 

Oh, and I want YOU to be R.I.C.H. too!  That would fulfill my Christmas wish…that we would all live each day as if it were our last.  Notice the small things, take nothing for granted, and treat people as if it is the last time you will ever see them.

Now that I have told you my Christmas wish, what is yours?  Better hurry, it won’t be long before you need to go to Toys R Us for your child’s Christmas gift. 

This is your chance to think about what YOU want.  Maximize it.