Invest in Yourself: Wealth vs. "Small Means"
To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly…to listen to stars and buds, to babes and sages, with open heart; await occasions, hurry never…this is my symphony.” –William Henry Channing
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It sums up my life philosophy so brilliantly, so simply, and whenever I lose sight of one of the ideas, it grounds me back to a more sane way of viewing my world.
I have always found living content with small means simple. Elegance and refinement also come rather easily. Studying, thinking, talking, acting frankly, and listening with an open heart are additional areas where I do not often need help. However, ideas of worth, wealth and wait all confound me at times, and these are areas I need to work on, personally and financially. Let me explain.
Worth Versus Respectability
For years, I skipped this portion of Channing’s philosophy. Being worthy and respectable are the same things, right? However, as I lived and learned, I found some people were respected who didn’t deserve it, none more than a boss in college. Workers respected this manager because he was the owner, but they did not feel he deserved their respect. The manager yelled often, belittled quickly and acted childish in every other aspect of his life.
From that point on, in my own life, I tried to live respectably, offering my own employees the understanding and grace I had not received. I would like to say I was always worthy of respect, but I struggled for a little while in a high-stress job, becoming unworthy of respect a few times during that position. As I re-learned the power of compassion, though, I feel (hope!) I am now more worthy than respectable.
Wealthy Versus Rich
I have always understood this phrase. We should all aim to be wealthy in all aspects of our lives; wealthy in love, in family and in money. As we make time for those people and activities most important to us, we will find ourselves wealthy, even without considering the monetary aspect. However, money is important, and the financial wealth Channing alludes to includes making enough money to live comfortably – not in overabundant riches that will be wasted on one person.
Even though I have always understood these ideas, I have often lost sight of them. In my youth, I did not spend time with family or friends. Instead, much of my energy was spent on making money – on obtaining riches. This, of course, did not make me happy, so I am now coming full circle — to again focus my sights on wealth rather than riches.
Wait Versus Hurry
I used to be patient. I received many compliments from customers and teachers in my teens about my imperturbable nature. Then, in my early twenties, I began to hurry. Everywhere. There wasn’t a moment that I patiently waited – I wanted to move on with my life, find my happiness. So, I flitted like a hummingbird, on to the next flower before I fully experienced the first.
It wasn’t until I deeply reflected on my paths in my mid-twenties that I returned to a more patient state…for a while. When work got hectic again, I lost sight of patience as a virtue, until a co-worker exemplified a grace and unhurried nature that I wanted to recapture. Now, though, I still struggle with patience, and I must remind myself of Channing at times.
I now keep this quote on my desktop to prompt myself to stop and smell the roses, to find the wealth in everything around me, and to make myself worthy. Financially, I try not to hurry toward goals. I take the time to patiently await returns, making sure I experience my wealth rather than working toward riches. And I ensure my worth is well-earned through respectable financial decisions.