moneyWe have all heard of lottery winners who went from rags to riches in an instant. Most of us have imagined it happening to us. But most of us have also heard stories of those same lottery winners and how years later they are even worse off than they were before they won the lottery. Test me on this: do a Google search for “what happens to lottery winners.” The results are staggering and ultimately depressing.

It is not just lottery winners that have trouble handling their new found fortunes. Rock stars strike it big with one hit song, collect millions of fans, and all the fame you could want. And then some nose dive. They lose their millions and end up living in trailers. Some find money is more trouble than it is peace. They end up addicted to drugs (Jon Bonham – Led Zeppelin), in jail (Gary Glitter, Tommy Lee), or kill themselves (Kurt Cobain – Nirvana). Some are murdered like the Notorious BIG. Look at the trouble our young stars like Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and Paris Hilton get into.

ESPN The Magazine just ran a fantastic article from Rick Reilly about how to lose/spend millions after signing a big contract. He brought up great examples of Jack Clark’s 18 cars and Evander Holyfield’s 54,000 square foot house and Scottie Pippen’s private jet.

We think people should be all set if they get one contract. We certainly would be, wouldn’t we? But the stories of mistakes and failure could go on and on. The reason for failure is simple. These people were not prepared to handle the responsibility. They hadn’t developed the characteristics needed to survive and thrive with money, fame, and the pressure that goes with it.

Think about it for a minute. What kind of house would you rather have? One that was painstakingly built over months. One that each wall and every beam was tested. One that a lot of thought and care was put into the plans and execution so that every little detail was taken care of. Or one that was built in a week. Of course we would choose the first house. (We all know the story of the three pigs!) But the same holds true for success in life. If you do not have the characteristics that make you a successful person, it is hard to be one. If you do not prepare for success, then it can be hard to handle it.

I would love to trade places with the people that failed to handle their money. I think I would handle their millions much better than they ever did. But then I look at how much money I have made in the last ten years. For argument’s sake, let’s say I made $30,000 a year for the last ten years. That means I have made $300,000 dollars. Well, how much of that money is sitting in the bank right now? Or, if I have spent it, what do I have to show? It is surprising when we break down our income like this. I bet most of us are wondering where all the money has gone that we have earned.

That’s why wanting is not enough. Begin building a strong foundation, so that when you get what you want, you are ready to handle it.

If you want a wife, then begin preparing yourself to be a good husband. Put down the toilet seat. Organize your tools. Put away a few dollars for a nice honeymoon. Learn how to dance. Compliment your female co-workers and not on how sexy they look in that skirt. Notice other things, like the fact they cut their hair, or how well they articulated that strategy in that meeting, or ask them how their daughter did in the soccer game. Take your mother out to dinner and open the door for your sister. Then, when a woman comes along that you can’t live without, you know how to treat her so that you can live with a measure of happiness for the rest of your lives.

If you want to be a mother, then ask to baby-sit a few children every fourth Saturday. Offer to take your niece for a night so that your brother and his wife can have a night to themselves. Volunteer in the baby ward during church service on Sunday. If you do things like this, you might just know how to treat your own child’s cold, or how much attention babies need, or what it is like to shush a child who just won’t stop crying.

If you want to have a lot of money, start managing the money you do have better. Don’t buy every shirt that looks nice on the mannequin. Cook your own food rather than going out to eat every week. Put money toward bills, rather than earning interest on them that you have to pay too. Start putting money away in a special bank account for that trip, or that new car, or that fabulous diamond necklace you’ve been eyeing. If you do these kind of things you may just get a million dollars one day and know how to handle it.

Build strong foundations to prepare yourself for future responsibilities.

One of my favorite movie scenes occurs in The Princess Bride when Westley is pursuing his lady love, Buttercup, who has been taken by Vizzini. Vizzini challenges him to a battle of wits for the princess. Two cups of wine are poured, and one is filled with poison. Vizzini tries to determine which cup Westley poisoned by deductive reasoning. However, he fails to realize that Westley has poisoned both cups. Vizzini dies, but Westley does not. Why? Because for years, Westley had slowly acclimated himself to the poison so that he could take it in large doses and not die.

Good foundations are built over a long time, like quality houses, but they will prepare you for that one strategic moment (a wedding, a battle, a fat new contract, a baby, a move to the big city) that directs the course and quality of the rest of your life.

© Seth Crossman

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