The Value of Gratitude

I love reading books about business and wealth – I can’t get enough of them. Some years ago a friend and business partner introduced me to what I consider to be one of the top 3 books ever written on the topic of wealth – The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles.

Wallace Wattles

Wallace Wattles

Originally published in 1910, the core premise of the book is that wealth is not so much pursued as it is attracted. Each chapter focuses on a different practical principle related to how we will accumulate wealth.

I’ll admit, the book might be a bit too metaphysical for some, but to me it is based on sound principles that seem to resonate with the best qualities of the human spirit.

Let me pause here and make it very clear that I am no fan of the more recent attempt at a metaphysical approach to wealth building – The Secret, which I believe was mostly a marketing ploy.

My apologies to those who may be reading this who have been inspired by The Secret. But when you read The Science of Getting Rich, it is easy to see how the author of The Secret simply poached and watered down a few concepts from Mr. Wattles’ classic work they thought would appeal to the masses to make a quick buck.

The Science of Getting Rich goes deep, challenges our assumptions about wealth and frankly, is not for the faint of heart. Even with it’s depth and reference to universal forces, however, it is about as practical a book on the topic of accumulating wealth as any I have ever read. The author says in the preface:

THIS BOOK IS PRAGMATICAL, NOT philosophical; a practical manual, not a treatise upon theories. It is intended for the men and women [consider, this is 1910!] whose most pressing need is for money; who wish to get rich first, and philosophize afterward.

So back to gratitude. Chapter 7, simply titled Gratitude, is my favorite of the 17 brief chapters. When my friend and business partner – a wealthy man who started with nothing – introduced me to the book he told me that when things along the entrepreneurial road get tough or he encounters failure, he goes back to Chapter 7 – Gratitude. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from Chapter 7:

Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude. Having received one gift from God, they cut the wires which connect them with Him by failing to make acknowledgment.

It is easy to understand that the soul that is always grateful lives in closer touch with God than the one which never looks to Him in thankful acknowledgment.

The good things you already have have come to you along the line of obedience to certain laws. Gratitude will lead your mind out along the ways by which things come; and it will keep you in close harmony with creative thought and prevent you from falling into competitive thought.

The grateful mind is always fixed upon the best; therefore it tends to become the best; it takes the form or character of the best, and will receive the best.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr. Wallace Wattles! More from Mr. Wattles to come in future posts.

I am grateful for a friend and colleague who taught me that when the going gets tough, the tough get grateful. I believe in the tremendous force for good the Value of Gratitude can have in our lives and the lives of our heirs.

The Value of Laughter

When our children were young, my wife Wendy adopted a woman two generations her senior as her primary role model. Marjorie Pay Hinckley was a mother of 5, grandmother of 25 and lived to see 35 great-grandchildren born.

Marjorie Hinckley

Marjorie Hinckley

Mrs. Hinckley wrote several books advocating a loving, pragmatic approach to family life. This is especially notable given she lead a public life and was the wife of one of the world’s great spiritual leaders – Gordon B. Hinckley.

My wife has read and re-read all of Mrs. Hinckley’s books. One of her favorites is Small and Simple Things. Two of my wife’s favorite Marjorie Hinckley quotes can be found in this book:

I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.

I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.

I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.

I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.

I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.

I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

And…

The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.

For anyone who knows my wife Wendy, it is no surprise that Marjorie Hinckley was her role model. I married someone who laughs easily and never takes herself too seriously – a great balance to her more serious-minded lawyer counterpart. (When acquaintances politely try not to act surprised when they find out I am her husband she has to explain, “Once you get past the grumpiness and get to know him he’s actually pretty fun!” I’m working on it Sweetheart.)

Wendy

Wendy

In a recent conversation she expressed to our children how she has had to learn that being happy is a choice and how over the years she has consciously made the choice to be happy come what may. She tells them that over time being happy has become second nature to her – like breathing.

We think of “happiness” as a mental / emotional state but most of us have heard about studies that describe the physiological effects of laughter and choosing to be happy. Once when Wendy was reviewing bloodwork with her doctor he did a double take when he observed the unusually high seratonin levels. “You must be a VERY happy person!” he said. She responded, “I AM!”

May we teach those who will receive our property when we are gone the Value of Laughter.

The Value of Problems

I have mentioned that the values that are the subject of this 3-part series are taken from the book by Jim Stovall and subsequent movie – The Ultimate Gift. Jim Stovall is completely blind. Here is a partial list of his accomplishments:

Jim Stovall, blind author of The Ultimate Gift

Jim Stovall, blind author of The Ultimate Gift

· An International Humanitarian of the Year

· A National Olympic weightlifting champion

· An Emmy Award winner

· The Founder and President of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network

· A National Entrepreneur of the Year

· A world-renowned author and speaker

In The Ultimate Gift, Mr. Stovall teaches us that “We must learn to welcome problems and to learn from them.” While it may not be wise to ask for problems, how many of us welcome problems and resolve to learn from them when they come our way?

Every organization has problems. Every family has problems. Every individual has problems.

One of my business partners prefaced a recent call to me with words I have heard this wise and accomplished man speak on many occasions, “Into every venture a little rain must fall.” My friend has also been heard to say, “Show me someone with no problems and I’ll show you someone with no pulse.”

Most people understand it’s healthy to face your problems head on rather than tuck tail and run. But how many of us welcome our personal and organizational problems as an opportunity as advocated by Mr. Stovall?

Referring back to the book The Science of Getting Rich, Mr. Wattles shared the following account of a seeming failure (reminder – the book was published in 1910):

A student of this science had set his mind on making a certain business combination which seemed to him at the time to be very desirable, and he worked for some weeks to bring it about. When the crucial time came, the thing failed in a perfectly inexplicable way; it was as if some unseen influence had been working against him.

He was not disappointed; on the contrary, he thanked God that his desire had been overruled, and went steadily on with a grateful mind.

In a few weeks an opportunity so much better came his way that he would not have made the first deal on any account; and he saw that a Mind which knew more than he knew had prevented him from losing the greater good by entangling himself with the lesser.

As I look back on my personal and professional life, it is not difficult to see how my problems and failures have lead to some of the richest opportunities and most satisfying personal growth. I recommend teaching those we love the Value of Problems.

The Value of Learning

We finished the last semester with a child in college, a child in high school, a child in junior high and a child in elementary school. For good measure, Wendy and I also have two sons-in-law in college and a son applying to medical school.

Education is important in our family. Between Wendy’s family and my family, we have 23 bachelor’s degrees and 15 graduate degrees. Wendy taught school to get our little family through the law school years, my mother was a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher and all six of my sisters have either bachelor’s or master’s degrees in education.

So why were Wendy and I celebrating last month when we learned our 8th grader barely passed most of his classes? We. Are. Tired. Benjamin is our 6th child, we have four grandchildren and we are feeling our age.

When clients are deciding who the legal guardians of their young children should be if both parents died they often consider their parents. When I was a young attorney I was mentored by an experienced estate planning attorney to counsel clients that “grandparents usually do not make good parents.” I am beginning to internalize that wisdom!

Don’t get me wrong. We care deeply about our children’s education. Many hours, late nights, early mornings and teacher conferences have been spent with our son to try to help him keep up – especially on my wife’s part. We are fairly certain he would be officially diagnosed with ADD but we are stubborn when it comes to labels and med’s.

Anyhow, my point in relating all of this is that at the beginning of our 27 years of parenting Wendy and I decided we would not push our children too hard academically during their younger years. Rather, we would try to instill in them a love for learning – a phrase we use often in our family.

My children getting a geology lesson in the bottom of the Grand Canyon

My children getting a geology lesson in the bottom of the Grand Canyon

We decided that developing a love for learning would be so much more valuable to our children throughout their lives than an impressive transcript. While we teach our children that good grades create opportunities and they need to be diligent in their studies, the priority is that they learn how to learn (another family phrase) and to develop a love for it.

A friend told me once, “We try not to let our children’s schooling get in the way of their education.” I like that the author of the Ultimate Gift chose not to use the phrase the “gift of schooling”, but rather, the Gift of Learning – one of the most important values we can pass along to the next generation.