Sorry for missing two Fridays in a row, I've been way too busy traveling to Mexico and keeping up with pre-Christmas commitments. I'm thankful, though, for some of those commitments turned out to be insightful conversations with very interesting people, among which two successful entrepreneurs got me thinking.
Both have succeeded big time in their ventures (tech related), and are now filthy rich. Both are great guys, feet-on-the-ground type. And interestingly, both were very vocal during our conversations about how they are helping others now. They seem to feel grateful enough to start giving back part of the luck they've had in life. One of them is helping other entrepreneurs start up their ideas, the other just built a school in Turkey, 10km from the Syrian border, to help refugees keep up with their studies and prevent some of them from becoming a lost generation.
While none of these two cases is Zuckerberg level philanthropy, the same principle applies. It seems helping others is the next big thing after you've quenched your success needs. It works in a Maslowian way, apparently: you first look for a) food, then you try to find b) shelter. When those basic needs are met you find someone to c) love and to be loved by and to have some laughs. Then you aim for d) success, recognition and realisation in what you do. Finally you start looking for ways to e) help others, to share, and to leave a legacy.
This hierarchy of needs gives us an unrefraining opportunity to ask the COSMO question of the day: which level are you in? I’m in LEVEL D, like most of you, still fighting for that promotion, that raise or that great idea long overdue. But more important than where you sit is how you relate to the other levels, as it has more profound significance. On one hand, upper levels seem frivolous, extraneous. How can you worry about philanthropy when you are still unsure you’ll be able to provide your children with worthy means? On the other hand, lower levels are taken for granted. Our food doesn’t make us feel privileged. We don’t feel the urge to look after the love of our close ones. That is until your wife packs, and the floor falls from your feet and you find yourself one level below, a level you’ve long forgotten about.
So here comes the true realisation: admire not the people that climbed up to the top of the hill but those who keep full perspective while still struggling somewhere in the middle. People capable of love when they have nothing to eat. Helping people that care about others even when they’ve lost it all. People that take time and money from their families to make a difference for others. People that look after their loved ones at the expense of that crucial overtime at the office that will grant you a raise. People that feel privileged every time they have a beer.
Struggling for success, recognition and realisation is part of life. A very important one if that’s where you are. But caring for what we have and realising that we can make a difference to others is our real fight. And it is a real fight because if we really commit to it, we will compromise our chances of success, recognition and realisation (or so it will seem). But we need to balance our urge to win vs the joy of living fully. The rush of the victory vs the peace of mind.
While I get better at this, I’ll take this chance to wish you a Merry Christmas and great days full of good food, drinks and family - those luxuries we usually take for granted ;) Then, if you want to feel filthy rich, consider donating for a cause that touches you. In any case, enjoy and I’ll see you on the other side. Cheers!