a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘money’

money makes the world go round

Money gets a really bad rap.  The root of all evil?  I thought that was overly religious Republicans… or the crazy Muslims who thinks Jihad is a good idea.  There is no shortage of crazy, evil ideas – and people with access to guns or explosives – in the 21st century.  So money – be it in the form of cold, hard paper currency or even colder and harder gold – seems benign by comparison.

And money has done at least as much good for the world as modern medicine or the enlightenment.  So says Niall Ferguson in “The Ascent of Money”.  Nothing makes my heart beat faster than a smart guy who combines great articulation with a reverence for facts.  Both sadly too easily fluffed over in the 21st century where anything over 200 characters is deemed too hard.  What happened to the idea that we have BIG brains, not small ones?

And those who exercise their brains in the same way Olympic athletes with great abs do will appreciate that money is not inherently evil.  It really is the stuff that makes the world go round and is a greater force for potential good than almost anything else.

But it is also the currency of the Antichrist… so you gotta think about how you are accumulating and spending those dollars, whatever their format.

I am a big proponent of the concept of money as a force for good.  And even more important than money is markets.  And jobs.  But none of them exist without money.

Money.  Risk.  Markets.  They drive our daily life.  But most people yawn when they hear any of those words.  People in the developed world yawn.  But people in the developing  world may not be able to articulate the words, especially in English, but they have a much more personal feeling about what they mean.

One of the travel experiences I know I will never forget happened last year in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.  It is one of the most spectacular geological formations on earth and chock-a-block with the closest thing to tame wild animals.  You still shouldn’t pet the lions – but the animals will mostly not run away.

Just being there would have been enough but since I was travelling alone I had spent the previous evening having dinner with our ranger Alex so we were chatting when we stopped for lunch amid all the other tourist vehicles.  He had been reconnecting with friends and it was a familiar scene in an unusual setting.  Because we had become more friends than ranger/tourist by that point, he introduced me to his friends and noted how happy everyone was and how fun it was to catch up… because they had jobs.

There has been lots of talk about unemployment in the developed world over the past few years – and I have been there so I know how it feels.  But unemployment when you have been born into the privileged part of the world and unemployment when you have been born into a part of the world where having a good job is like winning the lottery are totally different things.

When I was in Tanzania, I travelled with &Beyond and I would encourage everyone to do a trip with them.  I have never encountered an organization that gave capitalism such a great name.  They make a profit.  They are well organized.  Their employees love them.  They give back to the community via a foundation that does everything right.


Money is not evil.  Only people are.  So use your money to make the world a better place.  Think when you spend.  Help to create markets that make the world a better place.  Read Niall’s book.  He is a fantastic writer.  The book is subtitled “A Financial History of the World.” 

A bit ambitious?  Without question.  The message that I took away was how important finance has been to human development.  Just ask a gorilla to break a twenty dollar bill 🙂   But what I think we all need to embrace is how we as individuals can create jobs, markets and world prosperity every time we leave the house – or go on-line to buy something.

Money can make the world a better place.  Finance matters.  Money can be evil.  Money can buy guns, slaves and votes.  But money can be used for microfinance loans, for medicine and for education.  In the developed world we are all rich people by world standards – what kind of rich person do you want to be?  Let your spending reflect your conscience.

money for mouse shoes

Money gets a bad rap.  Being poor is honourable – especially if you aren’t poor 🙂  Being rich is vulgar.  But being sort of financially secure is just boring.  The lot of accountants and financial planners.  But some of those boring people know how to use money as a bullet to happiness rather than despair.

That is my goal in life.  Yesterday I used my ability to buy a pair of designer shoes to great effect.  While there is certainly virtue to knowing how to save money, the real hidden secrets of life are in learning how to spend it!

We’ve done a lot of talking about my dad lately but I learned some good stuff from my mom as well.  My mom is likely a little too generous.  But it’s one of those faults that is tough to find fault with.  There are certainly worse negative traits 🙂

No matter how many times I tell her ONE present is enough, I know it will never happen.  Something else will catch her eye that you just have to have.  Long ago she gave up trying to cram all the goodies into conventional Christmas stockings so we all know the plastic bag with our name on it sitting under the tree IS a Christmas stocking – you just need to use your imagination 😉

But the most memorable gift I ever saw her purchase was on a Christmas Eve many years ago.  The store was almost closing down around us but we had to get some more toys.  She was quite insistent about it.  I thought, “oh my god, she has gone bonkers.  There is NO way we don’t already have so many gifts you can barely see the tree!”  But this was not part of the usual Christmas bounty.  Instead we pulled up at some mysterious address and left the toys on the doorstep like some anonymous Santa a little off his schedule.  As we drove away, she explained.  The family was going through tough times and the kids might not have any toys for Christmas.  But it was a small town where everybody knows everybody’s business and people have a lot of pride so we had to make it look like Santa was just a wee bit early.

My mom has always taken great pleasure in doing nice things for other people.  She doesn’t do it for the thanks or the adoration but just because it gives her pleasure.  It’s one of my greatest life lessons.  And it’s really heart-warming to see my niece taking up the torch.

Ask not what the world can do for you but, rather, what you can do for the world.  Give it a whirl.  You may be surprised how great it feels to do something nice for someone else.  And the best news.  You can spend less than $5!  The price is totally NOT the point.  It’s how much thought you put into finding just the right thing to do.

What really turns people on is being noticed.  I used to send my friend Yvonne chocolate covered peanut butter eggs every Easter – cause it was our thing and you could only get them at Easter.

So… the mouse shoes.  I have already mentioned Morgan earlier – she is the teenage daughter of one of my best friends.  She (and her mom) share my obsession for shoes so we spent a lot of time over my birthday weekend+ talking shoes… and anyone who cares about shoes knows about Marc Jacobs mouse shoes.  I think I saw the first version in Paris (the best city in the world to shop for shoes!) back when there was only one.  Over the course of the weekend, we talked mouse shoes a number of times and I learned her shoe size.  As I noted in the previous post, she has emerged into this wonderful young woman doing all the right things despite the fact that she is a teenager.  So I decided she deserved some mouse shoes…

Through the beauty of the internet I confirmed her mailing address, send the invoice to her mom in case she needed to do an exchange and organized for Fedex to deliver a pair of size 8 1/2 gold glitter Marc Jacobs mouse shoes to her front door in Toronto via the Brown’s Shoes website.  I could track the whole process via my computer in Vancouver so sent her a note yesterday afternoon to look for a package when she got home.  And then I got the email.  The shoes had been safely delivered…  Some of the best money I have ever spent!

So, Morgan, I was wowed by your effusive thanks.  But you should also thank my mom.  Without her wonderful example, there would have been no mouse shoes for you 🙂  Given her obsession with everything Disney and the concept that Mickey is more or less one of her children, what could be a more perfect tribute than mouse shoes…

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