The Third Lesson
By Nana Dadzie Ghansah
The year was 1995, a few months before my 29th birthday. I lived in Berlin then. I do not remember where I was headed exactly but I was walking towards a U-Bahnhof to catch the subway. I was completely lost in thought as I walked because it was a time in my life where I saw all my dreams and aspirations slipping away.
As I walked into that subway station, I wondered why I had made the mistakes that I had made. I thought of classmates and friends who seemed to have gotten it right and puzzled about why they did things differently. I was still in thought when my train came and I boarded.
The train was rather empty so I sat alone in a small compartment and as the train took off, I began doing some soul-searching. It slowly dawned on me that I had certain habits and character traits that needed modifying. I also realized that there were certain lessons one needed for life that I probably did not know. My parents had raised me to be honest and value character but there seemed to be more to life than that and those extra lessons could not be found in medical texts or the anatomy lab — at least not directly. Besides, being that I was thousands of miles away on my own, there was not the chance to go back home for guidance on a regular basis.
By the end of the trip, I had made a decision. I was going to figure out those lessons that helped one to avoid life’s pitfalls, make good decisions and be successful. I do not know exactly when I started the search but it might have been shortly afterwards. The bulk of the search was through reading but a lot was also been gleaned from talking to and studying successful friends, peers and even mentors. Living each day, making mistakes, getting back up… these were indispensable teachers too.
Little did I know that the journey of discovery I was embarking on would take years. Little did I know that the search for life’s lessons never really end, then it is only through living that these truths come to life.
However, late in 2015, 20 years after I embarked on the journey, I sat down and reflected on all that I had learned. Though the lessons were myriad, I was able to distill out six principles that really encompass it all. Six lessons that seem to work for me. They might not work for the next person though. I also realized that a lot of the other lessons fell under one of these six pointers for life.
Besides sharing them with my family, perhaps I might even find the courage to write them out and share them publicly someday but until then, I would like to share one lesson that is really important and might speak to the spirit of the day. I call it Lesson #3:
MONEY MATTERS AND YOU BETTER FIND A PLEASANT AND DEPENDABLE WAY TO MAKE SOME !!!
Yes, money really matters. It is the means that makes everything in life possible. Do not buy into all the cliches out there: money is the root of all evil, the love of money is the root of all evil, the best things in life are free, money cannot buy happiness, money changes people…
For this life on this planet Earth, you need money. If you do not have any, life is miserable. It is that simple. So find a way to either make or earn some, learn to save some, learn to spend it well and acquire the skills to make it work for you.
Even the simplest pleasures in life demand money. It may not be much but it is money nonetheless. Just imagine life without a penny to your name.
Imagine you live in a country where you needed a car to get around. Now imagine your parents gave you a car but you were responsible for filling it up with gas. Now imagine there are no gas stations but rather, each person had to go get gas himself or herself from a field.
Now if you do not fill it up, you cannot drive that car and you therefore cannot get far except on foot. If you are able to get gas to fill the car though, you can get any and everywhere.
You see in this little story, life is the car and money is gas. You will not lead a comfortable life without money. You will not get to do all the things you really want to do without money. So find a way to make or earn money.
The interesting thing is, finding a pleasant and steady way of making money also helps us to grow. It often involves studying, broadening one’s horizons or even learning a trade. Learning to spend money may force us to learn selflessness as we realize that others may not be so lucky. Learning to save money teaches us frugality, the deferring of gratification and self-control. Lastly, learning how to make money work for you forces you to know yourself and how well you interact with others.
So money matters not only because we can spend it on life’s goodies, but in its acquisition and even spending, we learn about ourselves and who we are. We may even grow but we could also be sucked into our darkest side.
Like most things in life, there are good and bad sides to the need to earn or make money. Now if we go back to the car story, you can make getting gas the bane of your existence or you can get the gas, fill up the car and drive to explore the country. You can make earning or making money the bane of your existence or make living and enjoying life the center of your existence. It is totally up to you.
You can spend every penny you make living it up or you can give to the needy. You can satisfy every craving in your body with every dollar you make or you can save and build a fortune. All these decisions are not controlled by money but by who we are. Our character. Our life’s journey.
It is because money can bring out all crudest and meanest in a person’s character that a lot of the negative cliches about money came to be. However, money in itself is not bad. It is us humans with all our greed, selfishness and envy that have made a necessity of life something evil.
Now those who have a lot of it often speak about money with a certain disdain. Sometimes they give it all away to live a simple life. You see, that is what money allows you to do. It gives you choices in life. It allows you to do more with these few years on this planet. It gives one power over one’s life and even over others and how one exerts that power is again a function of character.
Life may not always deal us a card that allows us to make or earn enough but we as humans always strive. As long as we see money for what it is and give it its due importance; as long as we allow money to fuel a good life not life to fuel the search for money, we would have learned an important life lesson.
So tell your kids. Tell them loudly. Money matters and they better find a pleasant and dependable way to make or earn some.