A few months ago, I was introduced to a successful businessman – let’s call him Dave – who agreed to be interviewed for research towards my next book.
The theme of the book is around drive, motivation and purpose and it became clear that Dave was, indeed, a very driven person, with numerous financially profitable activities going on. Not just businesses, but also investments in properties, gold and even online trading on the stock market. We didn’t discuss numbers but it was pretty clear that, if he wasn’t a millionaire now, he would be very soon.
First of all, Dave was very clear that he enjoyed what he did. That was essential to everything and we were both very much on the same page with that one.
As we dug deeper, however, an interesting development arose as it became very clear that Dave was driven by fear.
Fear of not having enough.
To the extent that, if business sales were down in any given week, he would panic and get really stressed. This had got so bad that he admitted that he was being treated for anxiety and depression.
Personally, that doesn’t sound like someone who’s enjoying what they do.
His aim, his purpose, was nothing more than to be financially free. That was the fundamental premise that underpinned his motivation. Anything that threatened it, created intense emotional stress.
“How much more do you need in order to be financially free?” I asked.
“To be honest,” replied Dave, “I’m probably financially free already. But it’s still not enough.”
This is not the first time I’ve met someone that is desperately trying to get something that they already have. Sometimes, just being made aware of it can be enough to change their approach and remove the stress from their lives but, if the fear is very deep rooted, then the individual will never be satisfied.
We then get this apparent contradiction. The deep rooted fear is the source of their success but, what happens if you remove the fear?
The fear of losing everything can be a massive issue for some people and, when you are ruled by your fears, bad things can happen.
Take, for example, the German multi-billionaire Adolf Merckle. During the 2008 global recession his businesses started getting into difficulty. A lot of money was lost but he was able to take action so that the majority of his businesses were saved, even if it meant selling them off. Adolf himself lost a quarter of his fortune but was still estimated to be worth $6 billion.
Yet, on 5th January 2009, Adolf Merckle deliberately walked in front of an express train. He was 74.
There will always be speculation about his motivations and his reasons but what is clear, is that when your fears consume you, then no matter how successful you may be in the traditional sense, it is never enough.
One of the fundamental elements of being successful and able to enjoy life at the same time is to ensure that you work with what drives you without letting it engulf you.
A negative driven business is internally focussed. What do I need to do so that I benefit, so that I feel safe?
A positively driven business is externally focussed. Who can I make a difference to today?
If your primary focus is on improving the lives of others – whilst always ensuring that you are suitably rewarded in the process – then you can find the right level of financial health without compromising your mental health.