How to Be Rich

Most people I talk to in the real world follow on Facebook want to get rich quick. The last few weeks we’ve been bombarded by talk of the lottery and instant-wealth. And, hey, I’m not turning down checks, if you’re offering. But there’s more to life than money. In fact, that’s the main reason we want to be rich, so we can enjoy that other stuff. And while many entrepreneurs (and all of my clients) will someday have plenty of money, I think that there’s something to be said for living “rich” even without all the cash.

I’m talking about the difference between getting rich and being rich. If you watch reality tv, you can think of some rich folks who don’t have it all. Then there are those precious few, who, like my late friend, Elizabeth Melde, lived so incredibly richly, and touched so many lives, without obscene sums of money. Let’s talk results: here are some ways you can be rich now.

1. Volunteer
The best remedy for jealousy (and toy lust) I’ve found is to give my time for those less fortunate. Spending an evening with people experiencing homelessness really dampens my “need” for the new iPad. Too lazy to volunteer? Compare yourself to people with less (most of the world for most of history) rather than the relatively few people who have more stuff than you (some of your friends, Bill Gates, etc.)

2. Be generous
We often envy the wealthy for those monster checks they can write to charities. We long for the day we can be so generous. So we save our pennies to get there. But you have something to give, right now. Give your time, cut a little check for something good, offer some great advice to an entrepreneur just starting out. If you aren’t generous now, you never will be. Start building generosity into your lifestyle. Think of it as buying karma offsets.

3. Travel
When I interview job candidates, I always ask what they would do if they didn’t have to work. They all say the same thing: travel. (I should really stop asking that one.) If your idea of being rich means globetrotting, you don’t have to wait for the money. Maybe you can’t afford to fly to Venice, but I’m betting there is an amazing cultural experience awaiting you just across town. Even if you don’t live in a super diverse town like Chicago, you can find a fun experience that’s (almost) as good as traveling halfway around the globe (without getting jetlag!).

4. Spend time with loved ones
If time away from work is what you dream of, find a way to spend more time with friends and family now. How can you make the most of the time you already have? How can you adopt systems (or hire an intern) that will give you more free time?

5. Want what you have
One of my favorite questions is “What do you want that you already have?” Advertisers are doing everything in their power to make you feel like you need “stuff” you really don’t. You’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I know I do. What are some things in your life that you are truly grateful for? Need some help? You aren’t a sex slave (and you probably didn’t lose your twenty-something spouse to cancer this week). Work back from there.

Okay, that got heavy for a second, but the truth is you are already ridiculously rich and no matter how bad things feel, you’ve got it pretty damn good. If you aren’t happy now, more money won’t change a thing. So how can you start living richly now (at least until you win the lottery)?