A couple of weeks ago I received a call from a young man. He asked if he could take me to lunch and “pick my brain.” In the past a young man or woman would make the long pilgrimage to the top of a mountain to ask a guru questions about the secrets to a good life. I guess we do things differently today.

The bright young hero who bought my lunch probably has a net worth five or 10 times greater than mine. He has immense resources, more than ample drive, and seems to have good heart. Even so he came to me to learn about life. I think that’s honor I don’t deserve.

The young man asked the questions of a seeker after wisdom. I rummaged through my memory for potent advice from wise mentors, to share with my luncheon host.

I recalled a conversation from a couple of years ago. My friend understood that I intended to write a book. The writing took two years of my spare time. He wondered why I would give so much attention, energy, focus, money, and time. My friend understood, maybe better than I did, the writing would take me away from my beloved and from my practice. He asked me, “To what end?”

My friend knew I would put a lot of effort and time into the book. He urged me to make sure the effort was worth it. I shared that insight with my luncheon host.

A year ago, I sought wisdom from Skip.  It’s been more than 25 years since I had routine involvement with Skip, but I remembered how rare and how potent his insight and focus were. Because he’s a generous soul, he agreed to have lunch with me. We shared some deep questions and answers.

Skip’s IQ is more than ample, but he’s not an Einstein. He’s a man of faith but he won’t be canonized. I asked him how he prioritized.

“The William Carey quote” he replied.

I knew that Carey was a Baptist missionary to India around the turn of the 19th Century. But I couldn’t recall the quote. Skip recited it.

“I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

At the time, that quote and Skip’s insight, helped me concentrate on determining what things mattered to me. I shared that insight with my young luncheon host.

What was profound to me did not appear to register with him. I sincerely wish him well. Clayton Christensen said that a question is a place in the mind where an answer can go. I hope my young friend finds the question he needs so the answer he seeks has a place to go. In the meantime, I wonder why my answers did not.

Perhaps he’s addicted to the relentless drive for more. Perhaps his generation gives more weight to “hacks” than to wisdom. Or, perhaps, he is simply too young to look beyond himself.

You and I are both older than when we received the first legacy nudge. Since then you’ve made a couple of brilliant moves and maybe even a blunder or two. Perhaps more time has slipped past than you realized.

One day, maybe when you’re in the hospital, at risk in some other way, or lost, the people you care about will think about your life’s significance. What you want them to imitate?

Will people admire you because you were the world’s best golfer? or the wealthiest investor? or the best grandpa? Or one who always kept his promises, even to his own detriment?

How do you set priorities? What things and which people truly matter to you?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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