“Finally some rest,” James thinks to himself. He takes off his backpack and sits down on the bench in the park. His glossy shoes shine bright in the afternoon sun. Ducks are happily quacking in the pond. The fountain is splattering water and the birds are singing their symphonies high up in the trees.
James closes his eyes and points his face upwards to the sky. The sun creates all these different patterns on the inside of his eyelids. Red, orange, yellow, black, and white. All flash before his eyes. It’s like a firework show all for himself. James feels content. Rich. Fulfilled in his life. His days are filled with meaningful work as a businessman. He builds vast amounts of wealth for many different companies. Helps others realize their dreams, but most of all he serves those who need it most.
Over half of all the money, he made was donated for causes far greater than building a business in a first-world country. He funded many great causes that supported those in need to begin to build a self-sufficient community. To not be dependent on the world that he knew.
Why Do All of You Want to be Successful?
“Isn’t that James Ottowalt?” One of the students said. The entire group looked at the man that the boy was pointing at. “It is.” A few of the other students said. “I am going to ask for a picture with him.” The boy who spotted James said. He quickly made his way to the bench that James sat on.
“Sir?” The young student asked. James opened his eyes and smiled at the young man. “Yes, boy?” James said. “Can I take a picture with you? We’ve heard so much about you in business school, and it’s an honor to finally meet you!” The boy said as the rest of his group caught up with him. All of them were circling the bench. James was a bit overwhelmed but felt honored. “The honor is mine boy.“ The boy took a picture with James and thanked him. He wanted to walk away which was the most respectful thing to do but James stopped him. “Tell me, all of you, what are your dreams?” This was something James always asked when he met young enthusiastic kids.
The boy hesitated for a moment. The entire group was waiting for his response. “I am asking all of you,” James said and chuckled. One by one the students shared their dreams, all of which had to do with becoming successful, having a lot of money, and growing massive companies. They knew it took hard work, grit, perseverance, and a bit of luck but all of that could be achieved. One day they would acquire all of their dreams.
James smiled, he saw a reflection of his younger self in all these students. Every one of us starts with big dreams to be successful but will one way or another figure out that it’s an empty and meaningless pursuit to do everything for himself. James looked around the group. “What will you do with all this wealth, all this money once you get sick? Seriously sick. A kind of sick that you won’t recover from?” A few of the students seemed to be shocked. They hadn’t thought about this before. The young boy who first came up to James was the first to answer.
Every one of us starts with big dreams to be successful but will one way or another figure out that it’s an empty and meaningless pursuit to do everything for himself.
“I would pay for every doctor, every medicine, every possibility to get me healthy again.” He said proudly. The rest of the group nodded and agreed with him. “And…” James started. “Would you say that you lived a joyous and fulfilling life that way?” At that point, all the students fell silent. Even the boy, who seemed to be so proud of his answer. James didn’t want to embarrass the boy. He just wanted to make his point clear. He knew that these young kids were the future and if he could plant a seed now that seed will have grown into a massive tree once they are his age.
James waited for a moment to see if any of the kids would ask him something. All he saw were beaten faces. Faces that saw the uselessness of wealth. “Tell me, why do all of you want to be successful? Acquire a vast amount of wealth? What’s the purpose of it? What will it bring to this world?” James asked, but none of the students answered. Some of the students kicked around some stones. Others walked off and sat on the grass a few feet away. They wore uninspired looks on their faces, but that wasn’t what James wanted from their encounter.
All of a sudden the boy who came up to James asked a question. “How did you become so successful?” He asked.
What Can You Give?
James smiled. “Thank you for asking my boy. What’s your name if I may ask?” James asked. “Benjamin.” The boy answered. “Benjamin, what a beautiful name. Listen Benjamin one day when I was your age I visited a farmer. He was a relative of mine, and we went there to check out his farm. It was on that day that my view on wealth changed completely.” James stopped for a moment, to see if the students were interested in hearing this story.
“How?” The boy asked, eager to hear more. “This relative of mine, the farmer, he told me a story. I was concerned with gaining wealth and making a lot of money. I was focused on everything I could acquire, achieve and gain. Where my relative was focused on giving, letting go, and trusting. He seemed to live a much happier, wealthier, and fulling life than mine. He shared with me the following story.”
“For a farmer to harvest his crops he depends on many things. Part of those things he can control, but others he can’t. When the time to plant the seeds comes around it is my time to give. I use the tools I have, I use my energy, my knowledge, and my understanding of my land. I plant the seeds. Make sure they have everything I can give them to flourish. I plant them in the right soil, with the right amount of earth to cover them. I use my tools to do all of that, but when I planted the seeds there is nothing for me to give anymore. Now, this is a moment at which I could begin to worry, to become anxious that nothing is working out, that my seeds won’t grow and my harvest will fail. Or I could see that I gave everything I had to give. There isn’t anything more for me to give, all I can do now is trust that nature will do the rest for me. That the sun will start shining, and rain will start falling so that these seeds will grow and give me the food I need. James,” He said. “Being a farmer taught me a lesson that will help you as well. It’s not about how much you gain from your land, not about how much food you can produce, or crops you can harvest, but about how much you can give to the land. How much energy, work, knowledge, and understanding you can give. That’s what will determine how much you can harvest at the end of the year.”
“That my boy is how I became successful. Instead of looking at what I could gain from my business. Instead of focussing on how much money I could make, or earn, I focused on how much value I could give. How much I could give away and still be able to live a good life. So listen up, all of you, if there is one thing I want you to learn from me it is that to be truly successful we don’t focus on gaining that success, we don’t focus on how we can make loads of money. We focus on what value, time, energy, or money we can give to others and the world and trust that in some form that will come back to us.” There was a moment of silence before James spoke again.
We don’t focus on how we can make loads of money. We focus on what value, time, energy, or money we can give to others and the world and trust that in some form that will come back to us.
“The Buddha was once asked what he gained from his meditation practices. For those of you who don’t know, the Buddha was a spiritual teacher way back in time, and meditation is a practice in which one sits quietly and observes whatever is going on within himself. When the Buddha was asked this question he responded that he hadn’t gained anything from his meditation practice. To which the questioner asked him why he meditated then. The Buddha told the man that in life we don’t gain anything. That we are already naked for death will strip everything from us. Through his meditation he didn’t gain anything, he lost everything that was in his way to truly be alive and be of service to the world.” James stood up and bowed before the kids.
Through his meditation the Buddha didn’t gain anything, he lost everything that was in his way to truly be alive and be of service to the world.
“Thank you, you have shown me once again that life isn’t about gaining anything kids. But that it’s all about giving and experiencing. About sharing my knowledge with you as often as I can. To give one final answer to your question on how I became successful it would be this: That to be rich in life and feel fulfilled we don’t focus on gaining or achieving anything. We don’t gain any wealth or acquire any money. We don’t achieve any dreams or become anything. All we do to live a successful human life is to give and be of service. To let go and become empty. A life lived in service will in return make us feel rich and fulfilled. Something that money and success barely does. That’s the way of life kids. That’s what will have you say at the end of your day that today you lived, and you will have made the most of it.” And James made his way through the group of kids and walked off into the city.
That to be rich in life and feel fulfilled we don’t focus on gaining or achieving anything. We don’t gain any wealth or acquire any money. We don’t achieve any dreams or become anything. All we do to live a successful human life is to give and be of service.
The kids stayed in the park for the rest of the afternoon and talked about what James had told them. It was a lesson none of their teachers ever told them, but one they wouldn’t soon forget.