How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning

wealth

Happiness & Wealth

How does money figure into a happy life? Behavioral finance expert Brian Portnoy delivers an inspired answer based on the idea that wealth, truly defined, is funded contentment. It is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life.

His latest work, The Geometry of Wealth , bridges the philosophical and practical gap in managing money in our lives.

 

“Money does buy more happiness when spent wisely, especially when directed toward experiences, others, and time.” -Brian Portnoy

 

Millions are Not Ready for Retirement

You point out that millions of Americans have not saved a dime for retirement. Why is this? Will this eventually cause a crisis or is this typical and then people catch up?

The lack of retirement preparedness stems from a combination of opportunity and mindset. In the context of real wages for many Americans having not risen in more than a generation, many are barely able to make ends meet, let alone build a nest egg. Beyond that, financial illiteracy is a major problem. As a society we don’t take seriously the need to understand the many facets of saving, spending, and investing. Further, humans are generally wired with biases that undermine smart money decisions. This mix of factors is at the root of the looming retirement crisis in America. Far too many have saved far too little, and there are no obvious solutions that don’t involve quite painful decisions.

 

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” -Epictetus

 

The Importance of Purpose

Your model is in three parts: purpose to priorities to tactics. Part one is purpose, which is not a typical starting point in many financial books. Talk about the importance of purpose in this context.

Let’s step back and ask, “What are we all trying to accomplish here?” I think an answer that mostly everyone would get behind is that we want to be happy; we want to lead a good life. Okay, fine, but how do you do that? It’s obviously a massive question, with countless angles from philosophy and religion and other domains. Money, for better or worse, is an inescapable part of the discussion. There are certain unavoidable practicalities of what we can afford and how those help to underwrite the lives we want to lead. By putting purpose first, by being thoughtful – not just once, but over time – about where we find joy, then we are much better able to have our financial decisions support that quest. This is the opposite of what many unfortunately do, which is let the desire for and experience with money determine what we do in life.

 

“True wealth is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life.” -Brian Portnoy

 

How is fulfillment and happiness related to financial well-being? Talk about the intersection of money and happiness.

How to Fuel Purpose and Profit by Doing Good

do good

More than Profit

Customers are increasingly expecting more from brands. Many consumers expect far more from companies than for them to increase profits. They expect organizations to “do good” in society.

A former executive director of strategy and planning and head of consulting at Interbrand, Anne Bahr Thompson, founded Onesixtyfourth, a strategic and creative consultancy, to help leaders integrate social responsibility into their brands, business strategy, and corporate culture. Her passion for challenging organizations to a more collaborative way of thinking grabbed my attention. And her new book, Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit, is not only a call to action but a blueprint to help leaders move from a Me-to-We mentality of service.

I recently spoke with Anne about her work. 

 

“When a brand clearly communicates what it delivers, it provides customers with a benchmark from which to measure all their interactions with that brand.” -Anne Bahr Thompson

 

What explains this incredible shift from a profits-only focus to one where we expect brands to “Do Good”?

There are a number of things underlying this shift. Overall, profound changes in technology, politics, the global economy, and the rise of social media have reshaped the landscape for business. The wired, digital world in which brands now operate has impacted the traditional pact between companies and their customers, employees, and stakeholders. As people’s expectations for their relationships with brands have shifted, businesses are finding that their success is tied to their ability to demonstrate that they are committed to doing good, helping to solve people’s bigger social and environmental concerns.

More specifically, five factors have been at play:

  1. On the most basic level, greater consciousness of people across the globe and social media demand that we pay attention to inequities we’ve previously been able to ignore. And, most people now acknowledge the planet does not have unlimited resources.
  2. Further, technology has reshaped our cultural narrative. The ability to cut and paste things together has trained us that we no longer need to choose between opposites. What follows is that the notions of making a profit while simultaneously doing good no longer seem at odds with one another.
  3. As many people have discussed, the power of social media and the impact of stories and images going viral have forced businesses to lis­ten and respond in ways that are unprecedented for many of them.
  4. People are frustrated with partisan politics. Beginning in 2011, participants in my research were saying that business was better suited than government to step in and fix big problems.
  5. The economic downturn in 2008 accelerated a nascent trend that began with the digital revolution at the turn of the millennium, which emphasized a shift from shareholder to stakeholder value. Since then, big name investors such as Larry Fink of BlackRock and Jamie Dimon of JPMC have visibly promoted a shift in orientation from short-term returns to long-termism. Add in the rise of various movements beginning with Occupy Wall Street and extending to #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and #GunControlNow, and it’s hard to ignore that the call for more equity and fairness in business decision making has grown stronger.

 

What is “Brand Citizenship”?

Brand Citizenship is an ethos that aligns purpose and profit. It’s a five-step model that emerged from the grassroots up, over three years of qualitative and quantitative research, deconstructing brand leadership from good corporate citizenship and favorite brands, which is a proxy for brand loyalty. Beginning with a meaningful purpose, Brand Citizenship simultaneously delivers benefits to individual customers and employees and betters the world. The five steps of the model – trust, enrichment, responsibility, community, and contribution – span across something I’ve labelled the ME-to-WE continuum. My research demonstrated that people look to the brands they buy and businesses they support to help solve their personal ME problems as well as their wider WE concerns about the environment, the economy and social issues.

 

5 Steps of Brand Citizenship

A Digital Wake Up Call

digital darwinism

Digital is Everything

 

“Digital isn’t a thing, it’s everything.” That’s the first line I read on the back cover of Tom Goodwin’s new book, Digital Darwinism: Survival Of The Fittest In The Age Of Business Disruption.

That’s the type of attention-getting line that speaks to the massive transformation in today’s organizations.

Change or become extinct is a powerful message.

Tom is the EVP, Head of Innovation for Zenith Media. His role is to understand new technology, behaviors and platforms and ideate and implement solutions for clients that take advantage of the new opportunities these make possible. He was also voted the #1 voice in Marketing by LinkedIn with over 580,000 followers on the platform. An industry provocateur and commentator on the future of marketing and business, Tom recently wrote Digital Darwinism as a wakeup call to traditional businesses.

I recently spoke with him about his book.

 

““Digital isn’t a thing, it’s everything.” -Tom Goodwin

 

The subtitle of your book is “Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Disruption.” What defines the fittest?

I believe the fittest companies are those with the balance of a solid business plan for today and for the future. This can either be because they’ve established a defendable niche for now and ahead (like Amazon or Tesla) or because they have a team and culture that is able to adapt to the changing marketplace. Good examples of this are Facebook, Netflix, and Google. Fitness both in nature and business is about agility and the ability to change as the world does, but also about the quality of the business model today. There are too many companies that are widely celebrated, like Dollar Shave Club or Movie Pass, that offer hockey-stick user growth and happy customers, but don’t appear to have a semblance of a business model that can ever make money.

 

“The fittest companies are those with the balance of a solid business plan for today and for the future.” -Tom Goodwin

 

Innovate with Purpose

Mature companies often have a huge desire to innovate and launch various initiatives. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen them make in their pursuit of innovation?

Most innovation failures come from companies who do one of two things wrong. The main one is not going deep enough. They offer surface level improvements on the façade of a deeply troubled foundation. Retailers who need to close stores or entirely rethink distribution models or procurement flows, end up making a store in San Jose with a smart mirror, as it’s way faster and cheaper and offers distractions. Or car companies that celebrate apps where you can start engines remotely, while they are behind on electric propulsion. The issue is that most CEOs don’t have the time or thirst for risk to make proper changes.

The other issue is innovation with no sense of purpose. It’s adding a chatbot because your boss read about them one day. It’s an airline launching a mood-sensing blanket that gets press. It’s the VR experience to try to get promoted. We need to know why we are innovating and maximize against that.

 

“There are too many companies that are widely celebrated that offer hockey-stick user growth and happy customers, but don’t appear to have a semblance of a business model that can ever make money.” -Tom Goodwin

 

Common Traits of Disrupters

Turn Your Day Job into Your Dream Job

 

Day Job to Dream Job

 

86% of the population wishes they weren’t at their job.

That’s a startling statistic shared by Kary Oberbrunner. Kary is an author, speaker, and coach who left his day job to pursue his dream job several years ago. His personal story is compelling, overcoming severe stuttering, depression, and self-injury to becoming a community and business leader.

I recently spoke with him about his work and particularly about his book, Day Job to Dream Job: Practical Steps For Turning Your Passion Into A Full-Time Gig.

 

“Sometimes stories cry out to be told in such loud voices that you write them just to shut them up.” -Stephen King

 

In our video interview, we talk about:

What it takes to pursue your life with purpose and meaning.

Kary calls people who pursue this “dream jobbers” and says only 14% of people are truly excited about their jobs.

 

Clarity. It starts with clarity. And with that clarity comes action.

 

 “Clarity attracts and confusion repels.” -Kary Oberbrunner

 

“Clarity has rough edges. Clarity is sharp. People are scared of clarity because they will either be accepted or rejected.” -Kary Oberbrunner

 

The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

How to Seek, Seed, and Scale Innovation

change

The Change Maker’s Playbook

Innovation is dynamic, iterative, and even messy – but with the vast problems facing the world, and opportunities to harness people’s creativity, passion, and desire to make an impact, there has never been greater potential to make a dent in as-yet unsolved economic, social and other issues. Leadership qualities, not always and not simply technology, are the essential ingredients.

I recently spoke with Amy J. Radin, author of The Change Maker’s Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation in Any Company. Amy is a nationally recognized Fortune 100 Chief Marketing and Information Officer.

 

“Purpose defines what you stand for and why your business exists.” -Amy J. Radin

 

The Power of Purpose

I love this line in your new book: “Purpose defines what you stand for and why your business exists.” Tell us more about the power of purpose and why it’s so important to change makers.

Purpose defines the marketplace problem the change maker wants to solve. It’s why they pursue an innovation.  They see the need to create something new, to fix something they see as really broken.

Purpose is grounded in emotion, but it’s far from touchy-feely. Purpose:

  • Focuses everyone on unifying beliefs, makes collaboration the norm, and aims resources at the vision and nothing else.
  • Minimizes the corrosive effect of internal politics — everyone is committed to the same point on the horizon. Purpose is an energy booster.
  • Sets the goal post on achieving aspirations to meet real market needs. Of course, financial results matter, but the purpose-driven team delivers financial impact and sets itself up to meet broader stakeholder needs.

 

“Purpose means knowing what you stand for, why you want to exist.” -Amy J. Radin

 

Resourcefulness is a key behavior of change makers. How should leaders encourage resourcefulness?

Resourceful leaders are those who can find a path forward no matter what. Doing so means they are making progress even though they have what can look like severe resource shortages.

Much of anyone’s resourcefulness comes from an ability to help everyone in their orbit to be more resourceful.

First, be a role model of resourcefulness behaviors.  My favorite example of all time is one I uncovered while doing the research for The Change Maker’s Playbook: Drew Lakatos co-founded ActiveProtective, a company working on an innovative device – think of it as the wearable equivalent of an inflatable air bag — to attack the growing medical and social crises caused by millions of seniors’ falling every year in this country. He had purpose and passion, but lacked capital.  So, he went around to junkyards one Saturday morning, and extracted non-bloody air bags from wrecked cars. Then he combined these with bicycle tire inner tubes, working with his local tailor to create components of early proof-of-concept designs – for a few dollars apiece. They were convincing enough to win critical support to get to the next steps.

Second, when assessing potential hires, listen for stories of how they have demonstrated resourcefulness in their lives. If you don’t hear evidence of real tenacity, move on.

Third, be open-minded about how things are done, not just what is getting done. Being resourceful means finding and supporting non-obvious ways to accomplish milestones and achieve goals.

 

“Resourceful leaders treat others with respect and value people as people, and as a result inspire and attract others to enable their purpose.” -Amy J. Radin

 

Fourth, promote a culture where seeking help is a mark of leadership and strength, not a sign of weakness. I see organizations where people are afraid that they will be fired if they admit ignorance. I see cultures punishing people who admit they don’t know something or would like help. These are environments where innovation cannot ever be successful.

 

“Resourceful leaders are those who can find a path forward no matter what.” -Amy J. Radin

 

Lessons from Edison