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Module 9 of 9
In Progress

Success Defined

You can build your company, make money, hire a bunch of staff and even sell your company but at what point do you feel successful? At what point can you say “I’ve made it.”

The weird thing is, most people that have made any significant amounts of money don’t ever say “I’ve made it.” I certainly didn’t. I thought after selling the company the clouds would part above me and a voice would sound out saying “Jonathan, you’ve done it, you’ve arrived.” or at minimum, I would feel like I had changed the world in some way. 

Sure, I was proud of myself, excited, and even felt accomplished. But all that was very short-lived. Soon, I realized that I actually felt no different. It’s kind of like turning 20 or 30, it’s such a massive milestone in our young lives, but when we get there we don’t actually feel any different. This may sound tone-deaf to someone that hasn’t sold a company or made a million dollars, but I want you to know that success, true and meaningful success can’t be measured in dollars just as the significance of your life can’t be measured in years. 

Money cannot permanently buy any of those things. It can help with rest, bless relationships, even give you more time to enjoy hobbies. So then is the true measure of success buying your time back? This seems to be the “Instagram” worthy version of success, doesn’t it? But what is time if there’s nothing of significance to fill it with? Is it enough to give the majority of your time back to your family and friends if you have managed to keep hold of them through the journey to wealth?

Time is just a finite tool like money. So like money, time can only be spent. Time has no lasting value outside of that which you experience personally as it’s a resource you cannot actually give to someone else. You can on the other hand share your time with others, creating immense value, and like money, a contributing accolade to your accomplishments. But time is hardly a measure of true lasting success as it is measured in what you’ve already spent, not what you’ve gained. Money is measured in what you’ve gained but can be spent just as fast as time, rendering it meaningless to measure success in either.

So how then is success measured? What element can you use to quantify your achievements that cannot be spent and thus cannot be stolen from your evaluation of status?

In my short experience as a business owner, millionaire, and entrepreneur, I have found that the only lasting measurement of my achievement is not what I earned, but instead what I gave away. When you give, you aren’t spending, investing, or even contributing, you are merely releasing. 

Giving has fueled my growth in business, in life, and in personal development. It has become the foundation of why I build and why I grow. A foundation of giving creates a legacy. There is no greater legacy and no greater arrival in life than that of impact. Impact cannot be taken, impact cannot be spent, impact cannot be replaced, it can only be created. Impact is the only true measurement of success as it is the only thing in this world that after creation lives on infinitely. 

I build to impact, and I impact by giving, and I give by making money. This is the only goal I have as an entrepreneur and it’s made me a very wealthy person, both financially and in legacy. 

Many newly successful people are left asking “what now?” This is because they’ve climbed a mountain that most people just admire from a distance and when they get to the top, they realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and the things that were missing in their lives before they reached the top are still missing after. Things like meaningful relationships, hobbies, rest, and meaning in life. 

This is why most wealthy people, aside from the tax benefits, start some sort of philanthropic effort. To feel a sense of lasting accomplishment that will outlive them. 

Warren Buffet has given away $42.8 Billion. His net worth stands at $88.7 billion today. Buffet also is famous for saying that giving is “the easiest deed in the world.” And notably founded The Giving Pledge that challenges billionaires to give away at least half their fortune. He himself has committed to giving away 99% of his fortune to charity. 

Bill Gates has given away $29.8 Billion of this fortune over the years. His net worth stands at $120.8 billion today. Gates has also joined Buffet in the Giving Pledge and pledged to give away more than half his fortune. 

Charles Feeney, the founder of Duty-Free Shoppers, pledged to die broke and founded “Giving While Living,” which encourages the wealthy to get rid of their fortune before they die. He succeeded in his goal and gave away anonymously his $8 billion fortune. His foundation shut its doors after giving away every last asset it had. 

Giving away nearly all your fortune is not merely a tax benefit, but a revelation of what truly matters in life. Learn from the billionaires who got there and realized none of it mattered. 

 

The Value of Giving in Business

I’m no longer referring to giving in marketing terms where you give value in hopes to convince someone to purchase. I’m referring to giving of resources, your money mostly. So you’re probably asking yourself, why is giving so important? What value does it have to me and building a business? 

My businesses give away 10% of gross revenue to various nonprofit organizations and periodically individuals that need help with rent, food, and other necessities. For context, most large companies don’t touch 10% profit on gross revenue. This has propelled a number of my businesses, but most notably our agency which went from $600,000 in annual revenue to over $3M in just 12 short months. We remain incredibly profitable, despite giving away 10% gross revenue. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to quantify the lasting benefits of giving in your business as often you’ll never see the true impact of what you’ve done. But there are some tangible immediate effects of giving in your company that can help propel your growth. 

 

Culture 

Just like you, people that aren’t entrepreneurs want so desperately to matter. They want to know what they’re doing with their life means something. That’s a huge reason we’ve seen a massive spike in social issues taking center stage on both sides of the political aisle. People protesting, rioting, petitioning and even standing for their beliefs like never before on social media. When someone sees a cause they feel strongly about, they are inclined to make a strong and meaningful effort such as standing in a crowd and risking catching COVID, or rioting and risking getting arrested, or even banned on social media. 

What would you pay to have someone be willing to get arrested for working at your company or so dedicated that they risk social exile to help your clients?

Okay, maybe those are dramatic examples, but the point is most people dedicate themselves to things they’re passionate about, and they’re passionate about things that they feel connected to and wronged by both personally or vicariously. 

We covered some of this a few modules back when talking about building something that mattered. But you can drive your company culture, retention, even your production by directly relating the work your company does with a cause or mission that you and your team believe in and get behind. 

This results in longer-lasting employees, better employee performance because all of a sudden what they’re creating directly impacts something external that they care deeply about. 

 

Humility

When I first started in business, I was obsessed with monitoring how much I was making, always stressed about what was coming next. When I started giving from our business revenue, all of that changed. I realized quickly that by giving money away, I was letting it go, with no strings attached. This created a mindset of humility and it shifted my focus from money in the account to the people I was now helping. 

This might seem like a little thing. But giving changed the way I did business; it was no longer about me, or even my company, it was about the world around me. Giving makes you a better leader and keeps your focus on what matters in this world; the people around you. 

 

Customers

Just like employees want to build something that matters, customers want their dollars to impact the world too. Take companies like Toms that created the one-for-one model (buy one shoe, one given away.) They tapped into a core desire of both their customers and their employees by giving a pair of shoes on behalf of the purchaser. 

 

How To Start Giving

I get it, 10% gross revenue sounds big. But we didn’t start there, that took years to get to. We started at around 2% gross and worked our way up as we continued to see a benefit. 

The best place to start is to choose a gross amount that you’re committing to give to charity and stick with it. As you begin to see benefits you can increase the gross amount, and see an increase in benefits. 

Once you’ve chosen an amount, talk to your staff if you have any. Ask them what they’re passionate about, what charities do they already give to? If you don’t have staff, just answer for yourself. Try to pick something that your customers would resonate with as well. 

Make sure as you add team members this becomes part of the culture and they’re made aware every month of what the company is giving to and thank them for their hard work and helping make a difference in the world. 

Sometimes you can turn it up a little, and let them each pick an individual nonprofit to evenly distribute the funds into. 

This one time while building the nonprofit app company, we made a campaign out of what we were giving that month. We got the entire team together to pack 

 

Giving When You Have Nothing

A lot of people make the excuse “I’ll give when I make [enter a random amount of money]” but the best thing you can do is give when you have nothing. Trust me it’s a lot easier than giving when you have a lot. You think giving $10 when you have $100 is hard. But in reality, it’s infinitely harder to give $200,000 when you have $2,000,000. And if you don’t build the habit now, you won’t build it later. 

I learned the value of giving when I was young. After my parent’s divorce, we didn’t have much, and often churches would help us make ends meet. During that period, Christmas meals and gifts were provided by the church because we didn’t have enough. 

When I went to Bible College in Dallas, my world was opened to the incredible lack people had. People around Dallas weren’t just needing an occasional meal or help with rent. Some people had nothing. No food, no home, no warm clothes. Sure, I lived in my car for a bit, but this was something different. This was a deep lack. 

When I started making a little cash off my web design startup, instead of paying rent at the dorm, I decided I would help the people around Dallas that needed it so much more than I did. I would figure tuition out later. I couldn’t do much, but even just taking a homeless person out to lunch and getting to know them could make an impact. 

Every time I chose to give, my own lack was made up for. After a few months of taking homeless people to lunch or dinner, buying shoes for some, clothes for others, I logged into my tuition account and saw the balance was $0. I was shocked! So I ran down the hall and told my friend what happened. He smiled and said, “that’s awesome!” I later found out he had a trust that was left to him and put the excess into my school account because he saw me trying to help so many people. 

That was my first big realization that if you focus on the world around you, and helping people, more than you focus on yourself, you can’t lose. I would learn this lesson in countless ways over the years, providing for people that needed it only to find my needs would be more than covered. 

If you listen to anything in this course, I hope you hear this. The impact you make on this world is the only true form of success you can have. Build to impact.