By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
When I graduated from college I didn’t have to go looking for a job. I already had one. My employer had offered me a full-time job doing more of what I had been doing on a part-time basis: working as a newspaper writer, columnist and editor.
Soon I was editing two weekly newspapers. Soon after that I became of vice president of the publishing company that owned the newspapers. I was on a fast track to the top.
Within five years of having graduated from college, my wife and I were moving to a new state to take over management of a newspaper chain that my employer had purchased. In a few years we doubled the number of publications the subsidiary chain owned and increased its revenues five-fold. My employer’s initial investment of about $60,000 had grown into a property with a gross value of about $1 million.
You could say I had made my first $1 million.
At one point while we were building the subsidiary company, I began commuting back to the parent company’s home plant to help to launch a new publication. I lived and worked there about half the week and then commuted back home to manage the subsidiary the other half of the week. It was a busy but exciting time.
After about nine years of overseeing the operations of the subsidiary and continuing as a vice president of the parent company, I decided it was time to spread my wings and leave for a new opportunity — perhaps more than one. My former employer asked me to stay on as a consultant and I did that for a few years. Meanwhile, my wife remained the CFO of the subsidiary company and we kept some of the stock in the parent company that we had accumulated over the years.
Not too long after my departure the parent company invited my wife and I to a stockholders’ party to celebrate the sale of the publication I had helped launch as a commuter some years before. It was being sold for $4.5 million dollars.
Since the parent company was mostly employee-owned, Jane and I enjoyed a wonderful celebration with people who had been with us since the beginning of our professional and personal journeys together. We were in our mid-30s.
After that evening I would joke with people, “I prayed to God to make a million dollars before I was 40 — and He answered my prayers in spades. But I forgot to say I wanted to make the money for me. So the company got the money and I got a very nice pen.”
If that’s sounds the least bit bitter — even only bittersweet — you read me wrong. I have no regrets. None at all! The Wealthiest Man in America does not lose sleep — or his focus — over a few million dollars shared with friends.
I was happy to be able to contribute to the welfare of an operation that relied on the contributions of many people. Just to be part of that was a blessing. And still more blessings have continued to flow from it.
I learned lessons and skills that have stayed with me for life. I was able to help some people move closer to achieving their full potential in life. My wife and I were able to work together on something that was important to us and to the community in which we lived. We made lasting friendships. We lived comfortably. I was able to balance the roles of husband, father and busy executive.
In the process, I began to learn that wealth — a genuine sense of well-being abundance — does not flow from what you accumulate. It is not measured by what you buy or even what you save. Wealth flows from what you share.
Why is that? Because the experience of sharing teaches us that we have more than we need, more than enough to survive. Until we know that — really know that deep down in our hearts — we can never know or enjoy the tremendous sense of well-being that comes with being truly wealthy.
I wish you wealth — and more than that, I’m humbled and happy to share its secret with you.