7 Habits of Financial (and Spiritual) Success

Not long ago I came across a blog about the seven habits of self-made millionaires. And it occurred to me that most of the habits that help someone grow rich financially are the same habits that help us grow rich spiritually. We just apply the habits differently.

The blog was based on an interview with a Tom Corley, a researcher who has spent a dozen or so years studying wealthy people and writing about what he’s learned (e.g., Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals). Corley points out that “Your habits are the reason why you’re rich or poor. In fact, it’s often two or three habits that separate the wealthy from those who are financially challenged.”

That makes sense (and cents). Then I began to wonder if the seven habits Corley shared for financial success translate into habits that help us achieve something far more meaningful—spiritual success.

Let’s compare.

  1. Read, read, read. Corley says this is the number one habit. His study found that 85 percent of millionaires read two or more books a month. Not only that, they choose books that help them grow. As the author of a book titled Grow Like Jesus, I love this one. It reinforces the idea that we need to study and learn how to grow if we want to improve our lives. Start, of course, with the Bible. Read it every day. Study it. Learn from it. Grow from it.
  2. Pursue your passions. Corley points out that, “When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you work harder.” Are you passionate about Jesus? If you are His disciple, then you probably were on fire for God the day you gave Him your life and in the weeks and months that followed. Rediscover that passion, because nothing else on this planet is more worthy of our enthusiasm.
  3. Find mentors. Corley’s study found that 93 percent of self-made millionaires credit mentors for aiding in their financial success. Mentoring and discipleship, of course, are two sides of the same coin. If you want to grow spiritually, find someone (or a small group) who will challenge you, stretch you, teach you, and otherwise help you along the path. And, by the way, you’ll find that mentoring others is one of the greatest approaches to growth for yourself.
  4. Use dreams to set goals. Self-made millionaires apparently dream up what they want their ideal life to look like and then set specific goals to achieve each dream. They evaluate their dream and take action. When we grow our faith, we need to abide in Christ so we can discern our calling. Then we need to make specific plans to carry out whatever God is calling us to accomplish.
  5. Create a process. I see this as an extension of the previous habits. “When you create processes,” Corley says, “you don’t have to think, which takes energy and contributes to decision fatigue. Habits are valuable because they brain fuel that can be used doing something else.” To grow our faith, we need to have good habits. We need a process. Set aside specific times in the day for reading God’s word, for specific types of prayer, for reading other books, for meeting with mentors or protégés.
  6. Find multiple streams of income. Self-made millionaires typically have at least three sources of income. They diversify. For followers of Jesus, we need three in one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. If we rely on those three sources of spiritual income, our output will be phenomenal. We can support them with things like mentors and books, the teaching of great pastors, the community and fellowship of a vibrant church, but the ultimate source is God.
  7. Invest in time. It’s probably not surprising that self-made millionaires don’t waste time. They don’t watch much television, and they don’t spend much time on Facebook or watching videos on the Internet. I believe growing our faith requires a sense of urgency because we don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We should long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23) Not, “Well, you were awesome at video games!”

So what’s missing from Corley’s list? Well, lots of things.

The one that jumped out at me first was “generosity.” I know this to be important to our walk with Christ, and, from all I’ve read, I believe it to be important to financial success. So I went to Corley’s website and here’s something I found that he said: “One of the hallmarks of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits Study was their generosity.” In other words, they gave their time and money.

I also wondered about faith. This isn’t spelled out as directly in what I found in Corley’s research, but I did see plenty of evidence that financially successful people tend to get that way in part because they have faith. They believe. In God? Not so sure. Certainly in something bigger than themselves.

Trusting God for the results, in my view, is essential to our spiritual growth, because it keeps us from adopting a works mentality. We can do His will and leave the results to someone more qualified than us – the God of the universe. That’s how we find joy and peace and true success regardless of our financial condition or any other circumstance. Because it’s never about how much we have, but what we do with what we’re given.

 

What if Jesus wrote you a Letter?

Here’s the question that kept me up one night: What if Jesus wrote me a letter?

Seems simple. Not scary. Sort of cool, right? Who wouldn’t want a letter from the Son of God?

Without question, I’d love to get such a letter. But I can’t say for sure that I’d like everything it might say. In fact, it could be especially difficult to take, and that’s why the question was keeping me up that night.

Audrey and I had been reading the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, so naturally we noticed that a few of them easily could be letters to the church in America. That’s when it hit me: What if Jesus wrote a letter like this to me? I am the church in America, or at least part of it. Would he find something good in me? Would he call me lukewarm? How would he challenge me to live differently?

With that in mind, I recalled a little writing exercise I learned several years ago during a parent’s weekend at Rollins College. A professor found himself in a room of assembled ne’er-do-wells—dads, moms, and other interested parties. The prof either wanted to give us a taste of what his students typically experienced, or he just needed a way to kill some time before lunch. Regardless, he gave us an assignment: Write a letter to yourself from someone you love but who is no longer living. If you can do this, he explained, you can write fiction, because fiction is something we make up based on what our experiences tell us might happen.

I wrote a letter from my dad to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.

So as I considered the letters Jesus wrote to the churches, I mentally wrote a letter from Jesus to me. Was it fiction? I don’t know. I asked the Holy Spirit for some help, so I believe there was some inspiration and, well, revelation, involved.

Here’s what I learned: There’s room for improvement.

Well, duh!

I felt affirmation about some areas of my life, but I also felt the pangs of conviction. I felt like God wanted me to experience Him more in two or three specific areas. I shared this with Audrey and asked her to pray with me, asking God to show us what “change” would look like and provide opportunities to pursue it. Frankly, I’m still not so sure how well I’m living it out, but I’m doing my best to trust God to show me the way each day.

So if Jesus wrote you a letter, what would it say? And how will you respond?

The Role of Trust in Discipleship

One of the first lessons I learned as a new follower of Jesus was that we’re all called to discipleship. And this weekend, while sitting with my beautiful wife in the Chapel by the Sea, I was reminded of the role “trust” plays in that process.

Discipleship, of course, is something we “do” and something that’s “done” for us. We’re called to go and make disciples, which means we’re supposed to help others grow in their faith. And we’re supposed to grow in our faith, as well.

It all sounds very active. Read a book. Spend time with a mentor. Spend time with a protégé. Practice some spiritual disciplines. Go to a Bible study. Attend a conference.

So where does trust come into the equation?

Well, trust is the foundation for life as a follower of Christ. It all begins when we put our trust in Jesus. But too often we forget to keep trusting because we’re so busy doing.SouthPadre

Audrey and I just took an extended weekend vacation, and that’s how we ended up listening to Chaplain Sam Steele teach on this topic Sunday at the Chapel by the Sea. Perhaps you’ve been to the Chapel by the Sea. There’s one in Alaska. Several in Florida and California, not to mention in a dozen or so other seaside communities. We were visiting the one on South Padre Island, Texas.

The Rev. Steele was teaching from 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul was addressing some in-fighting in the church over who was better – those who followed Paul or those who followed Apollos. He reminded them that we all have different roles to play as “co-workers in God’s service.” Some plant and some water, he tells them, but God makes it grow.

And so it is with discipleship. Whether we are teaching others or learning something from those who teach us, there are things we can and should do. We plant. We water. We do the things we’re called to do so that we can help ourselves and those around us grow like Jesus. But that growth only happens by the grace of God. So as we go about the doing, we have to remember to let go and trust God for the results.

I struggle putting this idea into practice because I like to see results from my doing, and I like to see them quickly. Trust requires patience. It requires faith that God’s timing is what matters. It requires letting go of the human desire control things or to feed our ego with our good works.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to this quote from Oswald Chambers: “Trust God and do the next thing.” I’ve found it comes in pretty handy whenever I don’t know what else to tell myself or anyone else about how to deal with life’s challenges. Or blessings. In good times or bad, there’s always something we can do to grow more like Jesus. And it begins and ends with trusting God.

My Platform Dilemma

I grew up in the racially diverse community of Marianna, Arkansas, and in the 1970s, aka my formative years, platform shoes were popular among many people.

Stacks, we called them.

I knew several people who wore them, boys and girls, including some who even had platform tennis shoes. I thought they were the coolest things ever. They looked cool and they made you taller. Not me, mind you. White guys didn’t wear stacks. I’m still not sure why, but it still makes me sad.

Thirty-plus years later, platforms are popular, and not just the kind you wear. Now days, you need a “platform” to grow your “personal brand” so you can market yourself in the digital age and make some money off the “Internet of Everything.”

Platforms are measured in things like, well, … likes. And followers. And re-tweets. And shares. And klout scores.

Some people naturally have platforms: Entertainers. Sports stars. Politicians. Speakers. Famous authors. Preachers.

Missing from that list? Me.

I’ve spent most of my life blissfully in the background. Frankly, I’m in no hurry to find fame. It scares me. I’m not worthy of it, and I’m pretty confident I couldn’t handle it.

So this brings me to what I call my “platform dilemma.” I have been involved with a couple of books that are about to hit the market. I wrote one and co-authored the other because I believed I was given a message to share that would help people.

That’s not a bad reason. I didn’t write them to get rich. I’m not opposed to getting rich, but that’s not why I wrote the books. But books are darn near worthless if they aren’t read. So I want people to read these books and, hopefully, gain something positive from them.

Since I don’t have a substantial platform (or own platform shoes), I’m going to count on something even better to get the word out about these books: God. I’ll try to do my part, because, as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy. So I have a website and I post stuff on social media. But I’ll trust God for the results.

I figure that what ever my “platform,” it’s big enough that God can use it. If people read the books and like them, they’ll share them with others. They’ll buy copies for their friends and co-workers. They’ll donate copies of Grow Like Jesus to their church. They’ll buy copies of Forging Grit for their work teams. They’ll talk about them on social media. They’ll do all sorts of things to spread the word and the message.

Their platforms will become a platform for the books. It’ll be just like junior high school. But I’ll be happy, not sad.