For all of my adult life I have longed to live what I call a “cruise control” life. Sitting back and having life come to me, without significant worry or stress, is the perfect picture of what life should be. Everything is in place and I have plenty of money, to the point where I never even think of money. It is just there. My relationships are all good – my wife and I love each other, the kids are great, I have plenty of warm, intimate connections with friends and extended family. Everything about my life and those around me is in place. The basis for attaining and maintaining this idyllic life rests largely on money. First and foremost, there must be plenty of it, not necessarily Bill Gates kind of money, just way more than I think I need or want, therefore allowing me the peace of mind to enjoy life, knowing that the funds are there, and keep coming in, for me to relax, not worrying about the unforeseen, and simply be in the moment, enjoying life in the present at all times.
Just imagining this kind of life brings to mind a very warm, perfect sort of existence where EVERYTHING is good. I have to be very careful not to harbor on these images because they are in fact fallacies and do not exist as such. It is so easy to fall back into that kind of thinking. It is very comforting to imagine that that life is out there and that somebody somewhere has it; therefore I can possibly have it also if I try hard enough.
When I was finishing up my college days, I did not have these ideas. I felt led to go into ministry, and was planning to enter seminary right after college. Money was really not on my mind. I did not have that mental competition to live as the world lives; I did not relate myself to the larger peer group of the world. I only wanted to live and to serve God.
The turning point came when I was introduced to a multilevel marketing business. To put it simply, in a very short time frame I became consumed with this idea of the cruise control life – plenty of money, high lifestyle, smiles all around. In the world of multilevel marketing, individuals who have attained great success in the business in question are held in high regard, and paraded ad nauseum as examples of what the new recruit can someday be if he or she is dedicated and patient enough, and of course puts enough work into the business.
In the business I was introduced to, one particular individual caught my attention, and I quickly became enraptured with trying to attain his lifestyle. To me he had it all – pretty wife and gorgeous kids – but much more importantly, he exuded peace of mind that could only come from having more than enough money. In fact, this is the image he portrayed – almost that he had so much money, he didn’t even know what all he had – not exactly, but sort of. He described his huge house with a pool and basketball court set on a large wooded lot, his several cars – including a Rolls Royce – his condo on the beach, and on and on. I remember once hearing him say that his investment income (not the income from the multilevel business) was six figures. As part of the motivation process we were able to go to his house for an hour or so while in his hometown for a business conference. I was in awe to say the least. The house was amazing, as was the outdoor barbecue area and all the beautiful landscaping. We did not go inside the house, but I didn’t need to – I was firmly hooked at that point.
This man had it all as far as I was concerned. I wanted what he had. Over the time I was involved in the business, about four years, I went not only to his home, but also the homes of several other kingpins in the business. All during this time, this idea of the cruise control life captivated me. This guy exuded such calm and peace. I NEEDED what he had. The idea of no worries was especially enticing to me, someone with known anxious hangups. I held him in the highest regard, not only because of what he had attained financially, but because all the while he seemed so humble, and gave God the credit for his success.
How could I lose with this scenario? This seemed to be the ultimate life for where I was at this juncture. I had wanted to serve God, and now I wanted money, so how could I go wrong? I could serve God by introducing people to this wonderful business, so that they could also live a peaceful life with no struggles, or problems (all because of the abundance of money they would have), and at the same time I would become fabulously successful (read rich) myself. It was definitely a win-win situation as far as I could tell.
I cannot fully comment on the theology of all this, especially in this writing. I do know, however, that over the years I have begun to realize the error of my thinking – there is no cruise control life. Nobody has everything together in every facet of his life, no matter how much money he has. There is a struggle somewhere, with something. Life still comes at you, because we live in a fallen world, and there are still issues and challenges to deal with on a regular basis.
Years later I found out how true this was. This businessman, this family man, this man of God who I had held in such high esteem, ended up losing his wife because of an affair with his secretary. Whoa! How could this happen? He had it all, didn’t he? How could he ever need to seek out another woman when he had the perfect wife, the perfect family, the perfect life already? I don’t know how it could happen, but it did. Not only did they get divorced, but a large number of the people in his downline (the recruits of recruits of recruits) ended up disassociating with him. I have no way of knowing how all this affected him financially, or even emotionally, but I know it could not have been for the good.
I feel sorry for the situation he is in, even though it would appear to be from his own doing, but he now serves as a vivid reminder to me of the fallacy of the cruise control life I had held so dear. If he couldn’t hold his life together with all the apparent accoutrements he had, then I should in no way hope to do the same. He had exactly what I wanted. I knew that if I had his life, everything would be perfect. I’d have no problems, I be more than happy, I’d be content forever, and I’d die happy knowing I’d lived life exactly how it was meant to be lived. Alas, the life he had on the outside was not enough for him. Without judging him, it is apparent that he was driven to seek satisfaction outside of his wonderful, beautiful life.
This can and should serve as a powerful reminder to me of the huge error in the thinking I have held dear for two decades. I’ve never fully been able to reconcile all this in my mind. A large part of me has still longed for this lifestyle, even after leaving that business long ago. I have continued to hold to the idea that somewhere out there are those who live this kind of life, and if they have it, then it is possible to attain, and so I must strive for it as well. It is a struggle that I have battled for far too long.
I try to realize that there is no such lifestyle. Life will continue to present us challenges on a daily basis, no matter how much money we have. We live in a world controlled by evil and as such we are not immune to suffering. God tells us this over and over in the Bible. How arrogant it was (and is) for me to think I could be above this, especially when there are billions of people in the world with a much, much lower standard of living than I have. I read a statistic (not verified by me) that said only one out of nine people in the entire world owns a car. I have not one, but two cars. I also have a beautiful house with a garage where I can put those cars out of the elements – those same elements that pound the estimated one billion people worldwide (again, not verified by me) who live in inadequate housing such as cardboard boxes, tents, and shacks.
Obviously, I am rich, and for that I will do my best to remain grateful to God.