The Hebrew month of Elul has officially started, but there is an element of this important time period that many Jews are missing…
Grant Cardone outlined key tenets of his life philosophy recently in Medium:
Most people work 9 to 5. I work 95 hours (per week). If you ever want to be a millionaire, you need to stop doing the 9 to 5 and start doing 95.
Is this a short-term philosophy Cardone is advocating until one strikes it rich, at which point s/he could resume a normal life? No.
If you gave me 5 billion dollars, I’d still be grinding tomorrow. Be on the field. That’s where you get the win. I want that.
The strange part is that in the same piece, Cardone claims he’s not only about making massive amounts of money:
I’m not just about being rich, I’m about being wealthy. Rich means you have money — wealth is affluence in every area: health, family, kids, wife.
I definitely don’t understand that last statement. Working 95 hours per week means working 13-14 hour days, seven days a week. Where would one find the time for building real and meaningful relationships with “family, kids, wife”?
To be fair, Cardone’s piece is focused on becoming rich, not about how to be happy. I don’t know him personally and I don’t know much about him. I have no problem with people who work hard or amass large sums of money. My issue is only with the extreme philosophy espoused in the article, which is at odds with traditional Jewish thought/philosophy.
As opposed to striving for a lifestyle marked by conscious consumption and gratitude, Cardone advocates the constant chasing of wealth – he admits that even five billion dollars wouldn’t satisfy his cravings! We shouldn’t be surprised. The Talmud explained man’s basic nature a long time ago:
“Whoever possesses 100 desires 200. Whoever possesses 200 desires 400.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah ). (“Ecclesiastes” is translated as “Kohelet” in Hebrew).
Except for the brief line I quoted about “family, kids, wife,” Cardone didn’t write anything in his piece about making a meaningful contribution to society, maintaining deep connections with friends and family (which seems impossible with the schedule he recommends), or establishing a calming spiritual life.
Judaism recommends a dramatically different path. In the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) we learn:
Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot/portion. (Pirkei Avot 4:1).
The brilliant Rabbi Jonathan Sacks uses the Book of Kohelet to explain that chasing wealth is folly and true happiness comes from things like love, appreciation and spiritual connection:
Kohelet suddenly realises that all the time he was pursuing wealth and possessions, he was chasing after substitutes for life, instead of celebrating life itself. He now knows that “Whoever loves money never has money enough”. He also knows that “there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live”. Like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, he knows that the best thing to do with wealth is to give it away.
Following Cordone’s recommendations might make you very wealthy. They might not. But one thing is certain: they won’t make you happy.
Rabbi Sacks spoke about three main thought processes that occur in the minds of religious zealots who commit acts of evil. He said that although religious violence is most commonly being committed by Islamic extremists today, it can manifest in all religions.
Everyone would do well to examine these thought processes, so we can defend against the extremists in our midst. This examination would produce the side benefit of reducing fear, anguish and suffering on a personal and national level.
Part of the happiness of Hanukkah (beyond the delicious latkes and sufganiyot, of course) is knowing our purpose, which is a crucial ingredient for experiencing simcha (Jewish joy).
In his amazing book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl (z’l) details his life philosophy. A man who suffered through the worst life has to offer realized:
Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning (page 121 in the paperback edition).
How does this relate to Hanukkah?