Steve CookWe live in a culture that keeps score.

I believe in keeping score. I believe that there are winners and losers, and I also believe that’s a good thing. Competition’s been great for our culture and ultimately leads to improvement, progress and things getting better overall.

You may be a little confused at first by what I’m about to say.

I wholeheartedly believe in winning.

Please don’t mistakenly hear what I’m about to share as someone who believes in “participation awards”—I don’t.

I lived most of my life thinking “Net Worth” was an accurate way of keeping score with how well I was doing in life. An ever increasing net worth meant that I was doing better, I was successful and life was good. I expect we all assume that when the latest Forbes 400 is released, not only do those featured in the magazine have an unfathomable amount of wealth, they also have great lives to go along with it.

I found out differently.

Not that I’ve been in Forbes, but I’ve experienced great wealth. I’ve rubbed shoulders with very wealthy people, we kept score and improved our game year after year.

Something funny I noticed though:

As wealth grows, quality of life doesn’t always grow with it.

Sure, those with wealth have nicer houses, sweet cars, awesomer vacations and dine at finer restaurants. But at the end of the day, they still have as much conflict in their homes, broken relationships, stress and worry as those without wealth.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that those with wealth tend to struggle more in their relationships then those without wealth.

On the poorest end of the spectrum, it’s just harder to hide the life issues. On the upper end, people can create and build a facade much more easily—they can make life look good, when in fact it’s not going all that hot behind closed doors.

To the outsider looking in, everything looks great, but in many instances, it’s just not. This was a hard lesson to learn as I grew to experience my own success, and found myself surrounded by friends on a similar trajectory.

For most, the goal of life is net worth. But believing that net worth makes things better in life is an unfortunate lie!

Let’s face it: As we pursue wealth, our hope is to have a great life, enjoy great relationships, and to be admired and seen as significant. Until we decide to make life a priority, money will always be a poor substitute for the things we really desire to experience.

A recent quote from an email I got recently:

It’s contradictory to believe that a given life objective can be reached by financial means. The blind pursuit of financial freedom is often closer to slavery than it is to liberation. It’s making life a tool for money, whereas money should be made a tool for life. —Kent Thune

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The problem is that we tend to believe the message our culture around us is force-feeding: That we need a greater net worth before we can experience a greater life worth.

If what we really want is life, we should pursue that. Wealth may or may not come for you. But the life you have can be richly experienced every day, with or without wealth.

I suggest that both great wealth and a great life can be achieved, but not if you make net worth your higher worth priority. In your pursuit of a higher net worth, you will likely sacrifice life to get it.

But if you pursue life with a greater passion, you will be a better person to pursue wealth.  Everything about you will be better, and you also won’t be as concerned about the score. You’ll be more content with all that you have.

But when you’re not winning at the net worth game, you’ll question everything in your life.Steve Cook

So, tell me…what’s your greater passion and higher pursuit: A higher net worth or high life worth? I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you might have below.

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