What Do NBA and NFL Players Teach Us About Our Relationship To Money?

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” – Confucius

Me in Beijing, China.

 Help Me I’m Broke

Recently I watched a very Interesting documentary from ESPN called “Broke” on how NBA and NFL players go broke within a few years of retirement.

Basketball was my first love growing up. I spent countless hours on my driveway trying to be like Mike. Michael Jordan amassed an amazing amount of wealth, and I contributed to it by buying dozens of his “Air Jordan” shoes throughout the years.

The worst part is that after all that money spent, they didn’t even make me jump any higher. Mike, I want my money back!

I always thought it was absurd the amount of money that professional athletes made by playing a game. A game which many people would happily play for free. Professional athletes on the outside looking in seem like they have it all. They have the money, cars, and girlsall from just playing a game. Granted they play it better than the rest of us.

While Michael Jordan is a fond part of my childhood, I think a celebrity’s larger than life persona is very damaging to our society. I think putting any person on a pedestal is ridiculous.

Relationship Money Problems

Recently I have been trying to understand my relationship to money. I have been trying to see how my family and society affected the way I see money and what it means to my life.

“The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it’s only money… they don’t know how to enjoy it, because they have no imagination.” – Alan Watts

This documentary helped me see that we really need to reevaluate the whole role and idea of money on both the individual and societal level. We need to develop a right relationship to it. Right now America along with all its celebrities, pro-athletes, politicians, and bankers have had a huge influence on the way in which we view wealth. Which to me seems like a predominately dysfunctional relationship, and has unconsciously kept many of us from pursuing our own dreams, because of an unconscious fear that we might become like some of them. A certain segment of society has caused me to view money in a distorted way. Money after all is just an idea, a tool that we use to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. It is not inherently evil.

What is wealth? To me wealth is much more than material goods and money. What I think makes our generation so exciting is that we have the potential to be  materially and spiritually/psychologically wealthy. Usually this is a polarizing view, many people believe that you can only be one or the other. People tend to think that if you are spiritually inclined you need to be poor, and vice versa. And if you happen to be a Spiritual person who is very wealthy, you are seen with a very skeptical eye.

When we look to many of the people we glorify they help solidify some of these beliefs. In the documentary it really is hard to believe how people with  hundreds of millions of dollars could lose it all. How could it be possible that this was the fate for a majority of them?

While there are many contributing factors to each individual case, the crux of the situation as I see it was that they did not take responsibility for their wealth. They essentially won the lottery, but psychologically they did not take the responsibility that comes with acquiring huge amounts of wealth.

What happens when you don’t take responsibility? You squander and destroy it. We need more people who are conscious and inwardly responsible to acquire wealth. People like this will manage and expand their wealth for themselves and others.

Many of us say we would like to be wealthy, but how many of us are really ready to be responsible for it? I think many of us would be shocked to find that in fact we don’t want that responsibility, but we will happily hold on to the fantasy of becoming wealthy.

Definition of Wealth

To me wealth is having the sufficient resources inwardly and outwardly to fulfill whatever you deem as your life purpose. What do I mean by inwardly wealthy? This would be someone who understands himself at a deep level. He understands how his mind works. He is a meditative person. He is able to stay calm and collected amidst the craziness of life. Outwardly wealthy, would be in terms of your relationships, skills, and financial resources.

Look at every area of your life in which you feel you may be lacking. Take a real penetrating look. Are you doing something about it by taking responsibility for it?

To possess wealth you need to take up some responsibility. To me the word responsibility means having the ability to respond to life’s situations with our innate intelligence. If you take a good look within yourself, and learn to objectively observe your thinking process, you will see that we very rarely respond to life. We mainly operate from a reactionary state of being.

When you respond you are in control, when you react you are dependent. Like many of the athletes showed, they spent most of their money in reaction to their teammates who were flaunting their wealth. They where trying to live up to the “image” of what they thought they needed to be. It was not a real intrinsic motivation coming from a meaningful place.

I come from a family of hard working immigrants. My parents taught me many valuable lessons in relation to money. They taught me to respect it, to not get in debt, etc. But do to their own life circumstances they also limited my perspective by not teaching me to dream big, to go after my own dreams, or to be an entrepreneur. They preferred that I just get a good, safe, paying job. I always struggled to find support for any of my ideas. Instead of seeing how it was possible they pointed out how it wouldn’t work.

I feel I sabotaged myself in many of my entrepreneurial pursuits, because of my unconscious reactions to my childhood belief structures and cultural upbringing. I remember accompanying my mother several times to her job of cleaning the homes of wealthy Americans. In my experience most of the homes she cleaned where wealthy white Americans. From an early age culturally I began to feel that in America this was our place. While it is true that minorities don’t always have the same opportunities as your average American, I didn’t realize until much later on that this was something I did not need to accept as my own fate. Many of our cultural stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies when you don’t question your psychological identifications to these beliefs.

We all say we want wealth..but…do we really? Take a real deep look inside. Sincerely analyze your mind, what does your inner space tell you about your attitude towards wealth? Meditate on it. You might come to find that you are afraid of wealth, that your scared of the idea of becoming wealthy. This was true for me on some level. I want to become a writer, but at the same time I don’t want to be seen as some type of guru, or that I am in it only for the money, so it has caused me to not put myself “out there,” or market my site in a significant way. So If I really want to become a writer I need to take total responsibility. I need to get clear on how I am holding myself back from expressing myself and my ideas to the fullest and not be afraid of possibly making a living from it.

When many of us mentally plan on how we will become wealthy, we say, “ok I am going to work my butt off for the next ___ years to accumulate enough money to make my dreams come true…,” but by the time you finish your visualization, you see that you may be too old when you accomplish your goal. The effort is too big, and life is too uncertain, so we don’t take any action. So then we just resort to fantasize about wealth. We retain the greed that maybe someday I will get lucky.

How To Create Wealth

Having the right mental set up brings wealth. If you really want your dreams to come true you need to take responsibility for your desires. If you take responsibility you will take action, you will expand, you will think outside the box and see the possibilities.

If you don’t take responsibility, but you just hold onto your greed, you will live a life full of fear. The fear will ruin any of your possibilities for living a fulfilling life. This is living a life in limbo, one in which you fluctuate between fear and greed.

What happens when you really take responsibility for your mental setup? You take action, you gain immense clarity, and feel a whole new type of energy. You approach the work you need to do with excitement and focus. You find that work doesn’t need to make you tired.

When you don’t enjoy the work you do, you invoke boredom and tiredness. These are our two enemies in keeping us from making our dreams a reality. They both go hand in hand, and when we entertain either we start building wrong mental patterns based on fear and sabotage our efforts.

The way you get a right mental set up is by learning to become a more aware and conscious being. I wrote about it here. When your body, emotions, and mind are in harmony, you begin to operate from a place where you are aware of your awareness. Where from moment to moment you intuitively sense your presence. This is a space that is free from our usual ways of thinking. Usually we are totally identified to our thoughts that we spend most of our day inattentivelya subtle form of self-hypnosis. Creating the space to freely self observe we don’t identify to our past memories so easily, so they don’t dictate the actions we take in the moment. Seeing our minds conditioning in operation (meditation) we can be less contradictory in our behaviors. In our inner space we feel integrated, which means we can act with integrity, and I don’t mean simply moral conditioning.

When we are not taking responsibility for making our dreams a reality, we unconsciously decide that we will only keep the fantasy, so when life gets a little tough, we can use this fantasy as a way to keep us on the hamster wheel. The proverbial carrot on a stick.

If you want wealth in your life you need to take responsibility to make it, live it, and celebrate it.

Coming back to the NBA documentary we observe how many people in society have wealth but lack integrity, and through our own experiences we see that people with integrity don’t have any wealth. This can lead us to have an inaccurate view and attitude towards  wealth.

When you make money without integrity you will not be able to really enjoy it. You become wealthy mainly by exploiting and manipulating others. You may gain the whole world, but lose yourself in the process. So what have you really gained? Wealth created through integrity brings fulfillment to you and your life’s purpose. This is the route that I plan on taking.

We need to learn to manage our wealth responsibly. Through out the last few years I have learned that I need very little material comforts to be content. I would rather use my money to travel. I have very little possessions. If I acquired any significant amount of wealth I would use it to help empower people. To set up meditation and yoga centers.

Many of us come to terms to living a life without wealth because we are afraid we will become arrogant or an ego-maniac.

What we also need to understand is that poverty is equally capable of making you arrogant. In all reality poverty might actually even make you more arrogant. We may even start enjoying poverty or justifying ourselves for the self sympathy it brings us. It is easy to think that when you are in poverty you have not done anything wrong, so naturally you will not take responsibility for the things you are fully capable of doing.

When you are thinking of wealth, all day observe what relationship you are building towards wealth. If you don’t like what you observe, take responsibility for it. Own it.

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4 Responses to What Do NBA and NFL Players Teach Us About Our Relationship To Money?

  1. What a fantastic post Ivan! Money has always been a touchy subject for me. This post really made me realize what a bad attitude I have towards money.

  2. Ivan your website is fantastic. I’ve been going through some tough times and been delving into spiritual work for many years with many layers still needing to be peeled off and your website always seems to put me back into the zone.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Breath of fresh air!

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