What Is Wealth?

Wealth is subjective.

Each of us defines wealth in our own way.

For many, wealth is about financial independence. For others, wealth is about status symbols: Owning or possessing material goods that are desirable according to the norms of a particular social group.

Wealth can also be measured in personal relationships. Most people, regardless of socio-economic status consider themselves wealthy if they have a life that’s rich in friendship and connection.

For most of us, myself included, wealth begins with relationships, community and connection. But it also extends into the realm of financial independence.

Wealth is also relative.

What is wealthy in one context is poverty in another, and what is poverty in one social system can be classified as wealthy in comparison to others.

A poverty-level subsistence monthly income in the United States will vastly exceed the annual subsistence income needs in other places.

We all recognize this relativity, even if our financial and economic system makes arbitrary and artificial distinctions that do not reflect the reality of context.

Define & Create Your Future

I recently wrote a post called 10 Things We Should Be Teaching College Students. That post was inspired, in part, by the amazing opportunity we have today to embrace an entrepreneurial spirit and create and deliver products and services that provide value for others while generating income that leads to financial independence.

Earlier in my professional life, I took steps to pursue a life as an entrepreneur but we had many more constraints in those days. It's exciting to see the new opportunities available to nearly everyone today for nominal capital investment.

Today, it’s possible to set up a self-hosted WordPress site for less than $75 per year and, with creative ideas and motivation, build a business. The infrastructure costs that I faced in 1990 and 2000 have largely evaporated. Some businesses still require significant capital, but even those see lower and lower costs.

In 2000 I was writing about the future of the fabrication industry for Fabrication Equipment News. 3D printing was a glimmer on the horizon. Today, it’s a reality.

Entrepreneurship Enables Connection And Builds Communities

The wonderful thing about financial independence is that it enables connection. When we have time to spend with family and friends we can nurture each other, support each other, and build relationships that bring us true wealth.

When we are financially independent we can operate outside the command-and-control corporate structures where all the profits created by the efforts of labor flow upward and outward.

When we are financially independent we can chart our path and create the life we want, rather than selling our time for dollars. Yes, it requires work. But the reward is worth the effort.

Are You Ready To Get On The Path?

If you’re interested in improving relations, connecting with others, or learning more about the new opportunities for charting a course toward financial independence, I hope you’ll sign up for my newsletter. It’s about your path to health, wealth, wisdom and a happy life.

Starting in mid-December I’ll be sending out a weekly newsletter update that includes tips and ideas for building a business, as well as growing relationships online and off.

Leave your email below to subscribe. It’s free. I hope you'll join me on this journey.


Related Stories


Health Inspire

What Is Health?

Health is one the three pillars of a life well-lived.

Health is more than the absence of serious disease. Health goes beyond the physical capacity to perform certain activities. Although physical capacity is an important signifier of health, it is not enough

We are healthy when we are performing at our optimal physical, mental and emotional capability.

Health is about about wellness, well-being and the body’s ability to repair itself, to fight off germs and overcome or prevent cell mutations.

It breaks my heart to see so many people, young and old, battling chronic conditions that are largely the result of lifestyle and diet choices.

I’m not arguing that every health problem is the result of diet or lifestyle or environmental triggers. But the vast majority of sickness and chronic conditions are lifestyle and diet-related, exacerbated or hastened by the environmental toxins and chemicals that surround us.

Real Food

I’ve written elsewhere about my choice to give up fast food on August 1, 2003. And I’ve written elsewhere about how fortunate I was to grow up with parents who preferred to cook and eat real food at home. I’ve also been relatively active for most of my life, despite having a desk job for most of my life and a largely sedentary work environment, at least 9 months of each year.

The lessons I’ve learned from what might be called my healthy-lifestyle experiment is this: It is possible to arrive at mid-life without experiencing high blood pressure, diabetes, joint pain, chronic inflammation, high levels of bad cholesterol and similar conditions. I don’t have any of those problems and I am truly blessed in that regard. But I don’t attribute the absence of those conditions to mere chance or genetics.

I truly believe that my health today is the direct result of my diet, physical activity and commitment to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night. My diet is one that emphasizes real food with an emphasis on legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and reasonable quantities of good dairy products. Meats and poultry are the exception rather than the main dish.

I’ve never been a purist about diet, with the exception of my commitment to no fast food for the past 10 years and my lifelong avoidance of most manufactured “candy favors” or those things like Swizzles and gummy bears (which I’ve never tasted). I see nothing wrong with eating a quality dessert or home-baked goodies, if I feel like it.

The point is that it’s not necessary to become a rabbit, a vegan or a paleo-something to have a health diet. All that’s required is a commitment to eating a varied diet comprised of real foods, minimally processed.

Physical Activity

Similarly, physical activity doesn’t require running marathons. It doesn’t even require running. But aerobic exercise is important. Walking at a fast pace for at least 30 minutes each day will suffice for heart health. More aerobic exercise is probably needed for weight management, at least for some people, but the right food in the right quantities combined with reasonable walking each day will eventually get you to a healthy weight.

Stretching is also important, whether it’s slow stretching in your living room or yoga in a group.

And weight training can be a big help, especially for women over 30. We start to lose physical strength if we don’t do some resistance or weight training.


Sleep is the third element of good health. Sleep might be the key to health. Actually, sleep probably is the most important of the three pillars of health.

Without adequate sleep, quantity and quality, we have a much harder time controlling our appetites. When we’re tired we’re more likely reach for a sugary, fatty snack. Lots of research supports this. I’m writing this in a place without good internet access, so I can’t provide links to the research immediately, but I’ll come back to this topic and share that research later.

It’s also a lot harder to muster the willpower to go for a walk or a run or other workout when we’re tired. And, in my experience, I can handle stress a lot better when I’m well-rested. If I have a poor night’s sleep or don’t get enough sleep due to travel schedule or something similar, I find that little annoyances will be more annoying and bigger stressors will bother me much more.

Over the coming months I hope to inspire you to join me on the path to health, wealth and wisdom by providing a guide to achieving optimum health. I’ll be sharing my own experiences, as well as the advice of health and wellness experts who can provide evidence-based insights about the importance of food choices, physical activity and sleep in overall well-being and disease prevention.

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Starting in mid-December I’ll be sending out a weekly compilation of my blog posts, along with bonus information related to health, food, nutrition and lifestyle. It’s all designed to help you along your path to health, wealth, wisdom and happiness.

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Happy Thanksgiving!



Do You See The Unexpected?

Today's post was going to be about health. But I'm postponing that for a day to share a story I heard this afternoon.

It started like this: “What important historical event happened on this day 150 years ago?”

I was in a meeting with about 40 college professors. No one could answer correctly.

A: The  event was the Battle of Missionary Ridge, a seemingly-minor, yet pivotal battle in the Civil War. The Union victory in that battle paved the way for Sherman to march on to Atlanta. Our speaker pointed out that had the Union been unsuccessful in capturing Atlanta, Lincoln probably would not have won re-election. And that would have changed the outcome of the Civil War.

The point Steven E. wanted to make wasn't really about Civil War history, but rather our tendency to allow cultural norms to obscure our perception or cognizance of important events.

As it happens, Steven E. grew up on Orchard Knob, the site of a small hill where Union troops surprised Confederates and dug in to make victory possible . Yet Steven said he learned nothing about the Battle of Missionary Ridge until he visited a memorial to Ulysses S. Grant in New York City while in grad school.

His point was that the cultural norms identified with the Confederate viewpoint, so the local history did not honor the pivotal Union victory. The importance of the sight was obscured, except to those who were interested in Civil War history.

So Steven encouraged us, as faculty, to keep in mind that we all wear blinders and can fail to notice the seemingly obvious, because we are focused on what we deem important.

As I listened to Steven recount this story, I was struck by how relevant it is to where I want to take this blog as we journey together along the path to health, wealth and wisdom.

Wisdom comes from experience (you'll hear me say this often), but it's not just about experience.

Wisdom comes when we combine experience with the willingness to see what we might not otherwise see. When we see with our hearts, as well as our eyes. When we see with our intuition, not just the stated facts. But we can't simply rely on intuition, either, because our intuitions are usually clouded by cultural norms and expectations.

[Tweet “Wisdom comes when we learn from unexpected experiences:”]

We must remember that we humans tend to see what we want to see. And so we must make a conscious effort to take off our blinders and see the world, the unexpected opportunities and the potential that surrounds us.

If we only see what we expect to see, we lose the blessing of surprise, of serendipity, of the unexpected.

As I finished typing the first section of this post and began to shift to the lessons to learn from this story, I thought of this psychological experiment in selective attention:

Watch the video and leave a comment telling me the number of times the players wearing white pass the basketball:

Discover Inspire

Are You A Cat In Gloves?


It all started with earthworms. ‘Erms, I called them.

Or maybe it was a bunny rabbit.

My mother insists that I cannot remember the rabbit. She says I was much too young, not even a year old. I can see the rabbit, in my mind’s eye. Who knows if this a real memory or just my imagination?

It  might've been olives.

My mother says I loved them, even as a toddler. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t love olives.

Earthworms, olives and a rabbit. Seemingly disparate, yet revealing a common thread.

I distinctly remember sitting on the edge of a pier grabbing a handful of night crawlers—fishing worms—from a bucket. My great aunt and uncle, Maedru and Tab, were fishing and watching me while my young parents waterskied on Wilson Lake on the Tennessee River. I was curious.


It’s the core of who I am, my defining character trait.

Curiosity is why I can’t stop learning, why I’m never bored.

In a world where the powers-that-be insist that we play by institutionalized rules and conform to a pre-defined, “normalized” structure, curiosity can be a detriment.

A tiny bit of curiosity is tolerated—they say it shows interest and commitment. But stray across a narrow boundary into a paradigm where silos are ignored and chasms traversed and the curious label will brand you with a mark akin to Hester Pryne’s scarlet letter A.

That’s because curiosity leads to exploration and discovery and makes it possible to connect dots that the less curious are unable or unwilling to see.

Curiosity feeds creativity.

Creative solutions disrupt the status quo.

Those in power like the status quo because in the status quo they wield the power.

Disruption of the status quo means uncertainty and change. And, at least potentially, a change in the power structure. Power brokers allow the reshuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic because it “looks like” creative problem-solving but they always try to squelch real creative solutions. We see this scenario play out repeatedly through faux corporate reengineering, government finance negotiations and academic curriculum revision initiatives.

The demand to normalize and conform to the status quo makes those who are inherently curious and creative problem solvers feel somewhat like Harry Potter confronting the death-eaters.

Curiosity killed the cat.

That’s because the cat was disturbing the status quo.

Think about the context in which that phrase is most often used. It’s when kids are asking too many questions. It has nothing to do with actual cats. It’s a metaphorical statement.

[Tweet “Curiosity killed the cat because the cat was disturbing the status quo.”]

When I was working on my first Ignite Birmingham talk a few years ago I ran across what has become my favorite Ben Franklin aphorism:

A cat in gloves catches no mice.


A cat in gloves is not curious.

A cat in gloves is not brave.

In January of this year, as I continued to reflect on my first 50 years and where I wanted to go in second half of my life, I spent time digging into finding my why. See Simon Sinek if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Everything kept coming back to a sense of wonder, exploration, discovery, driven by my intense curiosity.

I became a lawyer because the Enlightenment and Renaissance-era thinkers that I admired had usually studied law and it seemed to offer a financially-comfortable pathway where I could explore ideas while helping others.

I studied journalism and became a writer because it was a practical opportunity to learn something new through every interview and story.

I became a college professor because I needed to explore, discover and feed my curiosity. I wanted to inspire students and others to become curious and seize the opportunities available to us today.

I became a beekeeper because nature amazes me, inspires me, teaches me.

I teach because I want to inspire others to ask the questions that require answers beyond the superficial explanations and justifications given to keep them/us trapped on a hamster wheel in a false reality feasting on fistfuls of blue pills.

At this point, I find that most people still prefer the blue pill because they believe the status quo offers security and comfort. But I’m optimistic enough to believe that I can lead at least a few others out of the matrix, onto a path to a happy life where we get to discover a new world and a new way, [be]inspired, grow and shine. No pills required.

Are You Curious?

Have you started to wonder if perhaps you are in a matrix designed to numb you into acceptance of your “lot” in life?

Have you let structures, routines, and chores overpower the curiosity you had as a child?

Have you realized something is awry and are looking for change?

Will you join me on the path?



Don’t Be Brave

When I signed up for Chris Brogan’s Brave New Year course one year ago my primary intent was to learn something about how online courses work.

I had an idea for a course and I figured I’d better take a few courses first, to experience the different ways an online course could be structured. Chris’s Brave course was priced reasonably and seemed to offer content that I’d enjoy.

In hindsight, I think it was something more than happenstance that Chris sent out an email promoting the course the same week as my birthday. Since my birthday is in late November, I always use the Thanksgiving holidays as a time to reflect on the past year, my dreams, where I want to go and where I am on the path. 2012 marked a particularly significant birthday for me.

So I purchased Brave New Year on November 26 and the first module landed in my inbox the morning of my birthday.

And that video from Chris Brogan launched me on a journey that has opened my eyes and expanded my vision for the future beyond anything I’d imagined since I was 25.

I wasn’t really looking for bravery, at least not as it’s typically defined. I’ve always been brave in the face of adversity.

But bravery is about more than steadfastness in the face adversity. As Chris says:

The opposite of bravery is not fear; the opposite of bravery is surrender.

Chris Brogan

Bravery is also about living with your whole-heart. We associate bravery with courage and courage is all about heart. The French word courage is derived from the Latin cor, or heart.

I'd already turned the corner but a few years ago I might have been on the verge of surrendering. And the course turned out to be just what needed to kick-start my visioning for another phase of my life.

As I worked through my birthday and December reflections, aided with the questions raised in Chris's Brave course, I started to realize I'd stopped dreaming big. I was dreaming safe. I was dreaming small. I wasn't really dreaming, I was just following directions for a pre-defined path.

I wasn't following my heart.

Deep down, I already knew this. But the times in my past when I’d ventured forth in pursuit of something bigger, I’d stalled either due to my own missteps, procrastination, (perceived?) lack of resources, or maybe just being ahead of the curve.

What I discovered when I worked through that first hour-long Brave video was a renewed enthusiasm for vision, for a specific vision I’d had since childhood. I could sense how I would weave the colorful threads of past experience into a coat I would wear into a new stage of my life.

As I continued into December 2012 and early January 2013, the vision began to coalesce into something more tangible and I took a few more steps on the path.

This week marks the 52nd week since I began the Brave journey with Chris Brogan.

And my first week as an official Instigator.

The most astonishing thing is that I've come to realize over the past year that everything in my life has happened exactly as it needed to happen to prepare me for what comes next.

In Greek mythology, the Moirai–the three fates–control destiny, subject only to the overriding veto-power of Zeus.

In the same way that Dickens offers us the ghost of Christmas past, present and yet to be, the fates sing of things that were, are and will be.

I don't believe we are resigned to live as puppets in a destiny controlled by some external, all-powerful force.

We spin our threads and weave them into own tapestry by the choices we make, the actions we take.

But I also believe that we are inspired and designed to achieve something greater than our individual selfish desires.

When I was 17, I didn't get something I wanted. What I got was so much better. And in that process I was introduced to the symbol of the distaff. What does that matter, you ask?

The irony is, as I that I began writing this post and doing a bit of Wikipedia fact-checking to verify my memories of Greek and Roman mythology, I discovered a thread of connection.

I discovered the distaff is the symbol of weavers in all ancient mythologies and cultures, as well as the three Moira, the fates.

Is it a coincidence that my grandfather owned a cotton ginning company?

In any event, I make the connections because I'm writing my story.

To quote Chris Brogan again:

You are the author of what's coming next.

Another way to put it: You are the one who weaves the tapestry of your life.

[Tweet “”You are the author of what's coming next” says @ChrisBrogan “]

We need to be brave if we're going to weave an original tapestry.

If you want to be brave, you must have courage. You must have heart. You must have love. Because courage comes from love. And as I say in thesis one of my Happy Life Manifesto: It all starts with love.


Over the next few days I'll be sharing some of what I've been working on for the past year, some of what I envision. To be quite honest, some of the details are still a bit nebulous and are unfolding day-by-day.

I'm the author of my story, the weaver of my tapestry, but I don't yet know the ending.

Lesson: Don't seek to be brave if you want to dream to small.

What about you? How's your heart?

What story are you weaving out of the threads of your life? Leave a comment below and lets start a conversation.

And if you're interested in the Brave New Year course you can sign up here. (affiliate link). Chris is offering a 55% discount through December 2, 2013. Use the code OWNIT (case sensitive). Here's where I explain affiliate links, if you aren't familiar with this concept.