A neighbor and I had an across-the-hedge chat the other day. He’s a little more prominent than I am (which isn’t saying much…but still). He was lamenting the fact that people approach him regularly and want to know what the “Secrets of the Upper Class” are. Most often, he says, they want to know the secret that Old Money knows and uses in order to create and preserve wealth.
His response, to me in private, anyway, was expletive-laden, exasperated, and, I have to admit, somewhat justified. This is a man who works 10 hours a day, five days a week, and a couple of hours on Saturday mornings. (Sundays are reserved for his wife and kids.) He plows most of the profits from his business back into it. He’s constantly looking for investment opportunities to help young entrepreneurs get started, and, let’s be honest, enrich himself. Any luxuries are lavished upon his wife first (she likes antiques) and local charities. “I pay myself last,” he has said.
The concept is known as delayed gratification, and it’s not a new one. You work, and perhaps sacrifice something now, in order to achieve something of greater value in the future.
That’s what my neighbor does, and that’s what a lot of Old Money people do on a regular basis. What transpires during this mental process? How is it good for you? Let me explain.
First of all, choosing a goal that you want to work toward and accomplish, something that requires effort, puts you on the path of Work. This is a vital component for happiness. Work is essential to making things happen. It provides direction for our energies and allows us to provide for ourselves and our families, as well as contribute to the world.
Second, when you select a goal and have to work for it, you will, over time, become very good at making sure that what you are working for means something to you. One or two experiences of working very hard to obtain something, and then finding out you don’t give a hoot about it, well, you’ll get to know yourself very quickly, and learn what’s really meaningful to you.
Simply put: delayed gratification distills the decision-making process.
Delayed gratification builds self-discipline. I’ve heard self-discipline described as ‘doing within while you’re without.’ It’s also simply the ability to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you like it or not. It’s a cornerstone to education and a necessity to living as a functioning adult. Nobody likes it; they just like the results they get.
Finally, delayed gratification builds faith. This faith can be in ourselves, in the importance of our goal, or in our God, whatever religion, deity, or doctrine we adhere to. You’re not going to accomplish much if you don’t have faith. The bigger your belief in yourself, your goal, and your God, the more you are able to accomplish, and the better you’ll handle setbacks.
Delayed gratification is a central element to the Old Money culture. With patience and persistence, it pays huge dividends in terms of quality of life.
It’s not really a secret. It’s really quite simple. Embrace it.