When my father was killed, on Labor Day 2013, I decided that “work your way to wealth” would not be my work-life model.
You see, my dad was the quintessential American black man. A highly respected Army vet, he went back to Mobile, AL after his tours to take care of his parents – and really, our whole family.
My dad was “that guy” – you know, the one who everyone knew they could call, at any time, and he would find a way or make one.
For as long as I can remember, my dad worked hard. He told me that if I wanted anything great in life I had to work hard for it, too. The thing was, I watched him sideline his greatness – he was tremendously talented in poetry, math, and craftsmanship – for the kind of work that kept him tired, drained, and on a constant hamster wheel.
I remember my father working so much that he missed my wedding day. We only asked a few family members to be there – but he couldn’t because he “had” to work.
I decided that I never wanted work to be something I had to do – but something that I get to do. I had no idea how it could happen, but I knew that it was possible once I’d made the decision.
I decided that I never wanted work to be something I “had to” do – but something that I get to do.
The day my father died he was in litigation against his employer for discrimination. Imagine that. After years of being one of their most valuable leaders. After late nights and early mornings dragging himself from bed. After missing the moments that really mattered most to help them put out fires he didn’t create – and build wealth he’d never enjoy.
My dad, like most people, thought he could work his way to wealth. He thought that “one day” it would all pay off. I wish he knew then that his gifts could make room for him.
Work hard to succeed is what the world sells you – but here’s what the Word says: “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own understanding” – Proverbs 23:4
I think about how my father died on Labor Day, but so many days before that his spirit had already died doing work that he probably loved in an environment that didn’t love him back.
“Labour not to be rich: and cease from thine own understanding”– PROVERBS 23:4
Then I think about how so many people are unconsciously dying daily choosing other ways for work to be “hard” and looking down on those who refuse to get on the “hustle” train.
I remember my father picking me up from my (then) job on day in early fall. I was a newly single mom, working until I figured out how to not clock in, and he was none-too-pleased at me even considering leaving a “decent job”. We got into a heated debate (not uncommon for us – at all 😂) about his perception of my hustle – well really, lack of hustle.
See, while working hard got my dad a comfortable life, it didn’t give him freedom. It didn’t give him ease. And those were things that were top priority for me, even then. I needed to have the freedom to walk away from a situation where I wasn’t being valued without feeling pressed or anxious. I craved the ease of being able to take days off, enjoy my children’s childhood, and deeply dive into bettering myself and our legacy
–– all things that my father desired but didn’t have the time that he thought he’d have to actually do.
Listen, the conversation on redefining black wealth isn’t an indictment of the 9-5 life. It’s an indictment of a lifestyle that takes away your freedom to live your life full out.
If he knew he could define work on his own terms, my dad would’ve spent more time being a paw-paw (even at 45 he loved being called paw-paw), he would’ve gone on more vacations, and finally finished that book he always said he’d write.
But like so many, he did what he had to do.
Taking his legacy to levels that he didn’t know he could is my every day motivation to redefine how we do wealth creation, family building, and daily joy.
That’s why, instead of preaching hustle, I teach ease. Because being truly wealthy means that the hardest work that you should ever do is the work you do on you. Being wealthy means that when the world is going left and your spirit says “go right”, you can – because you prioritized freedom over comfort.
Yes, wealth is also having access to resources, and that often requires work – but work doesn’t have to grind away your health, your time, and your zest for doing what makes you feel most alive.
My dad was one month into 45 when he died. This year I’ll be 32. The way that I honor his legacy is by embodying the options he didn’t know he had for living out his dreams with ease and excellence.
How are you measuring and maximizing your true wealth today?