Just a Little More?

Fifteen miles from my home is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Its primary claim is the setting for the infamous ride of the Headless Horsemen – the author of which ironically was eventually buried there.

Perhaps less well-known is its status as the resting place of perhaps the richest collection of wealthy individuals this country has known. The names are a who’s who of American wealth — Astor, Dodge, Chrysler, Rockefeller, Watson and Carnegie.  

Most their graves are lavish mausoleums or memorials. Carnegie’s, however, is a little different. It is adorned with a modest Celtic cross — the graves of he and his wife marked by simple grave plates.

And as a symbol of the paradox of wealth, Carnegie’s plot also includes the graves of three others – all long time servants to he and his wife.

Some may see this gesture as an act of kindness and friendship, while others could view it as a sign of inequality and privilege.

In his lifetime, Carnegie could be ruthless. He pressed his advantages, leveraged his power, to skyrocketing levels of wealth.

He believed that a person’s life was to be divided into two halves; the first involved making money and the second giving it away. To that end, Carnegie gave 90% of his fortune away during his lifetime, and the balance when he died (a total of $4.8 billion in today’s dollars). To his only daughter and wife, he left a small trust.  As a result, none of his present day heirs claim his riches, or for that fact his name.

Rockefeller was, if anything, more ruthless in his business practice. His approach to philanthropy was slightly different, as his fortune was both passed down from generation to generation and given away over time. The Rockefeller name and fortune continue – with family assets estimated at $16 billion today.

As a youth, Rockefeller said his goal was to make a $100,000 and live to be a hundred (he made it to 97). 

As an adult, when his wealth had already tacked on three more zeros beyond his goal, a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” His reply, “Just a little bit more.”

Rockefeller’s sentiment may seem cold but does it ,  veer far away from the prevailing thoughts of today? Maximize wealth and advantage while you can, and pass it on to your children. Give what you don’t need away to good causes.

But how much do we need?  “Just a little more”

Recent news underscores the issue with this approach: growing class tensions, parents using bribes to get their children into college, politicians calling for wealth taxes, populist uprisings on both sides of the political spectrum.

Which brings us back to the answer given by Rockefeller a hundred years ago.

What if instead of answering the question, “How much money is enough?”, those same four words were the response to each of these questions?

– How much could we be taxed?
– How much should we give away?
– How much should we share the wealth with those we work with?
– How much confidence should we have in our children to succeed without our help?
– How much should we question how our wealth is acquired?
– How much should we think of others before ourselves?

Just a little more.

Thanks for reading the latest from Moving Up. 

About Tomorrow…

As you may know, tomorrow is #GivingTuesday. This online giving holiday was founded as a way to spur end-of-year charitable giving.
Last year alone, $300 million dollars were raised on #GivingTuesday, with the median gift of $120.
What you may not know is that the organization behind these posts, Moving Up Media Lab, is itself a 501c3 charitable organization and we also will soon be celebrating our seventh anniversary.
During this time individual philanthropists and small grants and contracts from Foundations have funded our work.  This has allowed us to:

  • Conduct one of the largest national studies on our attitudes on the American Dream.
  • Design an online platform for our work (www.movingupusa.com)
  • Share a month long #thx2 campaign encouraging people to share stories of gratitude
  • Develop a curriculum that has been taught in hundreds of of high school students
  • Launch Your American Dream Score that has helped over 550,000 people reflect on their life journey.
  • Deliver almost three years worth of weekly blogs to thousands of readers like you.

More important than the impact demonstrated by the numbers are the stories that people have shared with me over the years.

They prove that when we give people the tools to see their life’s journey in a more complete way, they never see the journeys’ of others in the same way either.

The simple act of reflection can make us more grateful and giving at the same time.
For the first time tomorrow, we will be launching a #givingTuesday campaign of our own. It will undoubtedly be one of tens if not hundreds of requests for your time and money.
I encourage you first to please give to worthy organizations that are directly serving those in need. Some of my favorites are Save the ChildrenDoctors without BordersFamily Independence InitiativeROCA and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
If your resources allow, we hope you can then support the work we are doing at Moving Up Media Lab.  All donations will go towards a Dream Team Fund, which will allow us to pay interns and junior designers to create more programming and content like that mentioned above. More details will follow in tomorrow’s special email.
In the meantime, thank you for all you’ve done to support this work.

We Are Honored

Want to feel good?  Read the definition of honor.  It can be received, given, and felt deeply. It is about respect, reputation, reverence, and integrity. Most importantly it is about recognition. 

Recognition not in the sense of receiving an award but in making sure we see and acknowledge what is important and good around us. 

Yes we can recognize bravery in combat with the Congressional Medal of Honor but we can also honor our mothers by treating them with the utmost respect and living in a way that would bring honor to them.
It is has become easier to see the dishonor around us. When people lie, cheat, steal,  bully, and harm — it is seems somehow more newsworthy and easier to recognize.  
Yet I would argue that there is more honor all around us, if we just take the time to see it.  To make it easier, consider the following examples:
 On Thursday a new class of Truman Scholars were announced. These young men and women were honored for pursuing a career in public service.  What these college students have already accomplished is amazing. Just a few minutes reading some of their bios will give you enough inspiration to last a week.
Fast Company also announced their winners and finalists for their annual World Changing Ideas contest.  We were honored to be included on the list for our work on Your American Dream Score. Just click on a few of the projects honored and you will feel a little better about our country’s future.
If you’re looking for a more regular dose of what is honorable, then check out Nation Swell.  Everyday they share different stories about people worthy of our honor for their efforts to make the world a better place.

But we don’t need to click on a link or read another story to feel or be honored. It just requires us to recognize what is best within and around us. Who honors you? What makes you feel honored?  How do you honor others?  

Among other things, I feel honored when you open and read these newsletters because I respect the time and attention you give them. So thank you, it has been my honor to share them with you. 
Perhaps this note will bring some honor to you as well.  A recognition of what is best in you. If so inclined, honor someone else by sharing this note with them and simply saying, “I thought of you when I read this.”

Either way, I hope you have a truly honorable week.