How Do We Measure Wealth?

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” -Nelson Mandela

Steve Ganns,, discusses the real measure of wealth in life.

I know this is a business and tax site, but I am moved to write about Nelson Mandela and talk about how we measure wealth and what wealth is.

Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 and I celebrate. I am dancing because finally a great man died in peace and was not murdered. 

My five favorite famous people that have ever lived or have touched my life the most are Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela. Do you know what these men have in common? They were all arrested. So in today’s world of background checks, these five men could never coach little league or teach at our schools, and yet, in my opinion these are some of the best teachers that ever lived.

These men taught me all I ever needed to know to be happy. I listened to these men:

  • To Jesus about inclusion
  • To Gandhi about living independently of things, not of others but of things
  • To MLK about peace and nonviolence
  • To Mohammed Ali about standing for your convictions even when it costs you money, comfort, and your dream. (I find it amazing that this country took the title of heavyweight champion of the world away from him yet in the streets we continued to call him “champ.”)

And, of course, I listened to Nelson Mandela. Mandela taught me patience, patience and more patience. Like the ocean as it turns stones to mere pieces of sand slowly and patiently.  All the while you know the stone has no chance, you just wish it would happen faster, but a man like Nelson keeps me on pace with how the world sees time and not how Stephen Ganns sees it.

Another thing these five men have in common is that they all were diametrically opposed to the ruling classes and powers of their times but not with anger or rhetoric, but with courage, conviction and steadfastness. They all called for massive changes and were either murdered for their beliefs, thrown in jail or had their dreams taken away.

When we look back at what happened there is an element of shame or worse, we blame the people at that time for being short-sighted. Today, we would never do that! Oh really?

  • What about marriage equality?
  • What about the people who protest against hunger by asking for minimum wage increases and better schools to lift the next generation?
  • Are they being accepted with open arms by the people alive today?
  • Are we taking the side of the disenfranchised today?

If the lives of these five great men haven’t taught us to take the side of the underdog, haven’t taught us to take the side of the disenfranchised and to understand and love our enemies, then we are part of the reason the next great man or woman will be quieted by assassination or imprisonment. Then we have not learned another side of wealth. The wealth of community.

So let’s post our remembrances of Nelson Mandela.  If we are not using his life and the lives of the men I mentioned above or any of our heroes, to draw parallels in today’s world, then Nelson’s life will have no meaning.

We look at Nelson’s fight against apartheid now and say, “Wow, that obviously was wrong.” We look at the legal segregation in the south that Martin Luther King, Jr. protested against and we say, “Wow, that was wrong.” It begs the question, what are we allowing now that will be looked at as wrong later?

That is the message of these great men for me. So please let us include, do not disenfranchise, do not let our wealth own us. Anyone who thinks that they have a right to their possessions or freedoms because of the laws set up by a country or a government does not understand the teachings of these people.

Freedom is something that is in our souls when we are not owned by ANYONE or anything, but at the same time deeply tied by a human bond to EVERYONE! Nelson was freer in jail than many people walking the streets today!

These are the lessons that we need to remember if, in our pursuit of worldly things, we are going to remain happy. We all know wealthy people who are unhappy. So I present this as a teaching moment, because wealth without happiness is poverty of the soul.

RIP Nelson Mandela

Stephen J. GannsStephen J. Ganns, CPA


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