A Life Lesson From Shaquille O’Neal

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Last month, I participated in a conference where ex-NBA great Shaquille O’Neal spoke. Beyond being, literally, larger than life in his physical presence and personality, he has an incredibly refreshing perspective on life, wealth, and what matters. While the event and conversation were geared around real estate investing, it was clear from the outset that his focus in life is giving. This is a man who had legendary success as a professional athlete and continues to be highly successful as a commentator, investor, business owner, marketer, and brand partner. 

At one point during a Q & A session, he was asked what he wanted to do next. His answer was “I’d like to figure out how to solve homelessness for everyone in the world. Nothing makes me sadder than seeing someone sleeping on the street.” If you’d like to see if he puts his money where his mouth is (and have a good laugh in the process) a quick internet search will yield a plethora of videos. 

Shaq is regularly showing up at Walmart to buy groceries for people and investing in organizations that lift people out of poverty. He carries an infectious joy and energy that is most evident when he’s talking about his experiences caring for others and meeting their needs. He has an estimated net worth of $400,000,000 and an incredible amount of influence, connections, and opportunities, but what he is most interested in is doing for others.

There has been a lot of talk, news, analysis, and articles about this current economic environment, recession fears, etc… As I wrote last month, we’re confident this will create some tremendous opportunities, and we’re well-positioned to capitalize on those in partnership with you. However, even that perspective is a luxury. If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that you are in the one percent wealth tier globally or are wealthier than 99% of the world. While many of us are well-positioned to benefit from the investment opportunities that will result from this economic cycle, far more are not. Economic declines tend to disproportionately affect already vulnerable people and can have devastating effects on families, children, and entire communities.

The following is an excerpt from a manuscript published on the National Library of Medicine website: “Two recent reviews have concluded that economic crises tend to have stronger negative effects on the mental health of people with lower income or education, people without secure employment, and women (Glonti et al., 2015; Zivin, Paczkowski & Galea, 2011). To the extent that these groups overlap with the groups who were more likely to experience hardships during the Great Recession (e.g., lower levels of income or education), vulnerable Americans may have suffered the worst of the adverse effects of recession hardships on mental health (World Health Organization, 2011).”

Wealth is a privilege and a responsibility. You are wealthy. I am wealthy. What we do with our wealth matters. Shaq is a tremendous example of this, and I know many of you are as well. I’ve talked to you about the non-profits you’re a part of, the foundations you’ve started, or the medical missions you’ve volunteered for. 

A wise man once said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” For practical purposes, “happier” can be substituted for “more blessed.” I’d like to encourage each of you to be thoughtful about the opportunities this time will present in caring for others. What may be a relatively small contribution of your finances or time can have a massively positive impact on another person’s life and make you happier in the process. It’s a terrific win-win.