Greyhounds are beautiful creatures. Tall, and sleek; powerful yet graceful. They are built for speed and born to run. For this reason greyhound racing is a popular sport in many places.
To ensure that racing greyhounds are motivated to run a lure of some kind must be used. At one time live rabbits were released on the track ahead of the hounds but this lead to understandable ethical concerns for the safety and well-being of the rabbits. This problem was solved in 1912 when Owen Patrick Smith invented the mechanical hare, an artificial rabbit that travels around the racetrack on a rail ahead of the hounds.
Like human athletes racing greyhounds reach their peak fairly early in life. Most greyhounds retire from racing between the ages of four and six years old. After their racing days are over retired greyhounds are often adopted by families as pets.
Preacher and theologian Fred Craddock tells the story of visiting his niece whose family had adopted a retired racing greyhound. The dog seemed happy and content in retirement. Finding himself alone with the hound Craddock took the opportunity to interview him:
“Uh, are you still racing any?”
“No, no, no, I don’t race anymore.”
I said, “Do you miss the glitter and excitement of the track?”
He said, “No, no.”
I said, “Well, what’s the matter? You got to old?”
“No, no, I still had some race in me.”
“Well, did you not win?”
He said, “I won over a million dollars for my owner.”
“Then what was it, bad treatment?”
“Oh, no, they treated us royally when we were racing.”
I said, “Then what? Did you get crippled?”
He said, “No, no, no.”
I said, “Then what?”
And he said, “I quit.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said. I quit.”
I said, “Why did you quit?”
And he said, “I discovered that what I was chasing was not a real rabbit. And I quit.” He looked at me and said, “All that running, running, running, and what I was chasing, not even real.”
This is likely to be the outcome for us if we spend all our energy accumulating money or the material possessions it can buy. Like the greyhound, even if we are successful we are likely to be unfulfilled and unhappy. This is because, in a sense, money and possessions aren’t real; or at least not really a part of us. They are separate from our true selves and not capable of providing purpose and meaning in our lives. Living life with the sole goal of accumulating wealth is an unfulfilling chore, and, as with the greyhound, the end result will be frustration and disillusionment.
On the other hand, when we discover our purpose first, financial planning can be an exciting and invigorating experience. Mitch Anthony states, “We don’t live life purposefully by expending everything we have toward gathering the most money possible, and just hope that something meaningful happens on the way. We live life purposefully by investing on purpose – deciding up front why we want the money, and deploying those means in a fashion that fuels meaningful pursuits.”
George Kinder adds, “Money is about us. It’s meant to be the great facilitator between the world and us – the facilitator of our becoming and being who we want to be, doing the things we love, bringing all of our vitality, all of our passion and heart into being.”
When we see money in its true light, as a tool to help us live a meaningful life and not an end in itself, saving and investing take on new purpose, power and excitement. Kinder adds, “Financial work should have tremendous meaning to each of us, because it is the work that helps us articulate what we are most passionate about, and then it is the work that puts the financial architecture in place for us to become the people we truly want to be.”
When we approach personal finance in this way we will be chasing after something that is real. Otherwise, all of our financial plans will amount to nothing more than running, running, running after mechanical rabbits.