Would you enjoy working with an investment advisor who is paid for the number of trades she recommends whether or not you make any profit? What do you think of a teacher who is paid even if his students learn nothing? Would you frequent a store that charges you for trying on clothes whether or not you buy anything? These are examples of simple transactions in which the interests of the two parties are not aligned.
The sales professional who works on a commission-only basis with no salary ceiling is a great example of interests that are aligned. When his employer prospers, so does he. When he prospers, so does his employer. Whether you are interviewing job-seeking candidates or whether you are applying for a position, clearly understanding this powerful principle is invaluable. It is equally valuable in running a marriage or family. Part of effective leadership is persuading people that you are all ‘on the same team.’ In any interaction, focusing on merging everyone’s interests increases the probability of a successful outcome.
This vision of economic interaction in which both sides prosper is completely at odds with the socialistic worldview in which every economic transaction is viewed with suspicion. According to the secular materialist, if a storekeeper is happy with the sale, the customer was exploited. If a customer walks out smiling, he must surely have ripped off the storekeeper. However, in God’s view of human economic interaction, the ideal transaction benefits both parties.
We learn this idea from a surprising source. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that in the stages of life, fifty years old is well suited for imparting advice. The Scriptural basis for this stems from the few verses declaring that Levites should actively serve in the Temple from the ages of twenty-five to fifty. Knowing that a chapter in my book Thou Shall Prosper disparages retirement, many people have written to me asking if the Levites retire at age fifty. Nothing could be further from fact. After their fiftieth birthdays, their tasks changed. No longer involved in the day-to-day responsibilities of the Temple, they were busier than ever advising and guiding their brethren. (Numbers 8:24-26) They were uniquely suited to this assignment. Why?
Here is the key fact about the Levites: They received no portion of ownership in the Land of Israel. Instead, they lived exclusively on a tithe from the income of the rest of the nation. (Numbers 18:21). Their interests were perfectly aligned with those of all Israel. When they blessed Israel, the blessing was genuine and whole-hearted. When Israel prospered, so did the Levites.
Would you rather seek advice from someone who cares for your success as much as you do or from someone who views you as unimportant or a rival? Clearly, advice from someone whose interests are aligned with yours is worth more than advice from an indifferent stranger, or worse, from someone who benefits when you fail.
After twenty-five years of prospering or suffering based on the financial successes or failures of others, the Levites completely internalized the message that their interests paralleled those of the children of Israel. They were ideally poised to offer sincere advice to others from an attitude of genuine concern. While the Temple no longer stands and while we are not all Levites, we can all benefit by learning from their experience. Before offering advice to anyone, whether our children or our business colleagues, we must be sure that our interests are aligned with theirs. Just as importantly, we must be sure that they know and believe this to be true. The more our happiness and achievements mesh with the happiness and achievements of others, the more we all thrive.
This type of Biblical principle is highlighted in my hot-off-the-press book, released this week. Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance picks up where Thou Shall Prosper: The Ten Commandments for Making Money leaves off and reveals God’s plan for personal prosperity. It’s not that God wants us to be rich, but He does want us all to behave in ways that produce prosperity. Among these ways is recognizing that our economic well-being is intertwined with the economic well-being of others. I am delighted to make it possible for everyone to tap into ancient Jewish wisdom and discover tips and techniques for success. In these difficult economic times, going back to the Source is priceless.
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