The first thing to learn about building enduring wealth it’s this:
Don’t be like Scrat.
You know, Scrat; that demented little ratty squirrelly thing from the Ice Age movies?
Come on, don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Scrat exists for one reason and one reason only, to gather more nuts than he can ever possibly eat in his entire lifetime. He pursues this calling with a tenacity that makes Wile E Coyote look like a hobbiest who only chases road runners on the weekend.
Scrat is so utterly obsessed and consumed with getting just one more little acorn he will risk everything, including his own life, to get it. As a consequence he destroys everything, the very ground he stands on – even entire continents – just so he can add one more measly nut to his stash.
The problem is, this sort of blind greed and obsession will always lead to ruin.
The lesson isn’t lost on children. Of course they find Scrat’s antics hilarious, but they’re smart enough, too, to know that the misfortunes that he suffers are self inflicted and that the cause of his own downfall is his blind, uncompromising greed.
How is it a kid as young as three can understand this but so many adults in the world can not? The child knows that Wile E Coyote’s obsession with the Road Runner is unhealthy and that Winnie The Pooh shouldn’t eat honey until his stuffing bursts. Likewise the child can tell you that Scrat already has enough nuts saved for winter and shouldn’t be too greedy. But, because his character is flawed, he is instead compelled to make the same stupid mistakes over and over and over, risking all that he has worked for; his savings, his home and his very life just to get one silly acorn that’s frozen in the ice.
We’re supposed to be the grown-ups yet there are times when we behave every bit as recklessly as the most two-dimensional cartoon characters. So before we ever get into the real nitty-gritty of wealth generation – the so-called grown-up stuff – we should first of all start off with the absolute basics of what not to do. And nobody exemplifies these failings better than Scrat.
1. Be sure what you’re standing on is solid
Scrat’s constantly standing on thin ice, he falls into freezing water and/or gets attacked by prehistoric piranhas, he’s constantly almost drowning or being eaten or dying horribly because he’s so busy chasing after one little nut, he never looks to check if he’s on a secure footing. So, before you run off after your proverbial nut, make sure you’re on solid ground by testing it first. Before running off to your destruction, do your due diligence.
2. Don’t jump off a cliff just to get a nut
This is the classic cartoon gambit, the cartoon character is so obsessed with getting what he wants that he’ll run over the edge of a cliff without realising it. Running out onto thin ice is one thing, but running out onto thin air, surely, is even more stupid. Of course it’s only when he looks down that he realises his predicament and then, and only then, does he succumb to the forces of gravity.
Scrat actually puts an entirely new twist on this. He actually willingly flings himself from great heights on numerous occasions, in full knowledge of the dangers, in order to snatch a falling nut in midair. It seems like pure common sense, and once again a three year old can tell you he’s being stupid, so why would you want to exhibit the same behavior?
3. Don’t risk all the nuts you have just to get one more
People get greedy, ridiculously so. The results are almost always a disaster. Never mind this Gordon Gecko “greed is good” stuff, because he’s just a character in a movie. Greed is an emotion, and a highly irrational one at that. If all that’s motivating you is greed you will be blind to the dangers and make stupid decisions just like Scrat does, risking everything you have to get just a tiny bit more. This is not the behavior of a wealthy person, but that of a reckless gambler who’s forgotten the primary rule of gambling – in the end, the house always wins.
4. Store your wealth securely
In the short Scrat cartoon “Gone Nutty” Scrat’s got all his nuts stored in a hollow tree trunk, millions upon millions of them. He’s only got one more nut to store which he tries to cram into the already-full tree trunk, which then buckles and cracks and he winds up loosing them all.
As any wealthy investor will tell you, diversification is crucial. The rich are great believers not just in having lots of eggs, but having lots of different types of eggs in as many different types of baskets as possible. They then check constantly to make sure everything is as safe and secure as possible and are always ready to shuffle things around at the first sign of volatility.
5. Don’t destroy everything around you
To get just one little acorn Scrat will destroy everything around him. He causes floods, he causes glaciers and mountains to collapse, continents to break up – at one point he even destabilizes the very core of the planet.
Because it’s a cartoon, Scrat always gets his come-uppance, though there are plenty of people out there who happily cause destruction – be it financial, environmental, or anything else that they can to destroy people’s lives – just to make a quick buck. Sometimes they get caught, but not always, sadly. So whatever you do, make sure you do it safely and ethically and with respect for the planet you’re on and the people around you.
6. Enough is enough
When Scrat sees a nut his eyes light up and he squeaks with delight. Forgotten are all the other nuts he’s stored up, he’ll do what it takes for as long as it takes to get one more.
Money can be an addiction, and it can take over everything. Time and time again you see people who don’t know when to quit. They burn themselves out working long hours, from the break of dawn until the early hours of the night they’re still going and going, right through the weekend and the week after that. They’re chasing the money but not actually getting much more of it, all they’re doing is working themselves to exhaustion. Often it’s not just that one person that suffers, everyone else around them suffers too, which is why you must always remember…
7. There’s more to life than nuts
Sound familiar? It should do, because it’s something you hear about again and again. Bitter breakups over money, money taking precedence over love, family, health, happiness – all the things that truly matter. Wealth, after all, is meant to improve the quality of our lives and of those around us. It’s not meant to be a replacement.
So if you want to be wealthy and be as successful in life as you can, don’t be like Scrat. Act wisely, not irrationally, don’t chase after one thing to your detriment, diversify your portfolio and always protect your investments. You should also look carefully at what you’re doing and where you’re going and always make sure you’re on solid ground. At the same time, don’t let your desire for wealth become an overwhelming obsession that destroys everything around you and ruins all the things in life that truly matter. Don’t get left with no money, no friends and no love in your life, standing there with your nuts in your hand.
In other words, don’t be like Scrat.
Ice Age was created by Blue Sky Studios and is distributed by 20th Century Fox