In my last column, I posited three questions pertaining to a meaningful life, and I’m pleased to hear that these questions resonated with so many in our industry. Apparently I am not alone in my view that many have transmuted from optimizing savings to obsessive hoarding. The questions are:

1. Have I ever considered how much is enough?

2. Do I have “contented industry” present in my life?

3. Am I sowing into the future?

I want to share an inspirational story of a young man on a promising career path who has answered these questions for himself and is inspiring others to do the same. John Cortines completed his undergraduate work in chemical engineering at Texas A&M, traveled to Saudi Arabia to study earth sciences, and then worked for Chevron for two years as a deepwater petroleum engineer. 

He was 23 years old at the time, making six figures, and because he lived frugally, was saving a lot of money. John had decided that at the rate he was saving, he would be able to retire at 40, which became his aim. Money had always been the focus in John’s life. He had saved his first $10,000 in high school by mowing lawns, and upon completion of his engineering education, he had saved $100,000. John calculated that the fastest path toward this goal would be to get an MBA and move overseas where, as an expat employee, he could make close to half a million a year––so, off to Harvard Business School he went.

Chevron had taken in over a thousand resumes for a much-sought-after post-MBA program. John was one of three candidates chosen––thereby cementing his post-Harvard plans. At Harvard, his life and career took an unexpected turn from an unexpected university department.

A friend of John’s, Greg Baumer, found a class at Harvard Divinity School called “God and Money,” taught by one of the pre-eminent theologians in the U.S., Professor Harvey Cox (who served as Hollis Professor of Divinity). Professor Cox is the author of When Jesus Came To Harvard and The Future of Faith, among other books. Professor Cox assigned reading from the church fathers, the Scriptures and other texts that the students had never paid much attention to.

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