There’s nothing wrong or immoral about wanting to achieve success. It becomes immoral only when that desire is colored by greed. True success is a natural by-product of Solomon’s wisdom on diligence, communication, partnering, and the other subjects I’ve covered in this book. The key is keeping your efforts to succeed in the right perspective. Be on the alert for warning symptoms of greed; seek the counsel of others who care about you and your family. Doing so will enable you to keep greed from gaining a foothold in your heart and in your life.

Solomon’s Guidelines for Achieving Success Without Greed

Solomon offers several guidelines for acquiring success and wealth.

Focus on achievement rather than money. What do you really want to achieve with your life, your family, your career, or a particular job or project? When you know what you want to achieve, then it’s simply a matter of applying what you’ve learned about diligence and strategy. In Proverbs 14:23, Solomon wrote, "In all labor there is profit. But mere talk leads only to poverty." If you apply true diligence to your labor in any project, you will experience significant success most of the time—as long as your drive for achievement doesn’t cause you to set aside any of your more important values or priorities.

Use your labor to achieve financial success, rather than chasing wealth in other pursuits. Solomon says in all labor there is profit. He tells us to bring diligence and excellence into our labor. My labor is marketing. Warren Buffett’s labor is investing. I have made a lot of money through my work and lost a lot of money by trying to make money in fields outside of my field of expertise. If you bring diligence and excellence into your labors, you will make money. If you apply Solomon’s wisdom to spending (limiting your debt to appreciating assets), then your savings will grow. If you apply his wisdom to investing (seeking a multitude of counselors and not trying to get rich quick), then your investments will grow at a significant rate.

Don’t try to get rich. Solomon clearly teaches us not to set our focus on getting rich. Doing so is the quickest way to go broke. In Proverbs 23:4–5, he writes, "Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle." The times I’ve invested in projects with the intent of getting rich, I’ve lost my investment. On the other hand, when I have kept my focus on achieving goals through my labor, I’ve had more success than I could have ever imagined. Everyone wants to win a lottery. Everyone wants to get rich with as little effort as possible. But for every one out of 50 million people who hold a winning lottery ticket, there are 49,999,999 who throw their tickets (and money) in the trash. The same is true with get-rich-quick schemes. For every winner, there are millions of losers. On the other hand, 100 out of every 100 people who apply diligence and excellence to their labor will ultimately succeed. Although it involves a lot more effort, I like those odds a whole lot better.

Acquire success and wealth the right way, which brings no sorrow. As you work to acquire success and wealth, how can you tell if greed is your driving force? Solomon answers that question in Proverbs 10:22 where he writes, "It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it." If your pursuit of success has caused you to lose your spouse, your children, your values, your ethics, or your integrity, then greed has probably been a driving force. On the other hand, if you achieve success without discarding your values or neglecting your family, then God is free to bless you; and you can escape the sorrows that often accompany success and wealth in today’s culture.