Author and businessman, Tim Brown, knew what it was like to live The American Dream. But then everything came crashing down. A number of years ago, amidst his struggling marriage, the collapse of his ventures and his declining health, Tim contemplated ending his life while on a business trip. He spotted a location on the roof of the hotel he was staying and pondered his jump. In a fascinating interview I did with him – which captures the essence of his book Jumping Into The Parade: The Leap of Faith that Made My Broken Life Worth Living - Tim discusses how these struggles helped him truly live, take chances and become the person he really wanted to be.
You talk in your book about becoming a millionaire by age 30 with a beautiful wife, a young son and all the trappings of success. But then things in your life started to head in a less than favorable direction. Talk to us about this
I think there are a lot of messages baked into that question. For starters, I believe the real problems we face can’t be fixed with money. This is something that we all learn at different points in our life. Just looking back at becoming a millionaire at 30, I am often reminded that whenever you connect your worth to a scoreboard, you have fallen into a really dangerous trap.
So where did ‘money’ come into this equation?
Personally, making money was never about me being rich, and it still isn’t. It has always been about not being poor. Those are two very different mindsets.
Can you elaborate on that?
Glad to. As I look back, I can honestly say that money for me was about security and safety. So much of my life was based on choices that my parents made, involving frequent family moves which left me feeling unsafe and disconnected. To me, money represents the type of security and stability that has allowed me not to be at the mercy of another person’s decisions. Moreover, it helped set the course for my own value proposition here on earth in that it kinda proved to the world that I had worth.
And as I recall from the book, you struggled with depression?
I sure did. The depth of this depression hit me hard when I was in my late 30’s. Everything I had worked on in my 20’s was successful. And I also did really well with a lot of what I worked on in my 30’s. But then the demands of my businesses really started to take their toll, and it was only a matter of time before the powder keg went off.
What about self-worth?
It is important for all of us to remember that our self-worth is not necessarily connected to our work life. Your worth is about your character and your capacity for learning, serving, helping others and growing your soul. It can be a real wake-up call when we find that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is empty and that we have spent much of our life being on this quest. For me as a kid, I envisioned marrying a beautiful wife, having a family, a great house and security and that all of this would be delivered through money. While money certainly helps for sure, I’ve seen just as many people with a lot of money live unfulfilled lives. It can corrupt people because they let it become their God. And it can become an enabler of ego which can cloud one’s judgement and humility.
I hear what you’re saying. But the reality is that our identity often gets tied into money
For sure. That why so many of us stay in a job that we don’t like. And then when a person gets laid off from their position, they implode versus viewing it as an opportunity to create something new. So all of this becomes a question of “Who are you, when that nice job gets removed?”
Take, for example, when you are at a party or social event. Inevitably, among the first questions a person will ask you is “What do you do?” Sadly, this question is meant to size you up and place you in a box so that they can define you, based mainly on what you do.
So how do you respond to a question like this?
I answer these questions this way: “I’m a father who loves to spend time with my kid on the baseball field; I am dating this wonderful friend whom I want to marry; she has three children, and we do a lot of things together; I enjoy giving back and serving in charitable capacities; I wrote a book.” By stating it this way, I don’t give the questioner the luxury of taking my power away by having me talk about my job and, indirectly, my income. That’s not at all who I am as a person.
I bet you get some interesting reactions?
No doubt. It really knocks people off kilter because they have been trained to overcome nervousness and unease in a social setting by asking the “What do you do?” question. But to answer it directly would give the questioner an incomplete picture of who I am as a person.
And you never let on to others about your millionaire status?
I’ll admit to the fact that in my mid-thirties, I let money get to my head. Not that I was belligerent about it or outwardly mean to people, but I definitely let my ego take over. In retrospect, there are some people to whom I could have shown a better side of myself.
In terms of wealth, can you give us a brief snapshot of your investment philosophy?
I’m a big fan of real estate. It’s the oldest and most reliable investment vehicle because of the fact that people need a place to live. I also love having money in equities like the stock market, master limited partnerships and real estate investment trusts (otherwise known as REITS). It’s also been fun over the years to invest in smaller companies, working among people with whom you’re able to establish a degree of trust. These relationships can become a win-win scenario where an income stream is created from someone trying to get a business off the ground. And its also satisfying to own a little piece of that business.
What about hard assets?
I think it never hurts to own gold and silver. I have owned both for a long time. What’s nice about these is that they hold their value well over time. They always have worth, and they are not tied to traditional monetary systems which, as we all know, can be manipulated.
Money aside, how do you define success?
One way – and that is peace. In other words, how do I feel on the inside? When I’m tired, spent and hurting at the end of the day, I don’t define that as success. It’s about peace and joy… that’s success. If used thoughtfully, money does one thing really well and that is it gives us time. We can’t buy more time, so having the ability to do things that bring us joy and peace is pretty special.
One final question. What advice do you have for those of us seeking to create wealth while maintaining a sense of joy in other aspects of our life?
I honor The American Dream and capitalism, and I believe there are opportunities out there for anyone seeking to manifest what’s in their heart. It’s all about loving what you do, showing up powerfully, and doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. Sure, you can lose everything, including all of your money, but you can’t afford to lose your good reputation. So always be honorable and ethical about how you go about life and how you conduct yourself – because it does matter.
Find out more information about Tim and his book HERE