Earlier this month I attended the annual Kingdom Advisors conference again. Kingdom Advisors is an international organization of attorneys, accountants and financial advisors who study the Bible’s financial wisdom. This meeting is a highlight of my year because we hear great speakers and learn new insights about making financial decisions that make a difference to others here and now and then echo on into eternity.

Mark Batterson, pastor of the National Community Church located in Washington, D.C., emphasized how many great accomplishments occur so gradually and then suddenly. His first example was the Olympic swimming gold medalist, Rowdy Gaines.

At his peak of maturity, he could not swim in the Moscow Olympics of 1980 because of the US boycott. He still was named the World Swimmer of 1980 because of his world records. When he finally could compete at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he won three gold medals. Before that, he swam over 50,000 miles during 8 years, 50 yards at a time. Overnight success, right?

Pablo Casals, world renowned cellist and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, still was practicing six hours a day at age 96. Why? He said, I am beginning to notice some improvement. There are so many other great examples of the results of persistent attention to improving our talents after decades of discipline.

Most often, we must use our natural talents as a start and then practice endlessly. But consider the story of Spud Webb, the 5’6” basketball player. Beginning in the 7th grade, he was told he was too short to play in junior high competition. But he scored 22 points in his first game. He could dunk when he was still only 5’3” in height. He went on to play in college for Jim Valvano at NC State, and spent 13 years in the NBA. He won the NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1986.

When we see someone financially successful in their mature years, it is easy to think that they must have been born into a wealthy family or had many special breaks. Much more often, that person formed good money management habits earlier in life and then worked and saved, day by day and month by month, toward their later relative wealth. I have known many of those people who never earned more than $50,000 a year (in today’s dollars) and I have known people earning $200,000 for whom it was never enough.

Perhaps it has always been like this, but we are in a get-rich-quickly period if ever there was one. Our state governments encourage poor people to believe their one chance for success is to win the lottery. Even savers, investors, and businesspeople are tempted to reach too far. How many franchised companies have we witnessed that were growing well and then overbuilt using debt? The Fed encouraged this too with its Zero Interest Rate Policy.

Even though I strongly believe in continuous improvement and growth, we should learn to be content with what we have. Instead, we focus our attention upon creating more and better value for our families, customers, clients, and the world. And it is never too late to begin! That is good news.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations)