Recently, it started raining money in California.
On a northbound interstate highway, an armoured-car was transporting sacks full of $1 and $20 bills when the back doors came open.
The sacks fell out and burst, and the turbulence created by the fast traffic caused the money to fly in the air like confetti.
That’s unusual, fair enough, but what happened next was jaw-dropping.
Drivers hit their brakes without thinking, they made emergency stops in the middle of the highway, where traffic was doing 70 mph.
They flung open the doors and abandoned their cars and started scrabbling on the tarmac to grab notes, clutching them out of the air, off the road, whooping and screaming.
The second they saw the money they just lost all rational thought, stopped their cars where they were and started snatching at it.
More and more drivers joined in, more and cars were backed up along the highway.
Luckily no one was hurt, but the drivers on the ground were oblivious anyway, the instant they saw the money all rational thought left their heads.
I like money as much as anyone, but FFS use your brain.
Supposing you manage to grab twenty $20 bills that’s $400.
Meanwhile, the car that you’ve abandoned in the middle of the highway gets totalled by a massive truck, that’ll cost you around $20,000.
Or supposing your car causes a wreck in which someone dies, or supposing while you’re on your knees grabbing money you get hit by a truck and die.
You can’t grab enough $20 bills to pay for that.
But for some people the sight of free money supersedes everything else.
See, here’s the thing about money, it isn’t magic – those bits of paper have no actual value themselves, the only value they have is what you can exchange them for.
So before you stop the car and scrabble around on the road just think for a millisecond, are those few bills worth what it could cost?
I could maybe understand if this was a run-down section of town where people had nothing, but it wasn’t, it was an interstate highway full of expensive cars.
And people with a belief that money was magic tokens that automatically delivered everything you could possibly desire.
Some of those people just slammed their car door with the keys inside as they ran to grab the money, so the cars were locked on the highway and couldn’t be moved.
The police arrested them and had the cars towed away, the fines will amount to more than whatever they collected.
The police used the news media to explain that this wasn’t free money, it was theft: “If a truck carrying TV sets drops them on the highway, you can’t just grab the TVs and take them away” a spokesman said.
But money is like a drug that bypasses the brain.
The police explained there was lots of footage of car number-plates and the faces of the people taking the money, if the money wasn’t returned in 48 hours those people faced prosecution.
Gradually, reluctantly, some of the money began to trickle back.
People tend to see money as an end-point, the standard that all things must be measured against, the final goal.
But for us, it doesn’t make sense to just chase money.
If we do great work money will follow, so it makes sense to chase the work.
But I’ve seen people chase the money – they were doing great work, so they got offered more money elsewhere, so they left and went for the money.
Suddenly they weren’t doing such great work anymore, so the money dried up, now they don’t have the work or the money.
See, if you’ve got great work you’ve got a great portfolio, and that will always sell.
But if all you have is the fact that you used to earn a lot of money, well you can’t put that in your portfolio.
Hence, money is a by-product not an end-product – QED.