What People Want: 8 Things Money Can’t Buy

January 14, 2013

You may remember the Mastercard commercials that ran on television several years ago. Each one depicted a family having a wonderful (and expensive) excursion together. The punchline informed us, “there are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s Mastercard.” The subliminal message may have been that if you spend enough money, you can buy a priceless experience. Regardless, I thought the ads were brilliant. (Who doesn’t want a priceless experience with people they care about?) But they really begged the bigger question: what exactly are the things that money can’t buy?

Dollar Bill

Last week’s leadership profile introduced America’s “Master of Motivation,” the late Zig Ziglar. Ziglar realized early on that if you are going to talk about motivation, it’s crucial to know what’s important in the first place. After mulling it over in excruciating detail, Ziglar finally identified eight things that all people want, no matter who they are. They are shared them in his book Success for Dummies and I’d like to share them here with you as well.

What People Want

People want to be happy.

People want to be healthy.

People want to be reasonably prosperous.

People want to be secure.

People want to have friends.

People want to have peace of mind.

People want to have good family relationships.

People want to have hope that the future will be even better.

What You Can Do About It

You’ll notice that none of these things can be purchased with money (like Mastercard used to say). So what can you and I do about it?

As I shared last week, Ziglar’s life motto was this: “You can have anything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” This means there are two specific things we can begin to do immediately.

Identify the people you want to serve. They could be your customers, employees, stakeholders, constituents, members, audience, spouse, children, etc. We rub shoulders with so many different individuals and groups of people each day. We may not be able to give everyone everything they want, but we can do something for someone. It all begins by identifying who we can serve.

Identify one of the eight things on the list you can make easier to attain. This is where leadership comes into play. There is always something you can do to give others what they want, whether it is through a product you sell, policy you set, legislation you pass, publication you write, words you speak, time you spend, or many other ways. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an enormous stretch. You are probably doing something already that can be used to benefit others.

An Unexpected Benefit

So what does success look like for you? So often we measure success based on how much money we make, how much stuff we’ve accumulated, what title we have, or how many people we’re in charge of. Taking a fresh look at the things everyone wants – what’s intrinsically important – can help us gauge not only how well we’re serving others, but whether or not we are headed in the right direction ourselves. Instead of aiming for the things money can buy, aim for the priceless.

If you’d like to check out more resources available from Zig Ziglar, visit my previous post here.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or   follow him on Twitter.
  • I think this battle is one we will probably fight all our lives – the struggle to find our value and peace and enjoyment in material things. That’s why the Bible speaks so much about it. For me, it takes a constant re-orienting of my heart and mind to draw me away from materialism.

    • I hear you, Loren. I’m re-reading Truett Cathy’s first book. He says there are many material and spiritual blessings of seeking God, but also shared how in a period of adversity he realized the insignificance of material things. Love one of Ziglar’s sign-off lines, wishing everyone “more of the things money can buy, and ALL of the things money can’t buy.”

  • Great and insightful post! My desire is to serve and add value to my readers and people I have connected with. I think everyone wants to feel believed in and valued.

    • Me too, Dan, and I also think effective leadership helps people be more happy and have more of all the things on the list, which is one reason this site came about.

      • I agree. I’m glad you started to share your thoughts about leadership.

  • I strive to serve other people in my work – both my day job and in my side endeavors. I don’t think either would make me happy if I didn’t have an opportunity to help/serve others in them. I would add finding and being in meaningful work to your list – but the output of that can result in happiness, security, prosperity, and hope.

    • A sense of purpose might be a good one to add. I was thinking time might be good to add, although I guess that’s a misnomer since we all have the same amount of time.

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