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Health and Wealth, Winners and Losers
October 14, 2003

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What’s the relationship between health and wealth?

I imagined myself standing before a large audience of exceedingly wealthy men and women whose principal focus was money, its investment, protection and yield. Though sprinkled with young faces and minds, the attentive crowd revealed the posture, profile and anxious eyes of folks at least in their middle years.

I, myself, joined them in the acceptance of youth-gone-by and the tentative embrace of years-to-come. Rich and poor, we’re finally attended by age, a solemn companion whose favor we doubt. In his possession he carries wisdom, appreciation and grace, and prudently dispenses these gifts to the worthy, the hardy and trim figures aglow with life.

In the other hand, the ever-present attendant totes aches and pain and a variety of ailments that impede our progress and diminish our joy. He applies his goods with generous return to the puffy and red-faced, the faltering and least prepared. The men and women who neglect their health and strength do not do well in dispute with advancing age. Come to think of it, neither do the careless youth. Both invariably lose.

The restless, imaginary gathering quieted as I adjusted the mike and readied myself to speak. What would he say, this reluctant outsider, this fellow whose only stock was in a pile of old Muscle Builder magazines worth several hundred dollars on eBay, and an original autographed poster of Steve Reeves, Hercules Unchained? Whatever. A stray from the normal money-talk can be a grateful relief in the middle of a three-day seminar discussing hedge-fund evaluations and ten-year bond considerations. Speak up, big fella, and throw in a laugh or two. It’s almost time for cocktails.

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor and a pleasure to meet with you and I hope you are remarkably well.

How often we convey our good wishes to one another with neither thought nor meaning. I say, “How are you?” and you say, “Fine,” and barely an eye or emotion is raised. We’re all fine, just dandy, a little stern, sometimes angry, but always pressing on and gallant, a smile displaying teeth available at a moment’s notice.

On the other hand, I say, “How’s the bond market?” and you remove your spectacles, cross your arms and look off to the future and beyond as deepening facial creases reconstruct your expression. You begin to speak, but shake your head, laugh imperceptibly and shrug your shoulders instead. You expressed a lifetime of pain, experience, optimism and wonder in an intense and fleeting moment; you shared the depth of your soul, your past, present and hopes for the years to come; you almost reached out and revealed yourself, your fears, doubts, joys and weaknesses. You were moved.

The dollar and wealth, the economy and its management, poverty and its reality are stirring subjects, yet an honest inquiry into your health and well-being failed to register -- the emotional needle didn’t even tick. The open mind filtered out the question like a screen filters out impurities. How you are is no longer worth minor consideration. The market, the score board, the bottom line… by these markers life is evaluated.

Man spends the first 40 to 50 years of his life accumulating knowledge and money, only to spend the money on his failing health in the last few years and watch his knowledge waste away like the roots of an un-watered oak. How’s that for wealth, management and reality; how’s that for the bottom line?

How did you miss it? At 35 the most important thing in life was your wife and career and the dollar. Life’s cool. At 45, your family, your career, your tan and the dollar retained your undivided attention. Nice house you have there, have fun in Paris, Madrid and Rome. Work and the dollar, your dog and the family continued, at 55, to capture your primary interest. CEO and holder of major shares in a number of aggressive corporations is admirable. Shall I get the car, sir?

Alas, in the still of the night, frightened and alone, you admit your health dominates your worried mind.

The growing waistline and the shrinking energy, the fading muscle and the failing strength, the once-unshakable confidence replaced by empty bluster, these symptoms of disease sneak up on you like a recession and without immediate and determined action, they will cost you everything you’ve got. They’ll bankrupt you; lead you to the poor house, strip you bare and take you down, faster than the deflated dollar.

“I’m tired, short of breath and feel a tingling sensation in my left arm, Dr. Smith.” The realization is startling, more startling than a 1,000-point, 2,000- or 5,000-point drop in the Dow. “Your blood pressure is very high, very high, indeed, Mr. Jones. Your blood sugar and triglycerides are off the charts. I’m arranging a room at St. Paul’s for further observation. I’ll notify your wife. Here, take this. It will help you relax. Please, have a seat.”

Health and wealth, both are golden. Commonly -- disrespectfully, irresponsibly, foolishly and selfishly – we pursue one at the expense of the other: wealth before health, money over heartbeat, market strength above back strength, and business briskness instead of physical fitness. You’ve got it backwards, Mr. Jones. Ask Dr. Smith.

“Please, Mr. Jones, answer the following questions.”

~ What do you eat?
~ How much do you exercise?
~ Have you suffered hypertension or heart disease before?
~ Do you take any medications: insulin, blood thinners, beta-blockers?
~ Do you smoke, drink or take recreational drugs?
~ Are you under undo stress?
~ Do you sleep well, rest and relax?
~ Are you insured?
~ Who is your closest relative?
~ Are you allergic to penicillin or anesthesia?

Unless you care for it, your body, like a battered and neglected pickup truck, will slow down on the hills, cough and lurch under a heavy load, take forever to start when it’s cold and stall out when it’s hot. Have you ever heard of a smart and successful businessman who mistreated his truck, his personal transportation, the vehicle of delivery for goods and a reflection of his ethic and responsibility?

Before you invest in one further financial opportunity, navigate another corporate merge or acquisition, or oversee the purchase of more valuable real estate, I recommend you assess the only real property you own, the body you live in.

Exercise, eat right and live a long and strong, prosperous and joyful life.

This is what I would do if I were you -- as certain, important and effective as buying low and selling high:

Day One
~ Go to gym
~ Pedal stationary bike for 5 to 10 minutes
~ Lie on floor and do crunches and leg-raises for 5 minutes
~ Exercise as follows for 15 to 20 minutes:

3 sets of 10 repetitions each of bench press, light partial-range deadlifts, machine dips, standing barbell curl

Alternate this workout with:

Day Two
~ Bike for 10 to 15 minutes
~ Crunches and leg raises for 5 minutes
~ 3 sets x 15 repetitions of leg press
~ 3 sets of 15 reps of calf raises
~ 3 sets of 10 reps of stiff-arm dumbbell pullovers

You should work out no less than three and no more than four days a week, according to responsibility and recuperation, schedule and spirit. This is vital, a priority, an obligation and, should you let go of preconceived notions and conventional thought, it’s a joy.

The schemes outlined above are not the result of long hours of research by a field of medical professionals. They’re quickies I zipped together based on logic and efficiency and good fun. I’ll toss out another pair of routines in a month to assure complete muscle coverage, maintain your interest and continue your on-the-job training and skill development.

Weight training is like flying an old B-29 bomber; once you learn you never forget. And once we’re off the ground there’s no turning back. Buckle up.


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