Many well-known financial advisers talk about the hierarchy of priorities in this order:

  1. People
  2. Money
  3. Stuff

There are multiple reasons why this order is important.


Everything we do is for our families and loved ones. But by treating all people with the same dignity and respect as we would our friends and family, it changes the business decisions we make. Other people are not merely consumers, they are people with the same humanity as ourselves. Corporations sometimes have difficulty remembering this, but community based businesses deal with people on a personal basis. I think there is something to learn from that—the familiarity with our community.

There are businesses that ponder how they may profit first, and the means of profiting (the business model) second. The customers of those businesses are looked upon as dollars on a spreadsheet.

The businesses that inspire me are built on giving value to their customers first, and seeking a fair compensation for that value. Emphasis is placed upon the product enriching the customer’s life. The business prospers because it focuses on making other people prosper first.


Money is the exchange of value for time and energy. Money is liquid—it is potential energy. Once it is spent, it is no longer liquid (more on that later).

Money isn’t the root of all evil, but the love of money is. Money isn’t everything, but like Silverchair said, I’d like to see you live without it. Bottom line, money has power, and we need it, but we can’t let that need for it cloud our judgement.

We make the money, the money don’t make us. – The Iron Sheik

Money is a tool, not a means to an end. When we have a purpose behind the money we earn and spend, it becomes more powerful.


If money is unrealized potential energy, then things are where that energy comes to rest. Things are at bottom of the list because it is just items, less important than people or our time value (money). Money becomes realized energy when we purchase something with it, and most of the time, that energy is gone.

Things are always less powerful than money. Ever try selling a DVD? Or a car once you’ve driven it off the lot?

When we purchase things, we should get the amount of happiness from them in proportion to what we are willing to invest. If the happiness we derive from a purchase is greater than the price, then we feel good about the experience. If a thing costs us more in money than the happiness we get out of it, we feel cheated.

Some people try to fill emotional holes with things, the same way other people use alcohol, drugs, or workaholism. Sometimes we collect things in order to feel normal—to follow the plan we believe is set out for our lives.

The Things You Own End Up Owning You

Buying a thing is not inherently bad, but you should know why you are making that purchase.

What Does This Have To Do With Anything?

Your life, your decisions, your business, your philosophy, your actions—these aren’t silos that exist separately from each other. They all spill into and affect each other. How you view the world influences how you see yourself and others, and how you run your business.

“I don’t make movies to make more money. I make money to make more movies.” – Walt Disney

We all want to make money, but why do we want to make money? Just to survive, or is there a larger reason we need to be successful? In the Disney quote above, the filmmaker stated that he wanted to stay in business so he could keep creating experiences that delighted audiences. If he went out of business, he would no longer have the ability to do that. So he had to turn a profit to continue creating the experience he was uniquely gifted to create. He put people first and money second, but the flow of money was necessary to keep investing into the studio.

What is your reason for being in business? Is it to serve people in your community or space? What do you offer that is unique? How do your customers benefit from your service or product? I’d love to hear from you.

Author: John Locke

SEO consultant for manufacturing and industrial companies.