Green Paper Novocaine

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo for the Clients and Friends of Williams Marketing

In a chapter of The Wizard of Ads called “Willie and His Bank Balance,” I scold William K. Vanderbilt, Sr. for his statement, “It has left me with nothing to hope for, with nothing to seek or strive for. Inherited wealth is a real handicap to happiness.”

But now I think I’m beginning to understand what Willie K. was trying to say.

“Give me neither poverty nor riches,” prays Agur the Oracle in the 30th division of Proverbs, “but feed me with the food that is my portion.” Similar to my response to Willie Vanderbilt, my initial response to this strange request is to shout, “Agur! What are you thinking? If you’re going to ask God to get involved in your financial situation, why not ask him for wealth? What’s this malarkey about ’the food that is my portion?’” But then it quietly occurs to me that Jesus also taught us to ask only for “our daily bread.”

Did Agur and Jesus teach us to live in moderation because that’s what it takes to make God happy? Or did they urge us to live in moderation because that’s what it takes to make us happy? Hmmm.

Call me crazy, but I’m convinced that Willie, Agur and Jesus were simply trying to warn us that money can be a powerful anesthetic. When money flows in abundance, we feel no gnawing anxiety. But neither do we feel eager anticipation. When the dull dread of defeat is dead, the thrill of victory dies as well.

I believe that money is emotional novocaine. Too much of it can rob us of the ability to feel.

A man known for his flamboyant excesses, Oscar Wilde saw a strange connected-ness between two seemingly disparate groups of people in the late 1800’s. “There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich,” said Oscar, “and that is the poor.”

Since Oscar’s day, we have seen this connected-ness become increasingly apparent. The three most common escapes from reality, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide, are most common today among those who have lost all hope, the very poor and the very rich. Yes, wealth is exactly like poverty in that it robs us of hope. (How can one continue to hope for that which is easily obtainable?) Like those who live in poverty, those who live in opulence must make a concentrated effort to keep their dreams alive.

I’ve decided that I’m with Agur, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me with the food that is my portion.” I don’t ever want to become numb to the joys of living.

Thanks for the warning, Willie.

Roy H. Williams

Postscript: Occasionally, following the delivery of such a MMMemo as this one, annoyed subscribers will fax or email me to ask, “What was the purpose of this story? And what, exactly, is its application to my business?” To such questions as these I can only reply, “I apologize for having wasted ninety seconds of your day as I must confess that this particular MMMemo had no real purpose other than to entertain you for a moment and cause you to reflect a little about your priorities in life. Alas·this essay has no business application whatsoever. Shall I refund the price of your subscription?” Secret Formulas of The Wizard of Ads is now a New York Times bestseller!


Don’t you have a friend who is worth at least $8 to you? As it is the policy of to reduce the price of all New York Times bestsellers by 55%, you can, for a very limited time, purchase Secret Formulas of The Wizard of Ads for only $7.62. This is a savings of nearly $10 off the cover price! (This has been a friendly reminder from Wizard’s assistant, Chris Maddock.)

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