How the Prodigal Son Teaches Business

Happy Holidays!

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It is the Holidays, and I hope everyone is having a good Holiday week. I wanted to do something a little different, and this week I am going to be talking about a story from the Bible called the Prodigal Son. Even if you are not religious, this story is so engrained in Western Culture that it is important to understand what this story is all about. Not only that, this is the one story from the Bible that business people have the hardest time understanding. This story drives business people nuts. And for that very reason, I think it is important to take a closer look at the story of the Prodigal Son.

The Prodigal Son is a parable in the Bible, which are stories Jesus would tell to teach some lesson. So let me give you a brief description of this story.

The story is about two brothers. One brother is responsible, and the other brother is a little bit of a screw up. This part really drives me nuts. The brother who is a screw up, goes to his father and asks for his inheritance early, before the father dies. Imagine the audacity, if you were to go to your dad and ask him to split his business in half, sell off half the assets, and give you your inheritance right now. And the father does it. He gives him his full inheritance right then. So this screw up of a son, takes all the money, moves to the big city, and spends all the money.

Meanwhile, the responsible brother does what every responsible person does. He works hard, builds a life, and supports his family.

Now back to the wasteful brother. So he has now spent all the money. This is half of the family’s money that the father has worked his entire life to build. It’s all gone. The son has nowhere to go. He returns home to his father and says, “let me come back home. I am no longer your son, but if you let me stay here, I will work as your servant.”

Now the father, who has just seen half of his wealth wiped out, turns to his son and says “welcome home.” Not only that, he uses some of his remaining money to throw a huge party, give his son gifts, and celebrate welcoming the son back to the family.

The responsible brother sees all this and is angry. He is sitting there, working hard providing for the family, and this screwup shows up and is celebrated like a hero. And the party is being paid for out of the remaining money that is the responsible brother’s inheritance.

The responsible brother is so angry that he does not even go to the party. The dad goes to the responsible brother and says, “Listen, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. But your brother was lost and now is found.”

So that is the story, and can you see why business people have a hard time with this story. It is because we are the responsible brother. We went out and got the responsible job. We pay our bills. We do the responsible things. Why should this screwup of a brother, who wasted everyone’s money, come back and be treated like a king? What about accountability? Why is he not being punished? He should be held accountable, or at the very least, do not throw him a party with my money. And to be quite honest, the dad should be throwing me a party. So business people have a hard time getting past what this story says about accountability.

What this story means to me, is it is about forgiveness. This story is trying to teach us how to forgive. And it is really hard for someone whose life is driven by accountability to get that concept. I know, because it is hard for me to grasp. But I ask myself, how far will I go to forgive someone? Do I have it in me to forgive someone who is a screwup? Can I forgive someone who is a horrible person?

And part of it for me, is to be a little bit humble and realize that at times we are all screw-ups. We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. If we cannot give someone else a little bit of grace, how can we expect someone to forgive us when we make a mistake?

What I think, is this story will actually make you a better business person. Because business is about creating a system of growth, and you cannot have growth without failure. You cannot build a business or society on accountability alone. You have to allow space for forgiveness.

So this is my wish for you during this Holiday season that you embrace this idea of forgiveness and healing and a path to growth.

Leave a comment down below letting me know what you think!

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Neither Zach De Gregorio or Wolves and Finance Inc. shall be liable for any damages related to information in this video. It is recommended you contact a CPA in your area for business advice.

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