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In this episode, you’ll learn how John Lefebvre rose to immense wealth as a 1/3 billionaire, did a stint in prison, and continued to enjoy his life and privilege while giving a big chunk of his wealth away in support of people in need. He has given away over $50 million dollars to date! Topics covered include the tenants of a constitutional democracy, and the role of government and society to preserve the lives of its populous. Imposing taxes on the “selfish wealthy” and regulations on the corporations are put forth as solutions to social challenges that should be embraced to ensure the health of our people and planet so that together, we can all thrive.
About Our Guest: John Lefebvre, Philanthropist, Author and Musician
John Lefebvre is a writer, musician, philanthropist, and fan of the Oxford comma. Born in 1951, he has been a taxi driver and lawyer, a convict and 1/3 billionaire. In 2000, he co-founded NETeller.com, an online money transfer business that serviced the online gaming industry. In 2003, NETeller went public on the London Stock Exchange with a market capital of almost $2 billion. In 2007 he was arrested by the US Department of Justice which alleged 3 twenty-year offences, money laundering, racketeering and conspiracy. He plead guilty to the offence of conspiracy to promote illegal gambling, in 2011 paid a forfeiture of $40,000,000.00 and served 45 days in Manhattan. Between arrest and sentencing he recorded 2 double CDs, one in Village Recorder in West LA, the other in Oceanway Studios in Hollywood. Both were produced by Brian Ahern.
His first book, “All’s Well – Where Thou Art Earth And Why” maintains that the way forward for our species to exist in perfect peace and enjoyment needs only one thing – we must take basic care of everyone on Earth, no exceptions, no excuses and no delays.
More recently he wrote the story of his life with Vancouver author, music reviewer and journalist, Kerry Gold. “Good With Money – A Rich Guys Guide To Gaining Everything By Losing It All” was published in 2020.
Guest Website (includes links to books & music): https://www.johnlefebvre.com/
06:00 Quote from John Lefebvre’s first book: “All’s Well: Where Thou Art Earth and Why”
08:00 Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”
12:50 Preserving Freedom and Basic Human Rights
20:57 The impact of a corporation’s legal stance – rights of an individual
25:30 Imposing taxes on the selfish wealthy and regulations on corporations
32:50 The need for a generous society that considers social responsibility at its core
37:00 The power of music
40:00 Living up to the ideals of the United States Declaration of Independence
48:00 John Lefebvre’s future quest and closing thoughts
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Hello, fellow do-gooders and friends. I’m your host, Corinna Bellizzi, an activist, and cause marketer. Who’s passionate about social impact and sustainability. Today, we cover the spirit of giving and doing good with money. You’ll hear from someone who has risen to immense wealth and continue to enjoy his life and privilege by giving a big chunk of it all away.
Over $50 million to date. Before we dive into this topic and meet our guest, I’d like to invite you to visit our website care more, be better.com. You can sign up for our newsletter to be the first to gain access to our episodes and easily browse past shows on topics that matter most to you. You’ll find full transcripts suggestions for actions you can take to make a difference and even make a contribution to support the show.
Today I’m joined by John . John is a writer, musician, philanthropists, and like me, a fan of the Oxford comma. He has been a taxi driver and a lawyer, a convict, and a one-third billionaire. He recently was convinced to write the story of his life and somewhat reluctantly did. So with Vancouver, author music, reviewer and journalist Kerry gold, that book is called good with money, a rich guy’s guide to gaining everything by losing it all.
It was published in 2020, John. Welcome to the show.
Real pleasure to be here. Sincerely. Well, I am so pleased to have you here. I would like to invite you to tell us your story. I mean, cause obviously there is so much more than I’ve just shared in that brief snippet. How did you rise to wealth and end up in jail?
Yeah. It always comes down to those things. Doesn’t it really, they’re definitely the most sensational things. In, in my mind, my story’s a little bit different, , I was born in 1951, so I was 17 in 1969. The summer of love and America was sick 1967, but we were always a couple of years behind you guys.
So 1969 was the big year year, and that was one of the most important years of my life. We had some were wonderful mentors, singing us some prayers in rock and roll songs. And I learned every one of them and they were all great great teachers for me. That, I just say that because that’s a big part of my my ethos now The philosophy that we began to develop there was one of caring about others.
And it’s, it’s become more and more profound to me with every passing day. Since then, my mum was a single mum. My father died when I was about three years old. He was a soldier in the Canadian army and he died in a in a mishap that had to do with the blizzard in Northern Ontario. My mother raised the three of us on her own very proud of her for doing that.
Taught us a lot about, , music and she was a Catholic, but in a very progressive sort of way. She was , a Vatican too Catholic, we would say as she was. Taught us that Catholic actually means universal and which led me to a view that I’ve reduced to writing in my book.
Also where, where the art earth and why is about our place in the universe, how far we’ve come and home infinitely much farther. We’ve got to go then how far we’ve come so far is, is what that’s about. Like you, I decided that I had, I probably had to do something practical in my life too.
And so when I got pregnant in about 1979.
It’s comforting to hear a man say they got pregnant.
I wound up a lawyer and practiced law for about 14, 13 years, I think. And then but in that I, I met a fellow who had a great idea about transferring money on the internet and supportive of the online gaming industry, which was just exploding at the time in around 2000.
And so we set up something like PayPal, online money transfer for online gaming, and it was exclusively huge. We went public on the London stock exchange and garnered a market cap of around $2 billion. I owned about 27% of that at that time And then uncle Sam put his hand up, said, you guys can’t do that in kid in America, because it’s about 95% of our business was American money from people who were gambling on sports, mostly in those days on we, they were called offshore sports books basically is what it was.
And then poker started and then that became the biggest thing on, online gaming. But by that time we were arrested and overnight my net worth went from somewhere around, , $350 million to. Well, still enough to gag a horse, but , it’s not, it was certainly an awful lot less than that.
They threatened us with three 20 year offenses. And after about six months of negotiation, I pled guilty to a maximum five-year offense. We paid $240 million in forfeitures to the United States government.
At the time they were spending $2 billion a week on in Iraq. And I calculated that a quarter of a billion dollars would take them to about coffee time Monday morning.
Yeah, that’s the irony of it. All right. It just puck money from one pocket into another and , what do they do with it
That was the more the most disturbing thing to me was losing the ability to, I, I had big plans for that kind of money.
And most of them were had to do with what people perceive in me as generosity. I think it’s more like kind of obligation, but the it is one case where I think actually the money would have been better in my hands than theirs.
Yeah. And I think something that you wrote in your first book that you just mentioned, which you publish back in 2017? You talk about something I’ve thought a lot about over the years, and that is the quote. “Too many of the lessons that we were taught as kids turned out to be delusion, if not hypocrisy, elders and persons in authority are entitled to respect the west is the champion of freedom. Rich and poor are exactly equal in a democracy. One person, one vote,” all of these sorts of ideas that I think you’re actually talking about. When you say, look, , of the 350 million now you had to pay forward 240 million to the United States government. And with what the hope or the trust that they’re going to do something productive and good with that money, right?
I’d like to say this too, before we finish that topic to that. I, I think it’s an honor to pay taxes in America and I didn’t pay any, I’ve never paid any taxes in America, but I’ve paid a lot of money to the, to , the department of the treasury. So it comes to the same thing. But , I would never resent it.
I think that we may get to this a little bit later on, but I think that the two tools that that the, the selfish wealthy in our society fear the most are the powers to tax and the power to regulate. And I very, very hardly encourage people to embrace first of all, to embrace constitutional democracy.
The thing that I worry about the most is people discouraging young people about constitutional democracy government, always wastes money. Government has no good prop, , I mean, the least you give to them the best it is. That’s wrong. Constitutional democracy has invented the powers to tax and the powers to regulate.
And we’ll talk about that a lot more, but those powers are the best tools invented by our species to control the selfish wealthy, and we should we should embrace them heartily.
So with that frame of context, how would you advise us to unlearn some of those learnings in this society? Especially in the United States where we are increasingly individualistic, it would seem, and that individualism is often more protective of what’s mine and ours, meaning of like a family unit as opposed to the greater good.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Because the individualism has been emphasized by that and largely rose from Adam Smith, right. Of nations. He talks about if we, , if we embrace if good, he, what he thought of as man, I think he meant people. He quaintly, he called people, men, but he, he thought we were good.
He thought men, people were good. And that if you, if you turn good people free, they’ll look after all of those things. But something very strange happened since those days. We’ve got a lot less elevated intuition now about what human nature is. Adam Smith thought human nature was to be good. Now human nature seems to be, , if we give a guy 400 bucks during COVID, we’re going to turn them into a bum.
They’re all bums. They just want free money. Right? So the idea of human nature that America was founded upon has been lost by these people who think individualism is the most important thing. Adam Smith thought we were individuals. Yes, but we were good individuals and good individuals will look after those who are less fortunate. Remember a good Cowboys. Look out for the little guy. I remember that what happened to that?
It doesn’t seem like a story that gets told as much anymore. The story that gets told is one of, oh, well, we’re just going to improve education access, and people will rise up.
They will bootstrap themselves into success. And yet what do we do? We take away education resources from inner cities and we limit the programs that are available to them and the arts and humanities, and even the sciences. So that those very people that we’re talking about being able to bootstrap and rise themselves up, don’t have the same access that they even had a decade ago.
And even worse. So distrust in science. Right. I mean, that, that is just the most vile mentoring that we can give our young people, ? Yeah.
Well, I do tend to agree with you. There’s also, I think a rising concern that we’re going to end up in a world where we’ve got essentially a servant class and a maker class. And the maker class is increasingly in the technology space and the serving class is essentially everyone else. And so you have proponents of things like a basic income to help tackle things like this. I wonder what your thoughts are on something like a basic income?
Well, it’s necessary. I mean, it’s absolutely, , I think the whole idea that if you don’t work, you don’t deserve to eat as fraud that’s been perpetrated upon us by the selfish wealthy, we’re heading into a time now where I would, , I think I read recently Corinna that about 10% of the people who work for income drive or drive or fly or something for them. And, and I’m not talking about driving to work. I’m talking as a job.
Well, it’s only 10 years down the road. Now when you, and I won’t even be able to buy automobile insurance to drive a car ourselves, because we’re the weakest link, , the human human error is for sure. The weakest link in the, what do we get? 50,000 years a year die in traffic in the United States.
Yeah. More than gun violence. More than a lot of things. Yes.
Those people won’t have jobs. What, what, what are we going to do? Sorry, I can’t help it if I’m lucky. We I still got a job, but you don’t. So, , and don’t ask me for . Yeah. And it will turn you into a bum. I think wealth in our society is basically infinite and it’s all dependent upon development of human resources.
The more we develop human resources, the more wealth there will be to pass around. And so I think we have to abandon this traditional Gimmick that the rich people have laid upon us. Another one that another man that I think is funny is that you only tax income, you don’t tax wealth.
Right? But if you only tax income, think about this with me for a minute. If we only tax income, then the working guys are the ones that pay to, to support the institutions of constitutional democracy, that function, that perform all of these functions. But one of the most important functions that constitutional democracy has for us is to make our ownership of money secure.
Right. The king can’t take it from us. We own it securely. And it’s so w we working, so working guys are paying taxes to support constitutional democracy that make it safe for rich guys to be rich in America and in Canada, or I am Canada. And and I think that’s an enormous service that shouldn’t be coming for free.
So on that basis alone, I think we should be taxing wealth. And, , I, I really like Elizabeth Warren’s, 2% about 50 million every year gets, , every, everything above 50 million gets taxed 2%. I think, I don’t know if those are the right numbers or the right starting place, or if it shouldn’t be me, maybe be more progressive or something like that, but that’s trillions of dollars.
That’s enough to make sure everybody has education. Everybody has childcare. Everybody has eldercare, , everybody has health care. All of the things I really like listening to you, we had Nana Aba Anamoah. And she was talking about with Ghana, the giving of making sure people had the rights to health care into education, and then she quickly jumped to freedom.
They might make sure they have right. And in my book freedom is actually all of those advantages that you and I take for granted in our society. All of the things that we take for granted that we have You know, access to food, cooling and shelter, access to the tools of self-improvement, , access to healthcare access to basic finance access to justice and last but not least access to a healthy environment.
Yeah. I mean, what did we say is life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but how do you pursue happiness? If you don’t have food on your table or access to justice or access to education self-development and all of those things. Right. Exactly. So it’s like, we’re making an assumption that people will automatically have those things yet.
We are becoming worse and worse at providing them.
So here, , in the United States, and I’m sure you’re seeing this in Canada too, at least to some extent, we just have a very real problem with rising homelessness. And there’s all this judgment around this. You know, you’ll hear people say things like, oh, they must be drug addicted, or it must be because of alcohol or a must be, or it must be, or it must be when an actual fact, the thing that is impacting these communities.
And in many cases, families is simply rising costs of living in the places that they haven’t habited. And suddenly some unforeseen circumstance comes up, you lose a job COVID whatever, and then suddenly they can’t pay their bills anymore and have to start making choices about the bills they will pay.
And then suddenly collectors are coming and knocking at the door. Now some of that was on hold for a bit during COVID. Quickly came back. So, , we’re all being asked to reckon with challenges that we haven’t faced in a hundred years and at the same time, reducing access to things like additional education resources and not providing the same sort of medical care that was once provided.
So I’m just increasingly concerned for the state of things here in the United States of America, because we seem to care less and less about the people as a whole and more and more about the individual. So I, I honestly really applaud the message that you’re putting out there. And I’m curious if you have thought this through to a point of what a solution might be or a set of solutions, perhaps it is Elizabeth Warren’s, , proposed taxes on the wealthy, but perhaps it’s also coming from somewhere else.
yeah, I think well wealth comes with obligations and th and the obligations are to pay the true cost of freedom. We’ve been told since, since we were kids that freedom is the most expensive thing you have to pay with the highest price you have to pay with your life.
And I think what they meant by that was that, , you have to go off and war and die to fight for freedom. Excuse me. I think that’s true. But I also think that the true cost of freedom is much higher than that. For starters, , if. The only price that you have to pay for freedom is one in 100,000 young men go off and die for it.
Then 99,999 of us get it for free, not to mention women. Now we have women in the army, but when all of these ideas were being germinated, it was on the young man. No, I think the proper cost of freedom is to strive daily every day, to assure that all of those who are less fortunate in the freedom department get the same things that you and I feel we are entitled to.
And I’m not talking about free lunch, I’m just talking about properly developed human resources so that people can look after themselves. Well, and right. And so I like Adam Smith, this idea that we were good and that we can count on the good people among us to to look after those who are less fortunate. But I think experience has been a little bit different than that. Partly because of corporations. We might speak about that a little bit more later as well, but yeah.
The there are those quite obviously don’t want to come along and share and help and make sure that others are just as lucky they say, for instance, one of the, , they might say I can’t help it if I’m lucky, I’m lucky. He’s not “C’est La Vie”. Right. But that doesn’t work for me. I think, I think if we’re in tend to those things, here’s the problem.
I challenge people with Corinna. If we’re entitled to all of the things that we’re entitled. That we think we’re entitled to. And then when I’m talking about entitlement, please understand, I’m not talking about what American politicians call entitlement. I’m telling you about the things that you and I, and everybody else actually feel we’re entitled to freedom, reasonable access to food, clothing, and shelter, a respect and security of the, of the person.
You know, the set of the things we’ve spoken about access to the tools of self-improvement and medicines and risks that if we’re entitled to those things, and I think we are, the problem is what distinguishes us from all the other people in the world who don’t have those things. And try as I might, I can’t find a proper distinction.
Right. There is, there’s nothing that distinguishes me from the starving lady in , Sudan, who’s dying, baby is at her empty breast and who , we all have, we all have that beautiful thing within us. That’s the same. It’s called consciousness consciousness. She has the same capacity to dream the same capacity for appointment and disappointment that we have.
All those, all those things are the same. Nothing distinguishes us, except that we’re lucky enough to be born in what I call in my book, country clubs. We’re in these country clubs with the velvet rope across the door. And we don’t let anybody else in and, , well, you know what, they’re not in a free country.
Therefore they don’t have to say no, that’s not, no, we have an obligation as free people to share that freedom with all of those other people. And here’s the good news. The good news is when we develop those human resources, Wealth is just going to perfuse on this planet. It’s going to be, , the amount of wealth we have now is probably roughly about one fifth on, in total, on the planet.
It’s probably about one fifth, the amount of wealth we would have, if everybody on the planet was fully prepared, job ready and pulling on the oars, right? And if everyone is doing the best, they can, there would be so much more wealth on the planet. And , I’ve often said this, please. I know you asked on that show for you’re allowed to cuss on the show.
This isn’t quite cussing, but in my mind, , hoarding wealth is the wet dream of wealth. The real joy of wealth is sharing. And also it’s the, it’s the biggest payoff because when we share, first of all, , when you’re, when you’re generous with people, they don’t bust your balls.
Right. And also when we’re generous with them , we develop their productivity, right? And the more productivity we develop in people. This might be a bit simplistic, but if everybody in the world had their human resources developed as much as you and I have had them develop there, there would be approximately five times as much wealth on the planet.
Yeah, well, I think it’s really interesting. It ties to something that you and I spoke of in our first conversation and that relates to the logo on the cover of your book. And I want you to talk about that for a moment, because I think it’s an important idea. You have this figure of a man who appears like he’s sitting.
Yes, there it is. And behind him, he has a sword. So talk about this and what it means to you as it relates to this entire discussion.
He has his hand extended in generosity and friendliness and again, friendliness. But he has a sword behind him and it’s not just laying there. It’s very intentionally set. He knows, he knows she’s able to reach it and there, and the reason that’s of importance to my book is because. As much as Adam Smith thought, we’re all good people and that we would help those who are less fortunate than us, it’s quite obvious to me now that there are lots of people that just don’t give a damn about that. And they, they only care about themselves and those nearest to them. And sometimes not even to them some people need to be forced to come along. And this is it. This is an idea that came to me when I was listening to you speak of corporate social responsibility in one of your other podcasts, the corporate social responsibility.
When, when corporations were made legal persons, that was in the late 17 hundreds when corporations were made legal persons 200 years before women were made legal person, corporations were made, , versus 250 years before blacks were made legal in America. Right? Yeah. I am afraid that one of the reasons we made corporations in the first place was because humans, , we, we have laws that we must follow and we do most of us do.
And when we don’t, we have to face the law about it. Or the law has, has to enforce against those people who do know. We also have other rules that we follow all the time because we’re good people, right? You don’t screw around with your best friend’s spouse. There’s no rule against it, or at least no law against it, but we still don’t do it.
Why? Because it’s just not right. Everybody knows that, , and then even the people who do it know they’re doing something wrong. Right. Well, all of a sudden, now these corporate legal nonhuman legal persons come along and they are only required to follow the law. The written laws, not the unspoken laws, not the, not the , call them moral laws of the world. Right. And one of the things that happened when we created corporations was we also implicitly created the power to regulate them. But from day one, corporations quite expectedly resisted regulation completely, but we still have a responsibility to regulate corporations because corporations are legal persons, but they’re legal persons that are required to follow only the laws that they’re forced to follow.
And that makes them not good people anymore. They make decisions that a good person would not make, , clean up after yourself.
Polluting waterways. I’m not worried about runoff into our ecosystems from into the atmosphere. Heck , you could even just say things like cruise ships, what do they do? You know, they go into international waters and they literally dump their trash at sea and spaces that are not regulated or
…drag the sea bottom. So we can go to crustacean and have nice back. Drag the scene. Right.
And it’s nonsensical, like, why would you do this? Why would you just throw trash directly into the ocean? It doesn’t make sense yet. It’s something that these large corporations will do as a practice simply because they don’t, they can’t be bothered to more and get rid of the trash in other way.
Well, they elect not to not spend the money to do that unless they’re forced to do it. Right, exactly. Right. And that’s what the power to regulate is about. So one of the things that depresses me most about American society north and I, and I can, I include Canada in that because we think very much the way you guys do boats, as many of these things.
One of the things that I am most uncomfortable about is when people act like it’s a smart thing to diss government. It’s a smart thing to say, government government is BS narrow. The best thing you can do is avoid paying any taxes that you can never trust a politician. They’re always on trustworthy and all these, you know what?
No constitutional democracy is a super strong, very, very beautiful machine that we’ve developed over the last 300 years. And , if normal people don’t grasp those leavers of power and use it for what Adam Smith thought good people would use it for. Right? Then we know the selfish wealthy will always show up.
They’ve come, they come and vote all the time. And they try to convince people to vote with them. Why? Because they want to avoid taxation and regulation. And so that whoever resists taxation and regulation gets the support of the selfish.
So you’re obviously an exception to the selfish wealthy. So I’d like for you to talk a little bit about why, like, what is your why and how did you come to it and how are you working to perhaps convince, let’s say this portion of selfish, wealthy to come on, board your bus.
I think the thing to do while the blue, where, where it came from is partly from my early history call it.
You know, when, , when I, when I was a kid, the two most radical things we could talk about were peace and love. And, and I really like Elvis Costello song. What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding. What’s so what’s wrong with these love and understanding, and, but, , we’ve drifted away from that a lot.
I speak about the selfish wealthy this way. They don’t listen to me quite as much, but I speak to them that way if I get a chance, but Corinna, I think the most important thing for me to do is to convince others that the selfish wealthy are required to be controlled. And I want to speak to the people who, this tool developed for them, that they can see is to do exactly that job. They need to be taxed and they need to be regulated. I do everything I can now to encourage people to adopt those ideas about the responsibilities of freedom and the fulfillment of those responsibilities.
By making sure that everybody pays their fair share. It’s fine to be wealthy, just pay your fair share. And it’s not much it’s peanuts. If you’ve got over 50 million bucks, you pay 2% of your c’mon. Yeah. Cray lake kids come in their whole life. Right. You know, they’re whiners.
So there’s no talking to whiners. You know, I don’t have to tell you that, their commitments are deeply ingrained. But we have the tool to overcome them. And , Joe, Biden’s a really great step in the right direction.
You mentioned Elizabeth Warren a little bit earlier.
I watched this interchange between her and Steven Colbert, where they were essentially bantering back and forth, and she wanted a bite of his steak and they were using the steak as this metaphor for this sort of problem. She’s like, well, you have plenty of steak and I don’t have any, so I’m going to take a bite.
And she literally went over and took a bite of his steak. I mean, it was all very artfully done and they had a good, I think, productive conversation about what we’re talking about here, which is just that there’s so much wealth disparity that you have a rising class of billionaires. And then you have a lot of people being left behind as , the extreme wealthy are making their money on the backs of those that are laboring for them.
So I think that we need to kind of re tune this entire conversation. When we talk about something like a minimum wage, , a minimum wage that could actually be a living wage versus something that makes the wealthy more wealthy because you’re employing them. And you’re again, gaining your wealth by riding on the backs of a lower class of people that in an economic sense, even the language that we use around this lower middle upper, I mean, that alone is indicative of our thinking as a society about differences in people when really we’re all the same.
Like there is very little difference between me. And somebody sitting in Elizabeth Warren’s shoes or somebody sitting in Jeff Bezos’s shoes, we are all people and I might be a female and another might be a male and another might identify as something else entirely. And that’s okay. It’s just, we’re all people, we’re all one.
So that’s my pulpit for the moment.
No, and it, and it’s an, it’s a very, very honorable pulpit to be in. I think that the Jeff Bezos’s of the world are probably reasonably nice guys in many very important ways. Right. But they’ve, they’ve grown up in an ethos that permits them actually encourages them to think the way they think. I write in my book about how, , corporations were required to do the minimum of elective human decency.
Right. They’re required by the structure to do the absolute minimum of elective. Goodness. They only must do what they’re ordered to do by law. And and then individual sought, well, you know what, all of a sudden now we’re at a disadvantage because corporate it’s okay for corporations to be pricks, but , if it’s, difficult for me to, , to compete with a corporation when they get to be a prick and idle.
And I think I should get to be a prick, too. Right. And so now, , everybody else is doing, , clean up after yourself. Well, make me, well, we should answer that. We, we should make them clean up after themselves and make them pay their fair share. The beautiful thing that will happen when Jeff Bezos pays his fair share is a whole bunch of other people are going to be able to afford new shoes and, nicer books and, , , nicer clothes and, , they’re going to be able to afford to, , help their kids be able to do those things too. Right. So, , when we when we impose and I mean, impose, we should impose when we impose the wealth tax and we should these selfish, wealthy people will be surprised at how well that will turn out for them.
That’s my message.
I think that’s beautiful now you’ve commented that the Polish and the veneer of wealth tend to wear off that. You know, it doesn’t stay with that same luster. Now, I wonder what your feelings are about your own wealth and what you found to keep you engaged.
I was pretty well-prepared to get wealthy when it fell in my lap, , I was 50 years old and I, , I’d been, , reading philosophy and, we’d began caring about the world. You know, most of my life caring about those who are less fortunate than us, most of our life.
I think that, driving around Los Angeles and seeing a car in the store and walking in and writing a check for $140,000 for the car, watching them walk across the street, certify the check, come back and then driving the car out of the store only gets you high for a little while. And eventually you got a car, you got to buy a new garage for all of your cars.
You’ve got a closet full of really nice clothes that still have their price tags on them. And it’s just not a rush anymore. I mean, you could buy a yacht, , you could pay two, three or 400 meter yacht if you want, but. Really, it was very evident to me, Karena that the biggest thrill that I ever got from money was bringing people out, shopping and letting them just blow the wad for the day.
You know giving what, to me was peanuts to a single mom. It saved her life. It saved her home for her family, , $2,000, $3,000 or something like that. It’s life-changing I ran into people now who, , say, you know what, 20 years ago you saved my daughter’s life. I said, really? How did I do that?
Well, she was injured in Ecuador and we couldn’t medivac her out. And you gave us $5,000 and we medivaced her daughter back. And now she’s finding it very striving and I go, wow, that’s. Profoundly rewarding. You know, when those messages start coming back to you, I find myself in a position now Corinna and where , if I actually did lose it all and it’s unlikely, I’ve, , I’m going to be a little bit responsible now.
I’d like to avoid working if I can for the rest of my life. But if I did find myself with no more money, I don’t think I’d have any trouble at all getting, , a free peanut butter sandwich just to put any day because , people with whom I’ve been generous really, really want to be generous back again.
And that’s what will happen when we go out into the so-called third world or even the second world and be generous and responsible with our wealth there. They will want to give it back. They’ll want to , be generous back again. The dividends of generosity or gratitude. And, , the highest form of compliment is imitation, right?
So when we’re generous with people, they’re grateful and learn to practice generosity themselves.
What you say resonates with me, the reality for me, I grew up without a lot of resources and, , there was a period where my mom had to declare bankruptcy and we were on food stamps and government assistance. And so I have a different perspective from that then many of my friends do because , the fact that we lived through that tough time. I think COVID is changing that for a lot of people, because so many have had to rely on government assistance for the first time in their lives, too. Right.
But the reality for me was growing up. I had struggled in fourth grade. I was now in fifth grade. I was re-engaging as a student. I loved the sciences and my teacher, Mr. Roberts, decided to pay for me to be able to go to science camp because he knew that we couldn’t afford it and that it would support my learning and that very thing, both instilled more confidence in me.
Really got the inquisitiveness of my mind, engage from experiments to just looking at pond winner under a microscope, to just a deeper understanding of what education could bring me with time other than just being in a classroom. Right. And so this was a really powerful thing for me. And he may have spent a few hundred dollars on that six weeks, summer.
Yeah. Science camp. Right. But I have now paid that forward myself, my own life. Every time there’s been a scholarship opportunity for a school in my neighborhood, I’ve given that forward. Okay. Here’s $500 for two children to be able to experience the same. And it becomes something that for me, is a revolving give.
It’s something that I choose to continue giving, because I also understand directly in a real sense, , the impact it had for me at that critical point in my own life. And so I think this is the sort of thing that you’re talking about, right? Like those that have received some assistance, those that have been given some extra little support at a time when they needed it, most, they are grateful.
They do remember it. And so we need to stop thinking is, oh, well, they’re just going to look for the next handout and think about it in a more productive capacity, particularly when it relates to something like. Dire need housing, education, support food, et cetera.
I would include to that list of dire necessities music lessons. It’s super important because kids who have the privilege of music or dance or drama lessons or art lessons or whatever they, as they just blossom in so many ways. When we learn to when we’re given these tools to express ourselves, we become so much more fulfilled as human beings, smooth cause because we can actually express ourselves.
We think that men are Handicapped in the sense of emotional development and being able to speak about things emotionally and, , w we’re we’re we’re supposed to be tough guys, and we’re not very good at speaking about feelings, right? That’s that’s true. Unless the guy who’s speaking about feelings has a guitar.
He wrote the song himself, and then we love him. We put them on this huge pedestal. So boys out there, listen to me, if you really want to be a complete human being sing songs, and people will love I’m going to say the femininity. Of of your it, that’s, that’s a warped idea in a way to say it that way.
But in our society, we do think of, , emotional development, emotional intelligence as being a more feminine thing. And that in itself is a complete condemnation of our society, the way we’ve grown. So we need to reconsider that as gentlemen, give your sons an opportunity to do music, and you’ll completely obliterate that whole thing in our society about men.
Aren’t good with their feelings.
Well, I tend to agree with you now. You are an accomplished musician in your own, right? You’ve had the pleasure of recording with some of the greatest musicians of our time. And so I like to know, , what song do you feel embodies your story more than any other? It could be from your repertoire or from another musicians.
Yeah, that’s a good one. Holy cow. What have I been singing lately? They’re all, to me, they’re all like prayers. I was raised in the Catholic tradition and I’ve fallen away from the institution, but , it’s come, I’ve come to a place in my life now where I sort of think that it’s almost that, , when Hillary and I got married, we had a cousin of mine said, , it’s almost like the most radical thing you can do anymore is getting married.
And I’ve been thinking about it. And, , I think the most radical thing that you can do anymore is honor the teachings of Jesus, of Nazareth. Do you know who, you know who Glennon Doyle is? No, she she’s the, she’s the partner of Abby Womble. And Abby’s the the, that wonderful soccer player for the young, the American team, but Glen and Glen is a great podcaster herself. And my, my, my wife, Hillary turned, turned me on to Glennon, but she said this beautiful thing about Jesus. He sought two things in his life. One of them was to seek out those who religion was excluding, and those that power was oppressing.
And he went to live with them and go live and be with those people. You know, if you want to call yourself a Christian, you American Christians. If you want to call yourself a Christian, go do that, go seek out the people that your religion excludes and go seek out the people that your power oppresses and spend your life helping them.
Then you can call yourself a Christian and that’s some radical. Shit man.
I think the reality of it too, is that we often see, , the religious rights and, and I, I don’t love the terminology. I wish I wish we had better terms, but the reality is that so much of the religious right votes, really conservative, become single issue voters doesn’t necessarily support the needs of the many. So is more focused on this idea of conservatism, and essentially does not espouse the very ideas upon which Christianity was founded. So I just, I have trouble with that one myself, and even that call to action. I would love it to be something that many of these people would embrace, but how many are going to go to the homeless encampments and seek to wash the feet of the people that are there?
How many are going to provide resources to those individuals? And sadly it’s, it’s the few.
Well, besides creating the tools for this to control the selfish, wealthy, the powers to tax and regulate constitutes democracy also. Creates the tool by which we may be generous collectively.
And the system is by taxation and proper expenditure of the tax revenues. Not to give rich guys tax holidays. No, we pay taxes and we develop the person, the human resources of all of the people. And eventually, hopefully, , the young kids, it’s going to take a smarter generation than mine and even yours to fulfill this.
But eventually we’ll understand that. Well here, let me put it this way. Your declaration of independence is exactly the right principle, but for every document for everybody right now. Yeah. So live up to America. You know, the guys, the guys who, who wrote it were very, very good writers and they knew they knew what they were writing, but they didn’t really understand the complete.
Impact of what it was, they were writing and that’s what makes it such a beautiful document is now we get to discover the truth of it and to spend the rest of our careers, if we’re smart, trying to fulfill it, all people are created equal, not just in America, everywhere. The proper cost of freedom is to strive daily so that everybody else who’s less fortunate in the freedom department can have that too.
One of the things I write in my book that I think is kind of cute is those who accept the benefits of freedom, but disregard what others who are less fortunate must endure have not earned their freedom. They’ve merely taken liberties.
Well, thank you. So I have a question with regard to where you’re headed from here. I’d love to know if there’s a particular goalpost that you have in mind. Something that says, heck, when I get here, I will have done what I came to do. The objective I have now for the remainder of my career is to continue to push this schlep that I’ve just delivered to you.
Post COVID, I hope to be on the road and speaking to people who are taking interest in it, it’s not a big seller, actually, Corinna , people are not stumbling over themselves to buy my book because it it’s a huge challenge. And it’s a very, very difficult job that lies ahead of us. I think of John Stuart mill and Adam Smith, who were writing 250 years ago. And here we are 250 years later and maybe 10% of the people on earth actually understand what they were getting at and are devoted to their principles. And, , I’ll I’ll know I got past the goalposts when in 250 years, 10% of the people on earth are espousing these principles that I’ve developed. A hundred years from now exists.
A hundred years from now. It does exist. It’s coming.
I don’t have to, I don’t have to be there for it. Right.
You sound so much like a, an artist friend of my dad’s when I was growing up, his name was Ted Barr and he would say , I’m waiting to die so I can be discovered because that’s the reality and a painter’s life.
And I mean, his paintings were and are absolutely beautiful. And , he, I think held that clear in his heart that it was his life’s work, but it didn’t necessarily mean that his expectation would ever be that he experienced fame in any way in his life. It was something that he just had to do.
Yeah. Well, you don’t have to look at tick talk too long to see what you need to be famous nowadays. Right. But you can buy that kind of fame down at the plastic surgeon. We have to understand that. Okay.
Our history has been so short now. Our history of learning is about 300 years or so of learning. That’s a testable. And, we think that the amount that we’ve learned just in my lifetime, in the last hundred years or so is just absolutely staggering. Right. But we’re going to learn that much again in the next 20 years. Right. And imagine what we’re going to learn in the next hundred years and imagine what we’ll learn in the next thousand years. That’s how much we don’t know. So I would like to encourage people. If we were wise, we would be humble.
We seem to be neither.
Yeah. So that’s where you get to my podcast with armchair historians, because the name of our species as homo sapiens, sapiens. We actually knew ourselves wise wise, man. And so the ego seems to be forever ingrained in how we see ourselves as separate different and better than something else.
And in some cases, that’s the animals living in the ocean or the orangutans living in the forest. And we just say, we developed, developed, developed for the greater good of humanity without a lot of concern for everybody else on the planet. And I say everybody with knowledge, I mean, I do consider those orangutans and those whales to be. In that realm of everybody.
We are everybody. I do. I do want to say though that there is one thing that does distinguish us and our ego has made, it made, made us exaggerated way too much, but we are the only species that we know about that are able to produce evidence of it who are, have this capacity to dream and then to make dreams come real so we can dream up systems to solve problems.
Right. And that’s absolutely miraculous that we can do that. There’s one difference between dolphins and us is that we can look after the dolphins. We can, we know what to do to make it safer for dolphins. There’s nothing that they can do to make it safer for us. The thing that makes us special comes with a huge amount of responsibility and that it is the responsibility to actually fulfill our capacity to be helpful.
Wow. Well, I love that. I mean, you had me thinking about responsibility the moment you said that because the reality is with great power with great knowledge comes also great responsibility. And I think that we forget to mention that as much as we should. So thank you. Now I have a few rapid fire questions for you.
I hate these. You do. No, no, please go ahead. No, go ahead. So, I mean, you’ve had quite the history. What are your most proud of?
Oh boy. I’m most proud of grabbing a hold of myself soon enough to keep my wife nice. Aye. Aye. I there’s a lot. I had lots of opportunities to to go a different way and and she taught me some very important things about consideration, respect that I learned those lessons from.
Right. You know, I’m not proud about it much, but I’m proud of.
Beautiful. What are you best at?
Doing nothing. It’s the most important thing we should do? It’s the, it’s the it’s the the intelligent management of attention, right? It’s meticulous management of attention. This thing that in a that’s in the set dreams at night does not go to sleep in the daytime and are reminders filled with all of these things though, George is coming over as I have to give to the weird why in his life, his wife likes white wine.
We have to get, oh, the kids need their new shoes. And all these things keep you for a half an hour. Every day. What we should do is sit and disregard all of those things, that noise that comes into our mind and let that part of us, that doesn’t sleep in the daytime. The part of us that dreams just see what comes up from that is be quiet, do nothing and be still yet still be and see what comes up.
Always. We always have these miraculous things arising within us. We only have two. Practice skill management attention long enough to shut up and listen doing nothing.
Well, I’m going to try to take a page from that book because I need to spend 30 minutes a day doing nothing to, I agree with you like a best ideas sometimes come and your moments in the shower when you’re not really thinking about anything else. Right.
Chopping wood and drawing water. Right. Exactly. Yeah.
Okay. So what do you wish you were better at?
I wished I was smarter at deciding who to give money to, I would probably have about twice as much left if I, as I’ve got, if I hadn’t just been kind of frivolous about it. I haven’t been kind enough in my life. I want to be better at living up to the principles I’ve written about in my book.
Well, that’s a good quest. Now, is there any question I haven’t asked you that you wish I had?
No, no, this has been very good. Although I know that if we spend another five minutes together you’ll ask me some more, really great questions. You know, don’t get me started and they say right, but I’ll get going. The only question you haven’t asked me that I wished you’d asked me is will you come back again?
Hey, I would love to have you back in particular as I think more about this. And I want to spend a little bit more time with your book as well, because I think the ideas you’re talking about are really important. If there was one message you would want our audience to leave this discussion with what is that one message?
Strive daily to assure that those who are less fortunate in the freedom and wealth department, have the advantages coming to them that we take for granted strive daily to do that pay the proper costs of freedom, and then you’ll sleep a lot better.
Well, thank you, John. Thank you so much.
Okay. I’m so pleased. You’ve had me here. It’s a wonderful pleasure to you. You are doing wonderful work. I’ve listened to a few of your things now, and I’m quite it’s, it’s remarkable. What you’ve cut off for yourself, bitten off and chew up very nicely.
Well, thank you for that. I appreciate that you spent some time listening to my interview with Nana Aba Anamoah. So together with her and others, we hope to change the tide in Ghana. So more people have access to the healthcare they need. I mean, these are all the sorts of things that you’re extolling in your books too, that we need to take care of one another.
And that shouldn’t know any boundaries that shouldn’t know any, Hey, this is territory I cover. And that’s it. No, I mean, really need to be thinking globally about all people.
Just to go back for a minute to circle back on the history thing. I’m sorry, we didn’t speak a little bit more about Neanderthals.
Maybe next time we can go there. Cause that’s a super, very, very interesting thing for me too. Do you know what percent of Neanderthal you have?
No I don’t, but I I. I can find out can’t I just through those. Yeah. Those, , genetic ancestry, I think has my DNA. So maybe I should just pay them the extra money for them to give me more advice about it.
Yeah. I took the 23 and me test specifically because they tell you what percent of Neanderthal DNA you have. And apparently I have more than 35% of people on the planet which doesn’t tell you a ton, but it does tell you that heck I’m Western European and that’s where they reigned for 60,000 years, Neanderthals lived alongside modern homosapiens and we shared resources. There’s evidence that we shared language tools and technology. So of course, to me, it was no surprise that we also shared a bed.
Yes, we’re nothing, if not prolific at sharing beds.
Well, I would like to go ahead and close our discussion with just a resounding thanks for all of your work. I hope that our listeners will pick up a copy of your books. And I say books, we didn’t get too deeply into the more recent one.
And I’ve bought my copy from Amazon. So I’m looking forward to seeing that soon. I will include links to both titles in our show notes and ways they can contact you through your website. I also was enjoying some of your videos on vivo your music videos, and I see each of them is a call to action in themselves.
They are all about the same thing, the books and the songs.
Yeah. Driving people to act, which I very much appreciate. Now I’d like to invite our listeners to act. It doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to feel like a Herculean effort or climbing Mount Everest.
It could be as simple as sharing this podcast with a friend or picking up one of John Lefever’s books and thinking about what you can do differently to be a part of the change you want to see in the world. These are powerful ideas and these ideas have more power than even the money you might give forward. Just by sharing them with one another, talking about them, connecting with those in your community and getting them to think a little bit differently too. We are one people. We are one planet and heck, it’s a crazy race for space now to find suggestions for what you can do in your community. You can always visit my action page on caremorebebetter.com.
There you’ll find causes and charities that we hope that you’ll support and even products or services that you might consider connecting with. Like those that have been featured on our show. I invite you to join the conversation and be a part of the community that we’re building. You can follow us on social spaces at CareMore be better, or just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to hear from you. Thank you listeners now on always for being a part of this pod and this community, because together we really can do so much more. We can care more and be better. Thank you.