By Ronald D Ross

When Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009 he had lived most of his previous 50 years with the unholy trinity of celebrity – talent, fame and fortune. Few have been blessed (cursed) with all three of these most coveted gifts. What he lacked was the one gift that would make him truly successful, the gift of wisdom.

MJ was a fantastic entertainer. Though he wasn’t on my personal list of favorites, I must admit that when he performed he was fun to watch and fun to listen to. And watch and listen we did.

He had 13 solo number one hits, he sold 750 million albums, had a big part in making MTV a household word and earned millions upon millions of dollars. reported that as of March 2007, papers showed Michael had $567.6 million in assets including Neverland Ranch and his share of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing catalog which included rights to songs by the Beatles.

Because of massive debt, however, his net worth was listed at $236 million. But like Elvis, his after-death earnings will be substantially more than his lifetime earnings.

Unfortunately, his talent, fame and fortune do not tell the whole story. You and I and billions of people around the world watched as he lived out his troubled life and bizarre lifestyle in a circus-like environment that included a strange fascination with Peter Pan.


We watched his serial plastic surgeries and other strange appearance alterations often wondering who he would look like next – Elizabeth Taylor? Diana Ross? Or someone else? Some thought it was a form of self-mutilation and everyone agreed that ultimately, it ruined his appearance. Even so, we couldn’t help but look when the camera caught him with a mask on or stare even more, when the mask was off. Sometimes we wanted to look away, but much like the terrible car wreck on the side of the freeway, we just couldn’t help but look.

We watched and were appalled as he told us in his childlike falsetto voice that he slept with children. But we were not surprised when he was accused of child molestation on several occasions, and wondered what it really meant when he settled one lawsuit out of court for $22 million. Then, in his death we listened as many of those close to him, family, friends, acquaintances and employees, told us about his abuse of prescription drugs.

Despite vast intellectual and real property holdings and lucrative revenue streams, Jackson died, not bankrupt by any means, but $400 million in debt. Why? Probably because of the decadent, luxuriant, bizarre and adolescent lifestyle that indulged his every whim.

Let this be the lesson of MJ’s life: talent, fame and fortune is not what we should pursue. Rather, we should pursue wisdom. Woo Wisdom. Get wisdom first – and with wisdom you’ll get discernment. Then if your talents soar you to the top of the charts, or your efforts gain you the applause of the masses or if your inventions earn you billions, or all three – you’ll have the good sense to keep things in perspective so you won’t ruin your own life and the lives of the people who love you and who love you.

So this week’s swift kick in the pants is – make one of your top priorities in life to woo wisdom and gain discernment.

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