Are You Pitching a Tent or Building a Tower?

Today’s post is a guest post in the Monday Matters series from my friend, author, speaker, and philosopher, Tom Morris.

A movie started playing in my head nearly four years ago. I rushed to my computer and began to write down everything I saw and heard. The movie so far has become eight novels, not yet shown to publishers.

I wanted to share today a brief passage from one of them that I was just editing this week. It’s part of a conversation that’s all about outer things and our inner lives.

The conversation is taking place in Cairo, Egypt, in 1934.

A wise seventy-year-old man, Ali Shabeezar, is speaking to his young nephew Walid and his best friend Mafulla. They’re discussing a man they’ve come across who has immersed himself in criminal activity, because of a lifetime focus on the wrong things. Ali sees the man’s life as a cautionary tale and says to the boys…

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Gizeh pyramids photo courtesy of Creative Commons


“One of the great surprises of life is that when you focus and fixate on external things like money, power, status, or fame as your main goals, your ultimate ends, the values that drive you, you diminish yourself, and to the point that, if you actually attain any of these things, you’ll be less likely to handle them well than a person who gains them almost by accident, as a by-product of good work well done. The individual who pursues things of the spirit, and the wellbeing of others, is different. If, along the way, any of these highly regarded external things comes to him, or all of them, for that matter, then he will much more likely be able to be their master, and not their slave. There will be healthy, and not harmful, results.”

“Why do things work this way, Uncle?” Walid was always curious to understand.

“Well, you see, the inner must be the foundation for the outer, or nothing really goes well. Any large building that’s without deep and solid foundations is unstable and can collapse in a storm, or when it’s otherwise pounded and stressed by external forces. A tent needs no foundation. It’s temporary. A tower does. In a similar way, if you want your life to rise high and last long, you must anchor it deeply. Dig down beneath the shifting sands of worldly fortune, glamour, and fame. Establish footings deep in the soul. That way, you can truly flourish. Then, all the riches of the world can come to you, and you’ll never be diminished as a result. You will, by contrast, flourish. A man or woman with inner strength can use all outer things for good purpose, and with beneficial consequences. The world works this way to help remind us where the most important things are to be found.”


As my friend Matt Ham says, the truly rich life always begins within.

Tom Morris

QUESTION: What internal factors are you beginning to focus on?

CHALLENGE: Think of one internal quality you can focus on today and harness it


My friend, Tom Morris

Tom Morris

Tom is one of the world's top motivators and pioneering business thinkers. He's the author of twenty groundbreaking books and is a legendary speaker whose electrifying talks reengage people around their deepest values and reignite their passion for work and life.

For fifteen years, Tom served as a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and earned the honor of Indiana Educator of the Year. Tom is a Morehead Scholar Alumni from The University of North Carolina and earned his Ph.D. from Yale in Philosophy and Religious Studies.

You can follow Tom on social media @TomVMorris and visit his site at

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3 Responses to Are You Pitching a Tent or Building a Tower?

  1. Jason Richardson September 15, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    100% agree! Unless your life is built upon a solid foundation–one that’s grounded on the things that matter most–you will never find the happiness and fulfillment that we all seek.

    (As a side note, I’m working on this same principle, and hope to have a video soon.) Keep up the great work!

    • Matt Ham September 15, 2014 at 11:06 am #

      Keep us posted on that, Jason! Thanks again for the podcast opportunity – hope it helps many!


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