I wanted to cover a topic that I thought should be relevant not only to today’s trying times but also for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and the next 100 years. Something that would uplift us during good times, bad times–well, not bad, the correct word is really “challenging”–so we’ll say, challenging times, etc. Something that you could remember and apply in your life, not just today but every day, for the rest of your entire life.
So why don’t we get started so you can see for yourself what I am talking about.
Let’s start with “poverty.” What does that word mean? At first glance, I know the very first thing that comes to our mind is “money” – specifically, the lack of it, being flat broke, down and out, living in miserable condition, a sense of deprivation–being deprived of the best things that money can buy. Something that can easily be cured with “money”, specifically and preferably, plenty of it, what a lot of us call “wealth.” Of course, there are various degrees of wealth…from a little bit of wealth to plenty of wealth–the sort of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet wealth.
But, as we all know, poverty comes in many different forms. It can be spiritual, as in refusal to believe we’re part of something greater than ourselves; moral, as in no conscience and without regard for the welfare of others, destruction of life and property; psychological, as in self-centered and abusing ourselves with lethal drugs; social, as in social responsibility, not caring about how our own actions affect others around us.
So, whether we’re talking about material poverty or poverty of the mind, soul, and spirit, we’re still referring to a deprivation of some sort which is described by the word “poverty.” Well, it’s this deprivation, in its broader sense, that I want to tackle so that once we’re able to tackle deprivation, regardless of how and in what form it rears its ugly head, we’ll be able to make the sort of change or improvement we want to make in our lives.
Since we all know in one form or another what the word “poverty” means, the real question then becomes how do people get to that point, that destination, that stage and how can they reverse course and go in the opposite direction: the direction of wealth, which I’ll be covering later.
For a very, very, very long time, I’ve always thought that this was a very easy question to answer.
The answer that most of us have been led to believe all our lives from day one, or at least as far back as we can remember, is: get a good education and then a good job that pays good or plenty of money; or go into business for yourself and make a fortune; or work hard at something–sports, music, an invention, etc.–and, bingo, watch the money roll in and let the good times roll; or win the lottery and forget about having to work again for the rest of our natural lives. It sounds good, doesn’t it?
You’ll notice that money seems to be the greatest common denominator in all these answers. There is absolutely no reference at all to anything that is (a) spiritual, (b) moral, (c) psychological, or (d) social, etc. – the other forms of poverty that I just mentioned earlier. In fact, those other forms of poverty dwarf material poverty and, in a lot of cases–not all–are responsible for the very economic poverty that people suffer from.
In any case, that is the kind of question that takes us back to the time when we were kids. You know, the kind of question you didn’t want to ask because you were afraid that somebody would say or think, “Duh, what kind of dumb question is that?” But guess what, folks? We still have, to this day, this very minute and very second, think tanks, institutes and universities full of Ph.D.s and geniuses in white coats who are still trying to answer that broader question and, depending on how many of them you ask, you’ll get as many different answers to that very question. So it’s OK to ponder on that very question because that puts us in good company.
As for myself, after spending years of trying to answer that question–you know, having been in business for over 32 years, I really didn’t have much of a choice when it came to the economic part of this question–I finally decided to come up with my very own definition for the word “poverty”, in its broader sense, in a few simple words and here it is:
Poverty is the result of associating with people (or organizations) you cannot help AND who cannot or will not help you.
So what do I mean by that?
Think about it for a minute. What if you had a bucket full of water and you came across someone who was very thirsty, possibly dehydrated and in critical condition. Like most of us, I am sure your very first instinct would be to offer a glass or cup of water to that person and save a life, regardless of whether or not you were going to receive any sort of compensation for your good deed. And whether or not the person is grateful to you for saving their life, you would probably still feel very good about yourself for having done a good deed and, if you are a believer, ask the almighty God to hold a little spot in heaven for you and then quickly go on about your merry way. So far, so good, right?
But what if you had the same scenario but with a different twist, and it goes like this: After offering the cup of water, the person gave you their own cup that had such a big hole in the bottom of it that every time you poured water into it, the water was spilling to the ground as fast as you could pour it into the cup. When you offered to give that person your own cup that did not have a hole in it, the person insisted on using their own cup.
Let’s assume that you are a saint and you decided to still continue to try to help that person by offering to, perhaps, find a way to plug that big hole in the bottom of their cup so your water will not continue to be wasted. Oops, guess what? What if the person still refused and said there was nothing wrong with their cup and wanted you to just pour the water in and that he’ll try to hold it in the cup by using a rag or by covering the hole with his hands. What if you continued to consume yourself with trying to help this person and continued to pour water into a cup which you knew was being wasted and, therefore, had no chance of saving that person’s life?
Would that be a wise thing for you to do? Obviously not. This person is definitely someone that you cannot help. In a sense, that’s what happens to us in our daily lives when we fail to ask ourselves the simple question: Am I associating myself with someone I cannot help?
This is obviously a tragedy, however, it doesn’t just end there because, due to your insistence in trying to help that person, you’ve now put yourself in a precarious situation that could have severe repercussions for you down the road. Hear me out as I explain myself a bit. At the end of the day, what would be the end result for you personally?
Let’s examine things a bit: By continuing to “associate” and preoccupy yourself with this person–you see, it’s no longer just you doing a good deed and going about your merry way, you are now associating with him–you’ve drained yourself of a lot of water that not only can’t, but will not, be replaced by the person you were trying to help. Keep in mind you only had a bucket of water, enough to meet your needs for a certain amount of time until you could get a chance to replenish your water supply. Therefore, you have now put yourself at risk of dying of thirst and dehydration because, being a good Samaritan, you were too consumed with helping someone that you just could not help.
But this is just one little teeny weeny example of how people drag themselves into poverty–be it economic, spiritual, moral, psychological or social.
Therefore, keeping in mind the definition of poverty I just gave you, in order to escape from whatever form of poverty that you are dealing with, you need to ask yourself these two simple questions:
1. Am I “associating” with people (or organizations) that I cannot help?
2. Can the people (or organizations) I am “associating” with help me AND are they willing to help me?
I know I am being repetitive, but the key word here is “associating”. Associating involves more than just a casual encounter or a simple act of kindness and goodwill. It requires and demands a significant amount of time and resources on your end and that’s where the danger lies and that’s where things not only can, but most certainly will, start to go down that slippery slope toward that vicious and damn near inescapable whirlwind and cycle of poverty.
So it’s alright to continue to help others without any expectation of getting something back from them in return. Continue making your charitable donations and participation in organizations that are devoted to helping the least fortunate among us. Just beware of “associating” with individuals [or organizations] you [cannot] help and who cannot or will not help you.
Come to think of it, have you ever looked around you and asked yourself the following questions?:
- How in the hell did things get so bad so fast?
- How or why in the world did I allow things to get to this point?
- This was a disaster in the making. What was I thinking or what could have possibly been going through my mind for me not to see this coming?
That’s right, I don’t know of a single human being who, at one point or another during their lifetime, did not ask him/herself one of these questions. I don’t care how rich and powerful you are or how broke and penniless and weak you are. There is no exception to this rule. And I’ll tell you the reason why:
That’s because most of us (1) operate in automatic mode and (2) when faced with painful, difficult, and life-altering decisions, instinctively, we tend to choose the path of least resistance, opting to deal with the consequences later. And, without fail, these consequences will eventually pop up, telling you it’s time for you to pay up. I know it is indeed difficult and very inconvenient to keep asking yourself these two questions I just mentioned earlier before you make every single decision, even though you know deep down inside that they are for your own protection.
In a way, it’s like having a bodyguard around you on a 24-hour basis. Even though you know that that person is there to protect you, after a while, you tend to get sick and tired of having someone looking over your shoulders day and night and every minute and every second of the day. You want some free space to yourself so you can wind down and relax a bit. Well, that is, of course, until you experience the first serious attempt on your life and, lo and behold, in no time at all, you get a quick jolt back to reality. That’s when you start to appreciate your bodyguard and want to make sure that he or she is around when it’s necessary.
So, let us now turn our attention to Wealth. I know you’ve been waiting for me to get to that part.
Just as there are various forms of poverty, so is the case with wealth. The forms of wealth are exactly the same as for poverty: 1) economic, the most recognizable one and also the one that is the most sought after….the grandaddy and rock star of them all, the one we call the dollar bill and which is chased after by almost every single human being on the planet; 2) spiritual, the one that most of us–not all of us–pay lip service to even though we tend to agree with its basic tenets; 3) moral, the compass that guides us in the right direction in order to save us from our own worst instincts..as well as to keep us from sliding into an abyss; 4) psychological, the one that helps us keep everything into perspective and provides some balance in our lives….the one that helps us cope with life’s challenges….The Great Equalizer; and, last bust not least, 5) social, the one that indicates our level of consciousness and caring for mankind, the environment, and our planet.
Ideally, theoretically, and practically speaking, these forms of wealth are all attainable and achievable, however, that being said, it will take you a decent amount of effort to achieve your goal. But before we go any further, let me give you the definition of “wealth.”
Wealth is the result of associating with people (or organizations) you can help AND who can and are willing to help you.
Therefore, in order to create any kind of wealth, economic or otherwise, you need to ask yourself these two simple questions:
1. Am I associating with people (or an organization) I can help?
2. Can the person (or organization) I am associating with help me AND is that person (or organization) willing to help me?
With respect to question #1, let me dissect it a little bit because I can imagine a few people who may want to disagree with it and start to ask themselves the following questions: Why do I have to be able to help that person in order to associate with him/her? What if that person doesn’t need my help? In which case, I could just proceed to question #2. And if that person fully met the requirements of question #2, why shouldn’t I accept their help? Good Good Good question. In fact, I call that an Excellent question which I am extremely delighted to answer.
Again, the key word here is “associating”. Associating denotes some sort of long term relationship instead of a casual encounter. If you do not satisfy the requirements of question #1, then you will be developing a TOXIC relationship with that person. After a while, the person doling out the largesse will begin to view you as a parasite, a flea on a dog, and eventually terminate the association. That’s because, in order to develop a healthy and successful association-relationship, both parties must bring something of value to the table or else resentment will begin to build up very quickly. In a lot of cases, it’s the person who brings nothing of value to the table who winds up resenting [him/herself] via development of low self-esteem as well as envy toward the person who is doling out the largesse. I am sure you have all heard the maxim about biting the hand that feeds you.
That is why the answer to question #1 must be positively answered before you can proceed to answer question #2. I know it can be a very tough decision to make but that’s the way life goes.
Again, keep in mind the difference between “associating” and a mere casual encounter. If you have trouble answering these two questions, you need to walk away as far and as fast as you can from that person. Otherwise, you will be very disappointed in the end and you will wind up asking yourself a set of questions similar to the ones that poverty folks ask themselves and which are:
Why in the world did I waste so much time and energy dealing with this person? Boy, I really thought we were on the road to achieving great things, but somehow or another, at the end, everything fizzled out like a big dud. What happened?
Here is another scenario. It could be that you were able to answer the first question correctly. However, your assesment of the answer to the second question may have been partially–if not completely–off base. What do I mean by that? Here is an [economic wealth] example that will help drive home the point:
Let’s say you are in pursuit of economic wealth and decided to follow step 1 of my formula by associating with people you can help, meaning you have something of value to offer that should be of interest to them and which is gladly and warmly welcomed and received by them.
With respect to [step 2] of my formula, you have correctly deduced with respect to part 1 of the question that this person you are associating with can indeed help you, however, you were so slap happy at making such a valuable connection that you automatically assumed a positive answer to part 2 of the second question which is: Is that person willing to help you? By not taking the time to make sure that this person was indeed WILLING to help you, you wound up going on a wild goose chase, burned a tremendous amount of energy, and came down crashing to the bottom of the ocean like the Titanic.
It is such a simple formula that, had I known it back in my younger years, even a decade ago, it could have saved me a huge fortune. The real beauty of this formula is that it applies to just about every single wealth creation aspect of our life. As the saying goes, “better late than never.”
ABOUT AUTHOR: Prof. Pierre Coupet is the Founder, CEO & Doctor of Virtual Organization Management at Virtual Organization Management Institute; the founder of the modern virtual organization management discipline pioneered since 1997; and also the author-presenter-host of How to Virtual Organize your Social Network, the first part of the Exclusive 12-Part Series: Empower Your Social Network with Virtual Organization Management at http://virtualorganizeyoursocialnetwork7.eventbrite.com/ :: To contact the author, send message via skype id: VOMIChairman or to firstname.lastname@example.org ::
Copyright 2011. Pierre Coupet, Virtual Organization Management Institute (http://vomi-pierre-coupet.icopyright.com/) :: Cannot be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. All rights are reserved.