This post is published in conjunction with our Podcast #121 – Wealth Creation
It might seem odd when a podcast dedicated to business warns against trying too hard to get rich.
Yet it is a truism so anciently established and so authoritative that it is found even in the Bible: wealth gotten hastily will not endure.
In business circles, one often meets people who act like successful entrepreneurs. They have the suits and the cars, and they throw money around. However, something about them does not ring true. Perhaps it is the very fact that they are spending so ostentatiously – most genuinely successful entrepreneurs have learned the value of a penny on their journey and retain a healthy respect for money, even when they can afford to spend.
The high-spenders usually fall into one of two categories. Category One are basically con-men, who rarely have any real money of their own, but they pretend that they do on the principle that money attracts money.
Category Two high-rollers really do have money, and are usually honest and sincere, but they still do not quite ring true.
These are the people who suddenly became rich. Yes, it does happen – quite a lot in fact. Perhaps they won the lottery or inherited a fortune from a distant relative or happened to stumble on to a single successful business deal, almost by accident. Sometimes it is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
A man can live a thoroughly unenterprising life, perhaps as an employee rising very slowly through the ranks, but if he is the one who happens to hear some decisive inside information about the markets, or who crawls his way up to board rank just in time for a management buy-out, or who exercises a share option just as the company goes public, or who owns a crucial strip of land when a new supermarket comes to town, then he can go from salary drone to millionaire almost overnight.
It is the modern equivalent of the prospector who happens to strike gold. The odds against a major strike in a gold rush were high, and most prospectors made a loss overall, but there were always enough who hit the mother lode to keep everyone else digging in hope.
The depressing thing is how even those who struck it rich often ended up poor in the end. Watching the modern versions, it is easy to see how.
They find that money does not bring happiness. Many get addicted to high spending. They forget that their windfall was a one-off. They end up scrabbling around for more money. Even where that does not happen, the suddenly-rich often feel a sense of inadequacy. Part of them feels guilty that they have not really earned their wealth.
Whether it is because they need more money or self-respect or both, they try to become real businessmen. They hang out with the genuine article and try to talk to the talk. So they become the Category Twos – and easy meat for the Category One con-men they encounter.
Without the education that can only come from years of business experience – and, above all, from learning from mistakes along the way – the poor Category Two is wholly out of his depth. Some survive long enough to learn from the mistakes, and may in time flourish. Most do not.
If all this sounds too negative, it is leading to a very positive conclusion: there is a good way to get rich – and, oddly enough, one that is also mentioned in the Bible.
If you want to be rich, stop thinking about being rich. Do not spend your time thinking about the yachts, the helicopters, the sports cars, and the supermodels you will have when you are rich. Those who spend their time fantasising on those things never end up rich. Think instead about what people want and need. Focus on developing the best possible products and services that meet those wants and needs, and on getting them to the market. Then stop thinking and act – and one day, perhaps almost without noticing, you may end up seriously and permanently rich.