Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rich Or Poor Is A Mindset

I read a book titled The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles, first published in 1910. Chapter 3 is titled “Is Opportunity Monopolised?” The author answers the question by arguing that opportunity is not monopolized and that everybody has the chance to become rich, no matter who or where they are. What really matters is how people think and how they act.

King Solomon made a similar statement in Ecclesiastes 9:11, when he wrote:

“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance (or opportunity) happen to them all.”

What Solomon said firstly is that everyone has an equal amount of time – 24 hours a day. Secondly, everyone has opportunity knocking on their lives every day. But what makes the difference is what people do with their time, and how they react to the opportunities life presents to them.

Slow people can win just as well as the swift; weak people can be victorious just as well as the strong; wise people can starve and brilliant people can be poor; and both the uneducated and the educated can enjoy favour. What is important is how people react to what life throws at them.
Consider this:

• In every poor country there are rich people, and in every rich country there are poor people.

• There are educated people that are poor, and there are uneducated people that are rich.

• There are employed people that are poor, and there are unemployed people that are rich.

• The majority of the working class people are highly indebted and struggles to make ends meet, while the majority of self-employed people are financially free. In developed countries a large number of working class people are becoming poor, even though they are highly educated and highly paid.

• There are women that are rich, and there are men that are poor.

• There are young people that are rich, and there are elderly people that are poor. An increasing number of high school kids are multimillionaires.

• There are very rich people in developing countries, and there are very poor people in developed countries. For example, I read recently that 20% of people in the city of New York live below the poverty line.

• There are godless people that are very rich, and there are godly people that are very poor.

• There are many cases of people becoming very wealthy despite being born into poor families, and there are many cases of people born into rich families losing their inheritance within the space of just one generation.

When I pondered this, I realised that this world is full of contradictions. You would think that the key to getting out of poverty is education, a high-paying job, living in a developed country, being male, being a Christian, and so on, but this is not necessarily the case. Who you are does not matter. Where you are also doesn’t matter. What family background you come from doesn’t matter.


The conclusion I have drawn is this: Rich or poor is a mind-set or way of thinking and looking at the world. People who become rich think ‘rich’ thoughts, and therefore exhibit ‘rich’ habits and attitudes, which lead them to becoming rich, while poor people think thoughts of poverty and scarcity, and thereby exhibit attitudes and livelihoods that are consistent with their mind-sets.

This is what the Bible has been saying for centuries: “As a man thinks, so he becomes” (Proverbs 23:7). I have heard people in the health sector say, “You are what you eat.” This is true. If you eat healthy food, you stay healthy; if the food you eat is unhygienic, you become sick and weak. I have also heard preachers say, “You are what you say you are.” This is also true. But what you eat or say are just outward expressions of the thoughts that are going through your mind. What is truly true is this: You are what you think you are.


Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, was not highly educated. In fact, he left school at 15 years of age. But he went on to build cars. He is credited with being the first to think up the idea of reducing costs through the assembly line and mass production of cars. He wanted to see every American household own a car, and succeeded in seeing his dream being fulfilled. This man made a very profound statement which has become one of my favourties. He said,

“If you think you can, you can;
If you think you can’t, you can’t;
Either way you are right.”

Ford is said to have made the above statement in response to people who asked him how he could build motor cars despite not going to engineering school. His response was that it was not important whether he had been to school or not; what was important is whether he thought he could build cars or not. He thought he could build cars, so he did. If he thought he couldn’t, he would not.

Another of his sayings is, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why not many people engage in it.” This guy was obviously a positive thinker and believer. He thought in terms of possibilities or what he could accomplish. He did not focus on problems and seemingly difficult circumstances.


Most of us are bound by convention and tradition. We repeat what we have heard as to what can be done or happen and what cannot be done. The result is that we end up like every body else.

The Wright Brothers thought and believed that man could fly, despite the popular thinking at the time. Even their uncle Lord Wright, a bishop in the church, believed otherwise. He told them, “Only angels were meant to fly.” But thank God Orville and Wilbur persisted with their dream. Imagine what the world would be like if these men did not risk being excommunicated from the church for their very radical belief that man can fly.

Likewise, Christopher Columbus thought that the world was round, when the whole world accepted that it was flat. All the scientists and geographers went against Columbus when he announced that the world was round. He was persecuted for his beliefs. But because he was bold enough to think differently, the world is a much better place today.

Whether we can or can’t depends not on our abilities or disabilities, whether real or imagined, but on what we think. If you think you can do something or become someone, you are right – you can. But if you think you cannot become somebody or do something, you are right also – you cannot. What is important is not what other people say; it is what you think.


I have also concluded that everybody is born rich, but most of us become poor, because we develop a poverty mind-set as we grow up. Have you noticed that children are careless and wasteful – even extravagant? They open the tap and let the water run. They switch the light on and don’t put it off. They eat a plate of ice cream, and they are not satisfied. Have you noticed how we adults scold them every time we find them being wasteful? It’s a clash of mind-sets. Children naturally think in terms of abundance, while we adults think and make decisions with a world of scarcity as our mental backdrop.

Children do not know of a world of scarcity or trouble. They look around them and see abundance and peace. They think it is fun to open the tap and let the water just flow down the drain, or play hockey in a war-torn city or crime-infested suburb. They are carefree and careless. They believe anything you tell them, even if it is unbelievable. It is only when we grown ups tell them that they begin to see a world of lack and limitation.

We need to have a shift in mind-set from poverty and scarcity to abundance, if we are to become the prosperous people God has created us to be. Without such a major shift in thinking, we will continue to struggle despite the fact that God desires for us to prosper. Poverty will then be self-imposed, not God-designed.


As I was preparing for one of my talks on radio, these thoughts came to me, which were a revelation to me:

• Poor people with rich mind-sets become rich.

• Rich people with poor mind-sets become poor.

• Poor people with poor mind-sets remain poor.

• Rich people with rich mind-sets remain rich.

If you really think about it, there is a lot of truth in these statements. Take the first statement, for instance. I believe it explains why some people go from rags to riches. They start with nothing – little or no education and little or no money - and become multimillionaires. These are the self-made millionaires of the world. Their positive mind-sets attract wealth and riches.

The second statement reminds us of people who come into a lot of money through inheritance, winning lotteries, getting compensation, getting termination or retirement payouts, or even robbing others – but lose everything almost immediately. I am sure you can think of at least one such person right now. Their poor mind-set cannot accommodate their rich status, so wealth flows out of their lives and they are back to where they were. They cannot become rich because their minds repel wealth.

Recently I read that in the city of New York, the financial centre of the world, there are millions of poor people. These people live in one of the most developed cities with all the amenities, yet millions of them from all racial backgrounds live below the poverty line.

The third statement is the saddest of all, because we do have a lot of such people all over the world: People who are born into poor circumstances who think that they cannot become rich, as a result of which they live in poverty all their lives. They look around and blame other people, the weather, the terrain, the political situation, etc for their station in life. But the fact is that there are other people in the same location born into similar circumstances who are rich. The problem is that a ‘poor’ mind-set interferes with them seeing this. The forgone conclusion they have formed that they are condemned to poverty by their circumstances so there is no way out for them, makes them live in self-imposed poverty.

This may also be reflective of a large proportion of people all over the world. They come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or are uneducated or unemployed, because of which they lack material things. This makes them think that they cannot come out of their lack and poverty, so they remain in that state till the day they die. They believe that they were created to be poor. Even as success breeds success, poverty breeds poverty.

I guess the million dollar question then is, “How do I develop a rich mind-set?” To answer that question, let me share with you some of the major characteristics of rich and poor mindsets.


Abundance: There is enough for everyone, such that what I acquire is not at someone else’s expense.

Generosity: What I give comes back to me multiplied, not only material things but also knowledge, ideas and time. So I must give every chance I get.

Selflessness: I will give other people priority and let them get as much as they desire. If there is nothing left for me, it is fine.

Honest hard work: I will not take short cuts to get what I want. I will put in an honest day’s work even when the boss is not around.

Hospitality: I will accommodate other peoples’ needs, because I am only a channel in God’s hands to bless others. When I bless others, I will be blessed.

Opportunity: Everything that happens to me is for my good, so I will look for opportunities in the seemingly adverse circumstances I am faced with.

Optimism – Even though my past and present have not been good, the future is promising for me. Something good is in store for me if I persist.


Scarcity: There is not enough for every one to have a share to their satisfaction.

Greed: I must get as much as I can while I have the opportunity.

Selfishness: I must think about myself and my family before I think about others.

Fear: If I give to others, I will be left with less or nothing for myself. What if I invest my savings and I lose everything?

Hoarding: I must keep this and not give it away or sell it now.

Negativity: The way things are going, there is no hope of me getting promoted or succeeding in business.

Bribery: I must demand additional fees for my services because I am not paid enough.

Laziness: Why work when other people are there to help me when I have needs?

Crime: It is easy to steal and get away with it without anyone noticing.

Fraud – The system is so inefficient the authorities will not notice. In any case, others who are part of the network will cover our tracks.

Prostitution: There is just no way for me and my family to survive if I don’t do this.

Robbery – Working is a waste of time when I can rob other people, even though it is risky.

Gambling: What I lose is little compared with what I can win. Why waste time saving and investing when I can get-rich-quick.

Victim mindset: I would be better off if it were not for other people who have robbed me of opportunities.

Trickery: I’ll take advantage of them now while I have the opportunity. I can always explain myself tomorrow.

Exorbitant pricing: I will make the most from this transaction.

Entitlement mentality: I don’t earn enough to save and invest. My superannuation savings and retirement benefits fund will look after me in old age.

Handout mentality: I will ask the Member of Parliament, a donor agency, my relatives etc when I am faced with financial needs.

Employment: I cannot succeed because I am not educated and don’t have a job.

Problems: There are so many problems that I cannot see any way out of my situation.

Can you see what goes on in peoples’ minds? Can you see the differences in thinking? Can you see the kind of thoughts you are used to entertaining? Are they thoughts of the rich or the poor?

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