Being ‘Poor’ Is A Culture, And As Such, It Is Learned And Passed On To The Next Generation
In part one of this series, I explained how being ‘poor’ is not only a relative term, it is a mindset that we chose. In this post, I will explain how, once we chose to be ‘poor,’ we teach being ‘poor’ to the next generations until it becomes a culture. If you have not read part one, please do so now as it is necessary in order to understand this post.
I want to start by going back to my business. Because I had never owned, much less managed a business before, when I suddenly found myself enjoying the financial reward of my new-found success, I did not know how to manage my money. Like most employees, I figured that the money I suddenly had was proof that all business owners are rich and that they do not share their money by paying higher wages because they are also greedy. In short, I had a ‘poor man’s’ mentality but a businessman’s job. They do not mix, as I was about to discover.
As the money started to roll in, I spent it. I did not think about the future, I just assumed that it would stay the way it was and that I would always be a success. It never dawned on me that I was something new in a market that just happened to be in a lull. Now, it was true, I did put out a great product at a very fair price, and I made stuff no one else had even tried to make before I came along. But, at the time, in my ‘poor man’s’ mind, I did not understand how being the newest thing in a small market that was in a period with no real competition could combine with new, high quality products at cheap prices to make it ‘appear’ as though I knew what I was doing. I didn’t, I just got lucky is all.
So I grew – fast! I hired people, and I paid them well – too well. But I did not understand this at the time. I thought I was doing a ‘good’ thing by sharing in the profits. And, for a while, things went well. But then the government showed up and I got introduced to my share of payroll taxes and OSHA and a host of other fees and regulations. My paycheck – MINE – went to less than anyone else in my company – because I didn’t want to be the ‘greedy’ business owner. Then the market woke back up and I had competition. In fact, I was partly responsible for that competition. Because I had raised the bar, I pushed others to keep up with me…and they did. And my paycheck went to zero!
But I was still thinking like the ‘poor man,’ so I did what the poor do: I made big plans and borrowed money to make them happen. I borrowed a lot of money! It didn’t work. So, after a year or so of trying to hang on, I had to fire people. I cut back to me and one other worker, and I cut our paychecks. But, by then, it was too late. I struggled for another couple years, but the debt was too much and I agreed to sell the company. My worker bought it. He had the same “poor man,” “employee” attitude I started out with, and he traveled the same path I did – only faster. And so it was that after less than two years, the company came back to me for failure to pay the loan.
But this time I did things differently. First, I changed my attitude. I no longer work for me. I work to serve others. Serving the needs of others is job number one here now. I serve others by providing the best customer service, highest quality product and best value I can possibly provide. “Value” was a crucial part of learning to be successful at my business. I no longer worry about making things cheap because I know I was hurting myself by doing that in the past. I had to learn to charge what an item was worth. It is not only fair to me; it is actually fair to the customer – because it keeps my company healthy. Because my company is healthy, they get more great products and good values and the service stays high.
I learned something else, too. I learned to pinch pennies. I started worrying about that ½ cent of the cost of packaging, because it adds up when you make 10,000 packages a month. I stopped spending money just because I had it, and I no longer bought the latest and greatest stuff in my industry. When I did that in the past, I was spending money I needed to run the company and provide my family with a paycheck. I also looked back and discovered that most of the stuff I bought just lay around: I never used it, I just wanted it. Now, I only buy what I need and only when I need it. And what I buy is focused on making new products. The whole idea now is to make a profit because, without a profit, there is no company. It does not matter how ‘good’ my heart is, I must attend to the business first. And guess what happened when I started to run my business this way? It got strong, debt free and is more profitable than it has ever been. Now, here is another little gem. Everything I just told you about how I run my business comes from Scripture!
That’s right; Scripture teaches us how to run a successful business. Now, this does not mean that all businesses run according to Scripture will succeed. It just means your chances will be much better, and they will be better because you will be operating according to the principles of God’s Natural Law. It’s kind of like trying to swim up-stream: if you work hard enough, you might make a little progress, but the moment you let up, you will be washed away. However, if you swim with the current, it does not mean you cannot drown, but the chances are much better that you will be OK.
Sadly, the poor never learn this lesson. They learn to think that ‘success’ only comes by swimming up-stream or by cheating, and they live accordingly. How many people do you know who claim they cannot afford health care actually have the type of job that would provide it? Why do you suppose they don’t have that sort of job? Did they go into the military, or government service? Did they bother to go to trade school so they could learn a trade that would then let them serve others in return for pay? Did they go to college to learn a profession that would make their service even more valuable to others? Or do they even look at their situation this way?
What about those people who think they are poor because they somehow got cheated. Do they work as hard as the man or woman who is trying to build their own small business the way I did? I put in 60-80 hour weeks all the time. Does the person claiming the ‘rich’ cheated them work that hard trying to better their life? Let me ask another question. Do those people have expensive clothes, jewelry, phones, IPods, cars or computers? If they do, then they are making the same mistakes I made with my business. They are buying things they do not need when they should be using their money to buy what they need to make more money. At the very least, they should save and invest and live within their means. Because, when we do that, and we are disciplined, the odds go way up that we will one day have enough to pay our bills and afford the things we want – so long as we do not want too much.
But the ‘poor’ do not understand any of this. They have surrendered themselves to the idea that they are stuck where they are in life and that – somehow – it is someone else’s fault. They start justifying their envy and greed, and they no longer care enough to try to work to better themselves. Instead, they find it easier to demand and they start demanding the government take from others and give to them. By the time they have reached that point, they have developed a culture of poverty. The problem is, it is a prison of their own making. Worse, it is not even real: they can leave any time they decide to stop being lazy and envious of others and start living according to the teachings of Scripture. After all, if you want to have money, who would you ask about how to earn it: a self-made business person, or someone who sits at home complaining about how they never have anything because people are keeping them down?