How to Avoid One of Life’s Biggest Traps
It was 1956, and I was 9 years old.
There was one day when my rich dad came to talk to me and Mike after our shift at the grocery store.
At this point, we were working for free — not even our original pay of 10 cents per hour. It was part of a lessons rich dad was trying to teach us, but we were still having trouble grasping what he wanted us to learn.
This next conversation came three weeks after he’d given us that first big lesson… the difference between working for money, and having money work for you.
“Learn anything yet?” rich dad started with.
Mike and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and shook our heads in unison.
“You boys had better start thinking. You’re staring at one of life’s biggest lessons. If you learn it, you’ll enjoy a life of great freedom and security. If you don’t, you’ll wind up like Mrs. Martin and most of the people playing softball in this park. They work very hard for little money, clinging to the illusion of job security and looking forward to a three-week vacation each year and maybe a skimpy pension after forty-five years of service. If that excites you, I’ll give you a raise to 25 cents an hour.”
“But these are good hardworking people. Are you making fun of them?” I demanded.
A smile came over rich dad’s face.
“I may sound unkind because I’m doing my best to point something out to the two of you. I want to expand your point of view so you can see something most people never have the benefit of seeing because their vision is too narrow. Most people never see the trap they are in.”
Mike and I sat there, uncertain of his message. He sounded cruel, yet we could sense he was trying to drive home a point.
With a smile, rich dad said, “Doesn’t that 25 cents an hour sound good? Doesn’t it make your heart beat a little faster?”
I shook my head no, but it really did. Twenty-five cents an hour would be big bucks to me.
“Okay, I’ll pay you a dollar an hour,” rich dad said, with a sly grin. Now my heart started to race. My brain was screaming, “Take it. Take it.” I could not believe what I was hearing. Still, I said nothing.
“Okay, two dollars an hour.”
My little brain and heart nearly exploded. After all, it was 1956 and being paid $2 an hour would have made me the richest kid in the world. I couldn’t imagine earning that kind of money. I wanted to say yes. I wanted the deal. I could picture a new bicycle, new baseball glove, and the adoration of my friends when I flashed some cash. On top of that, Jimmy and his rich friends could never call me poor again.
But somehow my mouth stayed shut.
Rich dad was looking at two boys staring back at him, eyes wide open and brains empty. He was testing us, and he knew there was a part of our emotions that wanted to take the deal. He understood that every person has a weak and needy part of their soul that can be bought, and he knew that every individual also had a part of their soul that was resilient and could never be bought. It was only a question of which one was stronger.
“Okay, five dollars an hour.”
Suddenly I was silent. Something had changed. The offer was too big and ridiculous. Not many grown-ups in 1956 made more than that, but quickly my temptation disappeared, and calm set in. Slowly, I turned to my left to look at Mike. He looked back at me. The part of my soul that was weak and needy was silenced. The part of me that had no price took over. I knew Mike had gotten to that point too.
People’s Lives Are Forever Controlled by Two Emotions: Fear and Greed
“Good,” rich dad said softly. “Most people have a price. And they have a price because of human emotions named fear and greed. First, the fear of being without money motivates us to work hard, and then once we get that paycheck, greed or desire starts us thinking about all the wonderful things money can buy. The pattern is then set.”
“What pattern?” I asked.
“The pattern of get up, go to work, pay bills; get up, go to work, pay bills. People’s lives are forever controlled by two emotions: fear and greed. Offer them more money and they continue the cycle by increasing their spending. This is what I call the Rat Race.”
“There is another way?” Mike asked.
“Yes,” said rich dad slowly. “But only a few people find it.” “And what is that way?” Mike asked.
“That’s what I hope you boys will learn as you work and study with me. That is why I took away all forms of pay.”
“Any hints?” Mike asked. “We’re kind of tired of working hard, especially for nothing.”
“Well, the first step is telling the truth,” said rich dad.
“We haven’t been lying,” I said.
“I did not say you were lying. I said to tell the truth,” rich dad retorted.
“The truth about what?” I asked.
“How you’re feeling,” rich dad said. “You don’t have to say it to anyone else. Just admit it to yourself.”
“You mean the people in this park, the people who work for you, Mrs. Martin, they don’t do that?” I asked.
“I doubt it,” said rich dad. “Instead, they feel the fear of not having money. They don’t confront it logically. They react emotionally instead of using their heads,” rich dad said. “Then, they get a few bucks in their hands and again, the emotions of joy, desire, and greed take over. And again they react, instead of think.”
“So their emotions control their brain,” Mike said.
“That’s correct,” said rich dad. “Instead of admitting the truth about how they feel, they react to their feelings and fail to think. They feel the fear so they go to work, hoping that money will soothe the fear, but it doesn’t. It continues to haunt them and they return to work, hoping again that money will calm their fears, and again it doesn’t.
“Fear keeps them in this trap of working, earning money, working, earning money, hoping the fear will go away. But every day they get up, and that old fear wakes up with them. For millions of people that old fear keeps them awake all night, causing a night of turmoil and worry. So they get up and go to work, hoping that a paycheck will kill that fear gnawing at their soul.
“Money is running their lives, and they refuse to tell the truth about that. Money is in control of their emotions and their souls.”
Rich dad sat quietly, letting his words sink in. Mike and I heard what he said but didn’t understand fully what he was talking about. I just knew that I often wondered why grown-ups hurried off to work.
It did not seem like much fun, and they never looked that happy, but something kept them going.
Realizing we had absorbed as much as possible of what he was talking about, rich dad said, “I want you boys to avoid that trap. That is really what I want to teach you. Not just to be rich, because being rich does not solve the problem.”
“It doesn’t?” I asked, surprised.
“No, it doesn’t. Let me explain the other emotion: desire. Some call it greed, but I prefer desire. It’s perfectly normal to desire something better, prettier, more fun, or exciting. So people also work for money because of desire. They desire money for the joy they think it can buy. But the joy that money brings is often short-lived, and they soon need more money for more joy, more pleasure, more comfort, and more security. So they keep working, thinking money will soothe their souls that are troubled by fear and desire. But money can’t do that.”
“Even rich people do this?” Mike asked.
“Rich people included,” said rich dad. “In fact, the reason many rich people are rich isn’t because of desire, but because of fear.
“They believe that money can eliminate the fear of being poor, so they amass tons of it, only to find the fear gets worse. Now they fear losing the money. I have friends who keep working even though they have plenty. I know people who have millions who are more afraid now than when they were poor.
“They’re terrified of losing it all. The fears that drove them to get rich got worse. That weak and needy part of their soul is actually screaming louder. They don’t want to lose the big houses, the cars and the high life money has bought them. They worry about what their friends would say if they lost all their money.
“Many are emotionally desperate and neurotic, although they look rich and have more money.”
“So is a poor man happier?” I asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” replied rich dad. “The avoidance of money is just as psychotic as being attached to money.”
As if on cue, the town derelict went past our table, stopping by the large rubbish can and rummaging around in it. The three of us watched him with great interest, when before we probably would have just ignored him.
Rich dad pulled a dollar out of his wallet and gestured to the older man. Seeing the money, the derelict came over immediately, took the bill, thanked rich dad profusely, and hurried off, ecstatic with his good fortune.
“He’s not much different from most of my employees,” said rich dad. “I’ve met so many people who say, ‘Oh, I’m not interested in money.’ Yet they’ll work at a job for eight hours a day. That’s a denial of truth. If they weren’t interested in money, then why are they working? That kind of thinking is probably more psychotic than a person who hoards money.”
As I sat there listening to my rich dad, my mind flashed back to the countless times my own dad said, “I’m not interested in money.”
I Work Because I Love My Job
“So what do we do?” I asked. “Not work for money until all traces of fear and greed are gone?”
“No, that would be a waste of time,” said rich dad. “Emotions are what make us human. The word ‘emotion’ stands for ‘energy in motion.’ Be truthful about your emotions and use your mind and emotions in your favor, not against yourself.”
This lesson is something very few people can grapple with. It’s not so difficult to understand the truth in it…
But can you actually use that knowledge to change your behavior?
We’ll discuss that further tomorrow.
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily