The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer! We have all heard this sentiment many times, and usually this complaint comes from someone who, well, isn’t rich! Factual statistics seem to validate the wealth shift in America. With the discrepancy and inequality of wealth in America, it’s easy to see why people hate the rich. In 2007 the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned only 15% of the wealth pie. That disparity has only increased over the years.
Some who are naive foolishly believe that the political system and politicians have the power to wave a magic wand and bring equality to this lopsided wealth equation. Since the readers of this blog are neither naive nor foolish, let’s get down to the meat of the issue.
Sometimes the quality of our questions determines the validity of the answers we get. The real question we should ponder is not why the 20% rich keep getting richer, but rather how do we become one of the 20% of the rich? Repeatedly hard work, long working hours, and education are cited as the ways the 20% got there. These traits and efforts appear to be too steep of a price for the 80% to pay.
As someone who studies successful, self-made people for a living, this is how I interpret the information available to us:
Get Down to Business: The rich are often people who, like a winning sports team, just want it more and have a mindset that allows them to do whatever is necessary to get and stay at the top. They just get down to business and do whatever it takes to reach their goals! For example, the 40-hour work week seems to be a cultural myth in terms of “getting rich.” Few of the many millionaires I have watched and studied over the years limit themselves to a 40-hour work week. In fact, many confess they just love to work; are always thinking and working at their businesses; and are self-professed workaholics.
Long work hours seems to be a hallmark of the rich. Here’s where you can see a lot of similarities between the top 10 percent and another group that demonstrates outsized economic mobility–immigrants. Both groups work extraordinarily long hours, typically more than 60 hours per week.
The School of Hard Knocks: While the middle-class appreciates the importance of education, it takes on three distinct meanings among the top 10 percent: First, by and large, they have all studied at that most revered institution, The School of Hard Knocks. This means they have learned by taking on challenges that most of us shy away from, such as making promises they don’t know how to keep but are willing to try and are confident somehow, some way, they will figure it out. Second, they are great networkers. The top 10 percent know how to leverage and maximize the value of relationships, and many of their most important relationships are the ones they develop at college. Third, and truly last, are the skills and knowledge they accumulate in the classroom at the feet of their professors. The biggest lesson of the top 10 percent is this: Being an entrepreneur (one who creates businesses and wealth) is not for everyone, but if you behave more entrepreneurially, you might achieve greater success.
Risk-Taking: Taking risks is like Russian roulette, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose – both wins and losses can be big. Successful private business owners all took risks to become successful and they continue to take risks every day. Knowledge and experience can reduce the risk, but there is always risk with an entrepreneurial venture. Persevering in the face of adversity – getting up after being knocked down — is not a trait that most middle-class Americans exhibit to the same degree as the top 10 percent.
So if you want to enjoy the success of the top 20%, the top 10%, or the top 1% develop a taste for hard work; don’t shy away from the fights and risks of life and business; and never, ever concede to doubt, fear, failure or unbelief that you can achieve every dream you have.
I’ll see you at the top! (Your comments are welcomed, so let us hear from you.)
Tommy is a self-made millionaire entrepreneur with over 35 years experience. He is the Author of the forthcoming book The Way Of The Rich, and Host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show Makin’ It! [www.makinitnow.com]
In addition, he has two websites dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build their small businesses and be on their way to becoming future millionaires.