How to Get Delightfully Rich
(and Still Keep Your Soul)

Thinking about the post I would write for Blog Action Day, I started to realize just how powerful this “poverty” idea is. In the developed world, swimming the way we are in material abundance that we can’t really see, just changing your thinking about poverty can have profound implications for the kind of success you can start to create.

I don’t believe in the Law of Attraction, but I know from experience that you tend to see more of what you focus on. Focus on poverty and you’ll see more poverty. Focus on wealth and you’ll see more wealth. And just like keeping your eyes on the road ahead when you’re driving, you have a natural tendency to “go where you’re looking.”

I see two patterns that tend to shape the lives of both rich people and poor people.

Rich People Learn from Experience that Taking Action Leads to Results

Poor People Learn from Experience that Taking Action Is Pointless

Now here’s the interesting part:

If You’re Reading this Blog, You Get to Be in Group #1

You have Internet access. Which means you either have a computer or at least access to a good library. You can read. You live in a place with infrastructure. You have access to components that you can put together to fix people’s problems and create success for yourself.

Just as important as any of this, you have essentially unlimited access to models of success. You can find the stories, techniques, tactics, resources and mindset of thousands of successful people. Do what they do, and you’ll start to succeed. Do a little more, and you’ll succeed faster.

You have the privilege of deciding to believe that if you take action, you’ll get results.

Now you do need to keep one thing in mind:

The Odds of Failure Are Pretty Close to 100%

If something’s worth doing at all, you’re going to have to work through some cycles of “huh, nope, that wasn’t it.”

Because rich people know that taking action leads to results, this doesn’t bug them. What some of us call “failures,” they call “data points.” They figure it’s a particular approach or technique or vendor or marketing message that didn’t work, and they try a different one. They know that if they take enough action, they’ll get a good result. So they just keep taking action until that happens. Tweak and relaunch, tweak and relaunch until the thing starts moving in the right direction.

Successful people fail as quickly as they possibly can so they can find the thing that won’t fail.

Poverty Is Not an Illusion

It’s become chic in successful circles to say that poverty is all about mindset, that it’s just a bad dream and all the poor need to do is snap out of it. Essentially, that poor people are poor because they are stupid, lazy, or just misguided.

This is bullshit. Lack of infrastructure is not an illusion. Catastrophic crop failure is not an illusion. The complete absense of success models is not an illusion. The limitations faced by a woman with HIV who can’t get out of bed, and the 10 orphaned kids she can no longer take care of, are not an illusion.

You Can Take Action to Eliminate Poverty in Our Lifetime

That woman with HIV? Your donation can get her antiviral medication. An organization ships the medication to her country. A volunteer gets on a bicycle and brings it to her house, and shows her how to take the drugs. She gets out of her bed and starts to take care of those orphaned kids again. It’s called the Lazarus Effect, and it’s happening every day.

The thing that kept her on that death bed wasn’t her illusion, it was ours: that HIV is too big a problem to stop, that the millions who are dying, and the children they leave behind, are beyond our hope. Better not think about it, because it’s too big a problem to fix.

Except it isn’t. We in the developed world can make donations, and incredibly passionate, energetic people will turn those donations into saved lives.

We take action, and that action leads to results. We are rich.

Your Success is an Obligation

I read something recently–that the word “opportunity” should be replaced with “obligation.” (Was this in Chris Brogan’s latest newsletter? I’m dying to reread the quote but I can’t find it.)

No matter how freaked out you are about the economy today, you aren’t dying on a mat on the floor, too weak to move, with no idea how your kids will eat tomorrow. You are, in fact, gloriously wealthy and successful. You are awash in abundance, and if the TV news has been making you forget that, turn off the TV news.

You get to make a decision. Keep your head or lose it. Focus on finding the path to more success than ever before, or focus on how frightened you are, and become too weak to take care of yourself or anyone else.

All this economic garbage doesn’t mean things will get worse for you. These are millionaire-making times. When a lot of people face big scary problems, you can create a lot of success for yourself in solving those problems.

The keys to wealth are confidence and a habit of action. You can create more of both for yourself by making a donation to help the genuinely poor. (And yes, there are plenty of genuinely poor people right in this country.)

Not because you feel guilty. But because when you take action that helps someone who needs a hand, you benefit and they benefit.

A Lot of Us Think these Two Outcomes Are Mutually Exclusive

  • There is less suffering in the world.
  • There is more money in your pocket.

These two things in fact can go very nicely hand-in-hand. Believing otherwise is the most toxic illusion of all.

No one succeeds because you fail.

Here are some charities I like a lot because I can easily visualize how they turn my dollars into action. I can recommend that: pick an organization whose story you find motivating. That will keep you donating and keep you connected to this most important of all ambitions–to help relieve the suffering of people who are hurting.

As I’ve written about before, I donate 10% of my self-employment income to these organizations, or ones similar to them.

This practice makes me very ambitious and very energetic. Send an invoice to my clients, receive some money, send a piece of that along to save a little kid’s life. It feels amazing. Please give it a try.

Smiletrain. These guys take a disfigured, isolated and in some cases physically starving little person and fix her up so she can smile, receive love from her parents, go to school, make human connections and live a full human life. It’s the best $250 bargain you’re going to find. (If $250 is a lot, which of course it is, contribute what you can today and then keep chipping in. You’ll get there.)

World Vision. These are the guys who educated me about the Lazarus Effect. They do a lot of great work for kids in various kinds of horrible trouble, all of which are exaggerated by poverty. They are a Christian organization and I am not a Christian, but that doesn’t bug me too much.

Unicef. Yep, good old boring Unicef. They send mosquito nets to places infested with malaria, and anti-parasite medication to kids with belly worms that are killing them. I still dig Unicef and I still contribute to them.

Of course there are thousands more. Lean, cutting-edge new ones like The Acumen Fund or Room to Read, old faithfuls like Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross. Some of them are very efficient. Some are less so on a percentage basis, but they still deliver a huge amount of relief to folks who need help. If you have another favorite, let us know in the comments about what they do and why you love them.

The worst thing you can do is get knotted up about whether an organization is perfect. That’s poverty thinking. Find a good group whose mission speaks to your heart. Use a guide like Charity Navigator to do some quick due diligence. Then make a habit of donating to help people who need help. There’s nothing else you can do to more quickly reset your poverty mindset to a wealth mindset.

Are You Participating in Blog Action Day This Year?

If you have a Blog Action Day post you’re proud of, please post a link in the comments. I’ll post every non-spammy link in this post. (If you can’t write or post it today, don’t sweat it. The offer stands all week. Find your own take on this topic and let it shine.)

Blog Action Day posts as of 2:15 my time:

  • Why Jessie Won’t Go to College. Brian Clark uses his copywriting skills to let us know about Jessie (a real person), who’s doing everything she can to take care of her siblings, leaving not much room for any kind of future for herself. He’s also donating $25 for every donation of at least $10 to Save the Children. (I donated $100 because some folks peeved me in the comments. So there.)
  • Poverty Snowball: What Is Your Life Worth?. Get-your-damned-life-where-you-want-it Uberninja Dave Navarro talks about the fact that you matter (a lot), and challenges you to make the most of that.
  • Solving Poverty. Lori Cole talks about the role of heroes, commitment and education in tackling poverty.
  • How $10 Can Actually Make a Difference. Zoe Westhof blogs about her friend Lisa Nesser, who founded a nonprofit to help educate hill tribe kids (who have no official government IDs or access to services) in Thailand. These folks run a fantastic project on a skimpy $1500 a month.
  • The Lack of Chances is the Source of Poverty. Daniel writes about seeing poverty up close, and how education can make profound changes.
  • Four Easy Reasons to Ignore World Poverty Charlie Gilkey addresses a pet bug of mine–the nagging voices that tell us “this can’t be fixed, it’s too hard, let’s not think about it too much.” I particularly loved this quote: “Imagine if we saw the starving children as a personal problem that we need to do something about rather than an issue.”
  • Helping Those Less Well Off. Ultra Rob talks about how you can turn your love of biking into good ways to help others.
  • When Did You Last Show Anyone How to Fish? Janice Cartier posts a beautiful little personal story about taking one little action, human to human, and making a connection that touches a kid’s life forever.
  • The Roots of Poverty Mary H. Ruth talks about poverty and state of mind, and the idea that “none of us is saved until all of us are saved.” Very nice.

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Flickr Creative Commons image by the incomparable babasteve


  1. Dave Navarro says:

    “No one succeeds because you fail.”

    How true. No excuses, right? :-)


    Dave Navarros last blog post..The Poverty Snowball: What Is Your Life Worth?

  2. Neil says:

    In being mostly unemployed for the last 6 months, I’ve been pointing the finger a lot, being lazy, etc.

    It recently dawned on me that I need to take more responsibility for my financial state, and that getting a job and supporting myself is still my obligation, no matter how bad the economy gets and no matter how many times I hear “we’ve decided to pursue other candidates”.

    Good post here. Especially true for people who are inclined to invest their time/money/career into things that may help the global “poor”.

    Neils last blog post..Human Development Index Looking Up!

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    I think you hit a key point. A lot of the world’s best innovation happens during crisis because suddenly there’s enough pain and a business case makes sense. There’s always opportunity if you look for it and yes, you get what you focus on.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..How To Overcome Mistrust

  4. Lori Cole says:

    This is a great post on the subject of Solving Poverty. Here is my approach to the issue –

  5. Zoe says:

    What an insightful post. It’s so easy for us to look at a huge challenge and decide to ignore it completely just because we can’t tackle it all at once. Articles like this are important for putting economic woes into perspective.

    My Blog Action Day post highlights a specific organization in Thailand that is struggling to keep its doors open on even a very modest budget. I’d love for you and your readers to check it out!

  6. Daniel says:

    Agree when you said “Poverty Is Not an Illusion”. The problem they are facing is not an illusion which can be easily ignored by thinking that it’s not there. It needs actions from others to help them out by giving them a chance to do it…

    I linked this post on my post…


    Daniels last blog post..The Lack of Chances is the Source of Poverty, Can we make a different?

  7. Melissa says:

    It is so true that no one succeeds because we fail. I just read “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard, founder of the outdoor gear company Patagonia. (I highly recommend the book to anyone who believes those “two outcomes are mutually exclusive (there is less suffering in the world, there is more money in your pocket)”. Here is a quote from an interview with him (see below). It’s important not to feel isolated. We are part of a great whole.

    He’s an amazing man. Read the book! :)

    Thanks for the post!


    “I always say that there’s no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn our fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens. I’m a super-pessimist, but I’m going to do what I can in the meantime because it makes me feel good. About 30 years ago we started making small grants to grassroots groups. And every one of those people tells us how a $5,000 grant from us made all the difference in the world. We also teach environmental activism workshops on how to run an effective activist organization. So often these folks are fighting against some big corporation, trying to stop pollution or clearcutting or some huge development. Sometimes they’re ostracized in their communities. And they’re thinking, “Is it worth it?” Or “Maybe we just ought to move out of here.” And then they come to our workshop and they find out that other people are facing the same problems. And all of sudden they see: “I’m part of a greater whole.” It makes a huge difference in their lives.”

  8. Michelle says:

    Thanks for reminding us that poverty is right here in the U.S. Actually, it’s here a lot more than most people realize – 37 million Americans, many of them children, live below the federal poverty line. I don’t want to just plug the nonprofit I work for, but our goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty in our area. At the national level, Catholic Charities USA has the goal of reducing poverty by 50% by 2020.

  9. Thank you for saying this: “This is bullshit. Lack of infrastructure is not an illusion.”

    As much as I don’t want to dismiss the entire Attraction/Abundance system, I get really tired of those beliefs shrouding the reality of the situation. The reality for people living in severe poverty is that soon, someone in their family will die from the condition. The reality of the situation is that we sit, knowing what is happening, and are too busy saying “poverty is a mindset” and worrying about our own abundance than we are of the utter misery of those at home and abroad.

    Okay, okay – I’ll settle down now. This is a great post and I’m honored to have made a mention. Thanks again for the support that you give all of us, Sonia. I did more reasoned ranting for Blog Action day at Four Easy Reasons to Ignore World Poverty. You reminded me it was that time the other day, so much love for that, too.

  10. Writer Dad says:

    Sonia, this is one of my favorite poverty posts I’ve read yet. I love what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it.

    “No matter how freaked out you are about the economy today, you aren’t dying on a mat on the floor, too weak to move, with no idea how your kids will eat tomorrow. You are, in fact, gloriously wealthy and successful. You are awash in abundance, and if the TV news has been making you forget that, turn off the TV news.”

    That might be my favorite of the day. Period. Thanks.

  11. Writer Dad says:

    By the way, this post is SO Stumbled.

  12. UltraRob says:

    Great post! I really enjoyed it.

    You can read mine at

    UltraRobs last blog post..24 Hours of Moab Day 1

  13. Sonia,
    I couldn’t wait to see what you would write today. I picked a personal story because that’s what I had. You nailed the substance of the big picture in that wonderful way you have. I love the beauty of your clarity.
    I think that the bigness is the daunting thing when it comes to problem solving, especially on issues of poverty, hunger, health, security, literacy. It’s easy to throw up our hands and walk away or ignore the problem as if… but if we look as close as our arms’ grasp or our mouse’s click…. it is in the very one to one small actions where those problems can be solved.

    Janice Cartiers last blog post..Primary Colors Put To Work

  14. Oops. My post for today:

    (I thought comment luv would pick it up.)

    Janice Cartiers last blog post..Primary Colors Put To Work

  15. Sonia- I think the link for my post today is caught in the spam net…which is appropriate it is about teaching someone to fish…

    Janice Cartiers last blog post..Primary Colors Put To Work

  16. Mary says:

    Wow, Sonia, what an excellent summary. I am so in awe of how you manage to write of the most profound things in the most everyday, accessible way. Thank you! The simple truth is that it feels so much better to receive your pay and then pass a bit of it on, than NOT to! So a world that cares and shares is simply happier.
    My humble offering for the day is at

    Marys last blog post..Roots of poverty

  17. Sonia Simone says:

    I love you guys! I am dashing around today, but I’m going to get some links posted in an hour or so. Giant hugs to you all. xoxoxoxo

    Sonia Simones last blog post..How to Get Delightfully Rich (and Still Keep Your Soul)

  18. Sonia Simone says:

    (P.S. Janice, thanks for the heads up! Askimet was gobbley today.)

    Sonia Simones last blog post..How to Get Delightfully Rich (and Still Keep Your Soul)

  19. Nichelle says:

    “The thing that kept her on that death bed wasn’t her illusion, it was ours: that HIV is too big a problem to stop, that the millions who are dying, and the children they leave behind, are beyond our hope. Better not think about it, because it’s too big a problem to fix.”

    Love this! Great post. I’ve heard these excuses a lot – usually from those that have so very much, as most of us do here in the U.S.

    “pick an organization whose story you find motivating. That will keep you donating and keep you connected to this most important of all ambitions–to help relieve the suffering of people who are hurting.”

    You’ve mentioned some great charities here. There are many who are doing something specific, working with individuals and in particular communities. Many don’t realize that there are so many creative ways of getting involved. Too many are daunted by their lack of understanding of the political issues and shy away from taking a stand, but there is something for everyone – something that will touch one on a heart level. I spotlighted an organization that I hoped would specifically “speak” to my blog audience.

    Nichelles last blog post..Blog Action Day: ASTEP Toward Ending Poverty

  20. Judy Dunn says:

    Yes, Sonia, we are “gloriously successful.” I have been to sub-Saharan Africa with World Vision and it puts it all into perspective. When I traveled to Mali, life expectancy was 35!!!!!

    My blog post for today was about Abadou, a one-year-old boy, dehydrated, diarrhea-ridden, who was saved by WV doctors. And one year later, we celebrated his second birthday in Malibu, the team of us who had witnessed that miracle (when World Vision was still headquartered in Los Angeles).

    Each one of us can do something. When I taught second graders, one day, for a social studies lesson, I broke them into continents (drawing straws) —two kids sitting on top of their desks, representing North America. They got something like 40 peanuts. 15 kids representing Africa and they were given 3 peanuts, and so on. The discussions that followed were priceless.

    I have a good friend who let his two little boys start blogs of their own and they talked about poverty—how sad it must be when kids don’t have enough “stuff.” But those families I saw in villages, though they didn’t have enough “stuff,” were very rich in spirit and community and could teach us all a thing or two about community.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, Sonia.

    I hope from this day, that people will just stop and think.

    Judy Dunns last blog post..Blog Action Day 2008: Abadou’s Birthday

  21. Mike Nichols says:

    Thanks for a great post. I found your site via Darren Rowse on Twitter.

    As a retiree on a fixed income, it is easy for me to find reasons to complain and count myself as “poor.” What I need occasionally is a whack upside the head with a post such as yours. Thank you!

    My post for Blog Day was A National Shame: The Mentally Ill Homeless.

    Mike Nicholss last blog post..A National Shame: The Mentally Ill Homeless

  22. Aimee says:

    Well said on so many points. I hope that everyone will take time out and read this post, so I am going to do what I can to help spread it around. :) Glad to have found your site.

    Aimees last blog post..DYMO Personal Label Maker Review

  23. Niki says:

    I totally agree with you. Some people have become too apathetic to do anything. We’re not asking you to forget about your dreams of wealth and comfort and live with the poor and be one with them. All we ask is that they care enough to make a difference, even just in their own small ways.

    Nikis last blog post..Blog Action Day: Poverty First-Hand

  24. press says:

    Good post about personal finance, personal responsibility, and the gap in thinking/action between rich and poor.

  25. Wedge says:

    Inspiring stuff, and I do believe that whatever a person’s pocket or morals they can find a charitable organisation they can support. Even those people who are cynical can find orgs that sit well with them, I’m certain.

    I’ve been blogging thrice for Blog Action Day, and I’m reviewing how much time and money I invest in good causes:

    I was homeless once
    What is the solution to homlessness?#
    And today; No solution for the homeless :(

  26. Sonia Simone says:

    @Judy, I loved the story on your blog, how utterly amazing. You touched on something that I didn’t get to–the importance of a specific story. That’s what works for me about Smiletrain–I can visualize one kid. “Solve poverty” is just big and amorphous and overwhelming. “Save Abadou’s life and give him a second birthday” is very concrete and very real.

    @Mike, it’s no treat to be in your situation, and I know it. But a little whack is always good to recognize what we do have, too.

    Thanks to everyone for such thoughtful comments, great posts, and big hearts!

  27. Joanna Young says:

    Sonia, sorry I didn’t get a notification of this – bloglines is all over the place this week. I’ve been browsing looking for powerful blog action day posts to link to next week and wondering where all the good stuff was – and here it is! You’ve hit a lot of nails bang on the head.

    I get so frustrated with people who think material conditions don’t count. We’re so deluding ourselves if we think they don’t. That doesn’t mean we need to get downhearted or pessimistic – it means using that knowledge to start working out what the heck to do next.


    Joanna Youngs last blog post..What Would You Have Said?

  28. rudy kehler says:

    Thank you for the paragraph headed; “Your success is an obligation”. I feel strongly about this and agree completely.

  29. Beryl Moody says:

    Loved this post, Sonia. I immediately went to my Kiva site and made another loan.

  30. Daniel Edlen says:

    Inspirational, the word doesn’t cover it, but it starts to. Wow. Great post. Kinda connects with Guillebeau’s taking over the world with you as an individual can contribute.

    My BAD08 post.


    Daniel Edlens last blog post..Ambassadors Of Culture, Creation Of Go’d

  31. Sonia Simone says:

    Thanks so much, Daniel! (I’ve been remiss adding those last couple of links, but I will very shortly.)

  32. Sheena says:

    Unicef and Red Cross is a pretty good way to start. Their easily accessible and are well established. Good post, BTW.

    Sheenas last blog post..Stay Slim and Healthy on a Frugal Budget


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