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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