Re-Imagining Wealth. Redefining Poverty
Below is your family’s 6-point plan for real and sustainable wealth building, that anyone can acquire. Wealth that everyone can attain.
1. SELF-ESTEEM. Growing up, my mother use to tell me she loved me every day of my life. There’s nothing more powerful than a child being told by their parents that they are loved. As a result, I never had much of a self-esteem problem. I believe in myself now, because I was made to believe in myself back then.
If you wake up in the morning and you don’t know who you are, by dinnertime someone will tell you who you are. If you don’t have self-confidence, you are in serious trouble in America—and maybe anywhere.
2. CONFIDENCE. As an 8-year old child, I gained both self-esteem and self-confidence. Half of all poverty is simply low self esteem and lack of confidence in yourself.
3. ROLE MODELS. I was blessed to have great role models growing up. It began with my mother, Juanita Smith, who told me she loved me everyday. It continued with my father, Johnie W. Smith, who owned and ran his own business for 54 years. I am a businessman today, because my father was. My mother was a part-time entrepreneur herself, making handy-crafts and selling them to her co-workers; and famously telling me, "John, the man will set your salary, but you decide your income..."
I am not brilliant, I am simply role modeling. I’m doing what my mother and father did.
And then there was this banker. He happened to be caucasian, but he might as well have been green, as in the color of U.S. Currency. I remember asking this banker when he came into my classroom (I was 9 years old) in Compton, California, “sir, what do you do for a living.....and how did you get rich legally?” And I was serious.
He told me that he was a banker, and he financed entrepreneurs. I said, “I don’t know what an entrepreneur is, but I want to be one!” And I am an entrepreneur to this very day. But, this magic also works in reverse.
Everyone is aspirational. Everyone. So, if all you see in your neighborhood as symbols of aspiration and success, are rap stars, athletes and drug dealers, then why is anyone surprised, that this is precisely who you grow up wanting to be? After all, we model what we see.
The building block of my life was this powerful and early combination of self-esteem and confidence from my mother (a sense of who I am), positive role modeling from my dad (a sense of yes I can), and a sense of possibilities and then the tools to do something about them, from that banker (a roadmap for how I can).
4. ENVIRONMENT. Because of the above, my experience growing up was inspiring, empowering and encouraging — from my parents to my friends to my teachers, and all those in between — even though I grew up in what most would call a ‘poor,’ low-wealth community.
For young people blessed to attain higher education, their positive and aspirational environment might consist of a college or university campus --where they go to school and possibly even live on campus. From here they acquire the ‘wealth’ of lifelong relationships. Relationships that will pay incalculable dividends, and create incredible opportunity in the adult phase of their lives. Most of life is about relationships. But the opposite is also true.
Put simply, “if you hang around 9 broke people, you will be the 10th.” Environment matters.
5. ASPIRATION. Aspiration is a code word for hope. The most dangerous person in the world is a person with no hope. As a result of growing up with high self esteem, high levels of confidence, great role models
6. OPPORTUNITY. As a result of all of this, I saw opportunity everywhere in my life. I started my first business at age 10, and it was called the Neighborhood Candy House. Within a few short weeks I had put the local liquor store out of the candy business. Imagine what that did for my little self esteem!
As a rest of growing up in this way, I literally see ‘opportunity' everywhere in my life today. I actually see life this way — as one big untapped opportunity. I see my life through the lens of an optimist.
Conversely, if you don’t have the opportunity, the chance, the shot at operationalizing your smarts, your talents, or your education, then life has a concrete ceiling rather than a glass one. You feel that all is for naught, so why try in the first place? So kids drop out of high school, figuring ‘what’s the point?’ They drop out mentally in middle school, and physically in high school. This happens when we fail to connect education with aspiration in a young person’s life.
When you think of someone who you would describe as ‘wealthy,’ they have all of these positive attributes. I differentiate wealth here, from the act of simply making money, or being what people call 'financially rich.'
They have high self-esteem and/or high levels of self-confidence. They have had good if not great role models, and they were blessed -- in youth or their adult lives -- with a positive, empowering environment. Finally, they are positive and full of hope for and about their own lives, and they see opportunity everywhere. Which then of course allows them to then do something about what they see.
The real magic here is that none of this wealth formula actually begins with money.It all begins with you. Give your children the gift that keeps on giving. Give them the gift of true wealth.
“There is a difference between being broke and being poor. Being broke is an economic condition, but being poor is a disabling frame of mind, and a depressed condition of our spirit, and we must vow to never, ever be poor again."
John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass). His newest bestselli
ng book is How The Poor Can Save Capitalism (Berrett Koehler Publishing).
Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.
Posted by Natasha Eldridge, Senior Fellow, Office of the Chairman