Money and Power

Charles writes in:

The real reason people want to be rich isn’t so they can buy stuff. It’s so they can have power over others. People want influence and respect and they see that people with money have influence and respect, so they seek money.

Vote for Skeletor.  Photo by Clinton Steeds.I agree with the point Charles is making – many people do want influence and respect. Similarly, people with money often seem to have a great deal of influence and respect. Thus, on a very simple level, many people who seek influence and respect do it by seeking money.

There’s only one problem: money does not result in influence and respect – instead, influence and respect often lead to money.

Many entrepreneurs want to be Richard Branson – he’s a billionaire, he’s dashing, and he has influence. What they don’t see is that in the late 1960s, he was selling records out of the trunk of his car at cheap prices. People came to him because he could help them find cheap, good records – not because he had a pile of money.

Many bands want to be The Beatles – they had more influence than pretty much any pop band ever and all of their members are/were fabulously rich. The Beatles had influence and respect first, though – they paid their dues for pennies in the clubs in Hamburg and played for years in obscure little clubs in Liverpool with barely enough money to put food on the table. They became THE BEATLES only after honing their craft for years and building not only a great local following, but good relationships with other bands on the Liverpool scene.

Many writers want to be Nora Roberts – her books are read by millions, she has an adoring fan base, and she brings in $50 million a year in royalties (my “writing hero” is Stephen King, but the same things largely apply to him). What they forget is that she wrote genre romances by the shovel full in the early 1980s for book-churning publishers like Silhouette, slowly building influence but not earning much at all.

What do these examples have in common? They built respect and influence first. Money came later when their influence and respect became clear.

If you’re sitting there worrying about how you’re going to become rich, it’s very likely you’ll never become rich. You might be able to earn a solid living in that area, but true and sustaining riches follow respect and influence, not a great scheme to put cash in your pocket.

So how do you get respect and influence?

You find something you can throw your heart into. If you don’t enjoy doing something, you won’t find yourself compelled to do it every day. If you don’t find yourself compelled to do it every day, someone else who does feel that compulsion will be the one who succeeds.

Many people tend to take this advice down the wrong path. They’re passionate about golf and thus they get in their minds that if they play obsessively every day, they might be able to get on the PGA Tour. Likely, that’s not true. You have to find a good balance of your passion and your natural talents. Perhaps you can become a golf teacher. Maybe you can become a salesman or an equipment designer for Callaway.

You work diligently at it. This isn’t just a matter of putting in long days of work – although that’s valuable, too. In order to really thrive, you have to practice the finer points of what you’re doing, smoothing them out until they’re perfect.

For example, if you want to be a writer, you need to write every day, even if it’s not for sale or for public consumption at all. If you want to be a great salesman, practice selling everything in a wide variety of situations. If you want to be a great musician, practice that instrument until your fingers bleed – and just attempting to play Seven Nation Army over and over again doesn’t cut it.

You find ways to share your work widely. The Beatles played several shows a night until they were ready to pass out from exhaustion. Nora Roberts wrote for a label that didn’t pay her greatly but distributed her work widely. Richard Branson carried his first record store around in the trunk of his car, taking the records to the people who wanted them.

The internet makes this easier than ever before. You can share your work as widely as you wish. However, there’s a new problem – a lot of people are doing the same thing. So how do you stand out? Be better than everyone else. Engage interested people as much as you can. Join in conversations that interest you even if they have nothing to do with what you’re doing (people will find your work if you’re interesting).

You live your life in such a way that you don’t need riches. The less you spend, the less reliant you are on what other people tell you to do. This gives you the freedom you need to actually throw yourself into something where you can build influence and respect.

It’s a lot harder to take a big risk if you need that fat paycheck provided by your employer, after all.

So, here we have it: my argument, in a nutshell, is that the path to riches comes from influence and respect, and the most powerful way to build influence and respect is to live your life so that you don’t need riches at all.

If you dream big, hop on board the train to your dreams. It passes through Frugality, makes a few stops at Passion, Diligence, and Hard Work, and finally finds its way to the twin cities of Respect and Influence – the place where your greatest dreams begin to come true.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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