Many gurus in the plethora of books that I have read in what I call the “Change Your Way of Thinking/Improve Your Life/Become Wealthy” genre of books challenge my way of thinking. I do not merely call them self-help books because many of the books that I read would not be catalogued with those, but in personal finance or some other category altogether.
Yes, I am the middle aged Midwesterner author of the Middle Class Guy, and have previously been a middle class baby, a middle class kid, a middle class teenager and a middle class young man before reaching my mid-forties. If I do not think in terms of scarcity, seeking safety and trying to preserve what little that my family has, how else am I supposed to think?
How is it that my younger brother, who was raised in the same home by the same parents as me and my sister thinks so differently than we do? How is it that he can comprehend the notion of Abundance better than our sister can, and she comprehends it better than I can?
There may be a number of reasons why, including that my father did not really hit his stride in making a good income until my younger siblings were coming of age, and when I was in my younger years, there was a higher amount of scarcity in our family.
Perhaps it is because of the abundance of lecturing by my Great Depression-era grandfathers, who always preached frugality and saving up for a rainy day and striving to achieve a pension and a healthy Nest Egg. They always preached security over thinking big and rolling the dice.
Perhaps it is because we, ourselves, have been scraping by for over nineteen years since my wife and I jointly decided that she could become a stay-at-home Mom.
Having been a Middle Class Guy for so long, I fear losing my job and thus causing my family to rapidly drop out of Middle Class America. I have seen it happen to others, and it may in fact be my second greatest fear, after fearing for my family’s physical safety and health.
Although I realize that the world is a place of abundance, it just feels like I am, like so many others, constantly struggling to make ends meet, providing for my family, doing my best to put my children through college with minimal debt, and all while Paying Myself First and trying to build some retirement savings. When you commonly have more money going out than in your bank account, it does not feel like the world is a place of abundance.
When everyone that we know can purchase new vehicles, go on great vacations several times per year, and purchase all the latest gadgets, but we can’t, it does not feel like a world of abundance, either.
It has taken me years to realize that it is not a shame that we struggle to keep up with the Joneses, it is more a testament to my wife and I that we are able to send our children to the same schools and participate in many of the same activities as the Joneses’ children, even though most other families in our circle are in a higher income bracket. I am not assuming that they are based upon their higher amounts of consumption than us (with the exception of our grocery shopping and eating habits), but due to the fact that many, if not all of them, are two full-time income families in professional positions.
The other women that my wife associates with who are also stay-at-home Moms with breadwinner husbands tend to be married to doctors, dentists, financiers or business owners. There are not a lot of stay-at-home Moms in the northwest suburbs whose husbands are government workers unless they are department heads.
Earlier this year, I purchased and read abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.
The authors write that humanity is now entering a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly lift the basic standards of everyone on the planet.
They believe that, within a generation, we will be able to provide goods and services once reserved for the wealthy few to the unwashed masses of the world.
I do not buy that at all and believe basically the opposite. From what I have witnessed and read over the past few years, the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen year after year. I do not believe for a New York minute that the Internet and other technology will lift those in poverty out of it. I do believe, of course, that those who master and control the Internet and other technology will become multimillionaires if not billionaires.
It is true that mobile phone penetration is growing exponentially and that even people in primitive areas and third world countries can now access better information than the president did just twenty years ago. However, the notion that wealth and abundance will come their way does not make sense to me.
Even though I really liked this book, I do not accept the authors’ basic premise that technology including an abundance of instantaneous, low-cost communications and information will help transform the poorest of the poor into an emerging market force.
The authors ask us to imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and nonpolluting, ubiquitous energy.
Call me a cynic, but I doubt that technological advances will help humanity achieve this Utopian dream. I think it more probable that the rich will keep getting richer, the poor will keep getting poorer, and the middle class will continue shrinking and struggling. That is, if Kim Jong-un does not start World War Three.
Diamandis and Kotler are ever-optimistic, writing that the billion people on the bottom of the economic ladder in the world will be pulled up via technology, noting that with their cellphones, they have access to more information than the President of the U.S. had fifteen years ago.
They write that improvements in education, energy delivery and information dissemination will help those at the lower rungs rise up to enjoy better standards of living, which is an uplifting and perhaps overoptimistic viewpoint in my humble opinion.
“Humanity,” they write early on, “is now entering a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standards of living for every man, woman and child on the planet.” Oh, how I wish I could write and publish feel-good pie-in-the-sky lines like that. That’s the kind of shit that sells books!
Their theory is that this instant access to any and all information and one’s fingertips have empowered do-it-yourself innovators to achieve startling advances with few resources and little manpower, so the power will be shifted to those of us utilizing high tech gadgets rather than relying on those big, bad old corporations.
This is not meant as a book review. If you want one, you can find dozens of them.
What it is meant as, is an urging for the Middle Class Guy and you, too, to think of embracing the concept of abundance. When our time, our funds, our ability to be creative at work and at home, when everything we do seems to be controlled by the notion of scarcity, how is it that we are to believe that these things can be made abundant?
I, for one, do not have the ability to double my income in a month if need be by working twice as many hours or working twice as hard. I realize that there are many good things about being a government employee with a so-called “steady” job; however there are also many things not to like about it.
I cannot take off this coming Monday (August 21st, 2017) to watch the solar eclipse with my wife and son before he heads back to college. I have been scheduled for a meeting by somebody else for that exact time, although the meeting could be just as well held some other time of day or on Tuesday instead.
I cannot afford to watch my daughter march down Main Street U.S.A. this December with her high school marching band. My wife and son are going to go, but we cannot afford for me to go, too. I cannot afford many things that I want and need, so how am I supposed to feel that life is abundant?
True, I am typing this for your reading pleasure or perhaps displeasure on a laptop in my backyard, utilizing technology that did not exist in my younger years. I may even have realized some small amount of income from your purchase and reading of this, so score one for the notion of abundance although I would need to sell many thousands more to realize my notion of the word.
I am working at overcoming my innate Middle Class Guy notion that that the harder guys like you and we work the more money we’ll make. I was taught and shown by example that labor and effort is equated with financial success.
I have preached and demonstrated this to my children. However, I am coming to realize that this is why we, like most people, aren’t rich. We’re following an outdated model of success and over the past few years, I have become confounded when I reached middle age with little money to show for over twenty years of hard work.
Unlike my younger brother, who knows that creative thinking is the highest paid skill in the world. Independent, creative thinking is the most valuable asset anyone can acquire.
So while I have joined the masses in trying to figure out how to put our kids through college and retire on half of what we can barely exist on now, those who are building something for the future and doing what they are best at are living in abundance, controlling their own schedules, creating multiple income flows and generally enjoying their lives more than I am.
This sets off a psychological domino effect, because once a person thinks and lives at this level of abundance, they know even greater levels of success are possible through the vehicle of creative thought.
Most of us were told as kids that if we paid attention in school, did our homework every night, studied for tests, got good grades and went to a respectable college or university, our success was virtually guaranteed.
The reality is few of us who follow this formula ever get rich. We survive, and some become the most successful people in their families. But great wealth is rarely achieved by people who follow this model. The rich eventually figure out that training your mind to find solutions to difficult problems is the real secret to making money.
The good news is this is possible for anyone who conditions their mind to think this way, and then transforms thought into action, one of the things that I often write about to urge myself and my readers to do more than just think about and plan on doing something.
Anyhow, the notion of abundance is something that I am going to strive to better recognize and adopt as my own in the coming year. Enough writing about what you and I are going to accomplish this coming year.
Time to do it!