I didn’t tell my poor dad I wasn’t being paid. He would not have understood, and I did not want to try to explain something that I did not yet understand myself.
For three more weeks, Mike and I worked for three hours, every Saturday, for nothing. The work didn’t bother me, and the routine got easier. It was the missed baseball games and not being able to afford to buy a few comic books that got to me.
“Let’s go for a walk boys.”
We crossed the street, dodging a few cars, and walked across a large grassy field, where a few adults were playing softball. Sitting down at a remote picnic table, he handed Mike and me the ice-cream bars.
“How’s it going boys?”
“OK,” Mike said.
I nodded in agreement.
“Learn anything yet?” rich dad asked.
Mike and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and shook our heads in unison.
Avoiding One of Life’s Biggest Traps
“Well, you boys had better start thinking. You’re staring at one of life’s biggest lessons. If you learn the lesson, you’ll enjoy a life of great freedom and security. If you don’t learn the lesson, you’ll wind up like Mrs. Martin and most of the people playing softball in this park. They work very hard, for little money, clinging to the illusion of job security, looking forward to a three-week vacation each year and a skimpy pension after forty-five years of work. If that excites you, I’ll give you a raise to 25 cents an hour.”
“But these are good hard-working people. Are you making fun of them?” I demanded.
A smile came over rich dad’s face.
“Mrs. Martin is like a mother to me. I would never be that cruel. I may sound cruel because I’m doing my best to point something out to the two of you. I want to expand your point of view so you can see something. Something most people never have the benefit of seeing because their vision is too narrow. Most people
never see the trap they are in.”
Mike and I sat there uncertain of his message. He sounded cruel, yet we could sense he was desperately wanting us to know something.
With a smile, rich dad said, “Doesn’t that 25 cents an hour sound good? Doesn’t it make your heart beat a little faster.”
I shook my head “no,” but it really did. Twenty five cents an hour would be big bucks to me.
“OK, I’ll pay you a dollar an hour,” rich dad said, with a sly grin.
Now my heart was beginning to race. My brain was screaming,
“Take it. Take it.” I could not believe what I was hearing. Still, I said nothing.
“OK, $2 an hour.”
My little 9-year-old brain and heart nearly exploded. After all, it was 1956 and being paid $2 an hour would have made me the richest kid in the world. I couldn’t imagine earning that kind of money. I wanted to say “yes.” I wanted the deal. I could see a new bicycle, new baseball glove, and adoration of my friends when I flashed some cash. On top of that, Jimmy and his rich friends could never call me poor again. But somehow my mouth stayed silent.
Maybe my brain had overheated and blown a fuse. But deep down, I badly wanted that $2 an hour.
The ice cream had melted and was running down my hand. The ice-cream stick was empty, and under it was a sticky mess of vanilla and chocolate that ants were enjoying. Rich dad was looking at two boys staring back at him, eyes wide open and brains empty. He knew he was testing us, and he knew there was a part of our emotions that wanted to take the deal. He knew that each human being has a weak and needy part of their soul that can be bought. And he knew that each human being also had a part of their soul that was strong and filled with a resolve that could never be bought. It was only a question of which one was stronger. He had tested thousands of souls in his life. He tested souls every time he interviewed someone for a job.
“OK, $5 an hour.”
Suddenly there was a silence from inside me. Something had changed. The offer was too big and had gotten ridiculous. Not too many grownups in 1956 made more than $5 an hour. The temptation disappeared, and a calm set in. Slowly I turned to my left to look at Mike. He looked back at me. The part of my soul that was weak and needy was silenced. The part of me that had no price took over. There was a calm and a certainty about money that entered my brain and my soul. I knew Mike had gotten to that point also.
“Good,” rich dad said softly. “Most people have a price. And they have a price because of human emotions named fear and greed. First, the fear of being without money motivates us to work hard, and then once we get that paycheck, greed or desire starts us thinking about all the wonderful things money can buy. The pattern is then set.”
“What pattern?” I asked.
“The pattern of get up, go to work, pay bills, get up, go to work, pay bills… Their lives are then run forever by two emotions, fear and greed. Offer them more money, and they continue the cycle by also increasing their spending. This is what I call the Rat Race.”
“There is another way?” Mike asked.
“Yes,” said rich dad slowly. “But only a few people find it.”
“And what is that way?” Mike asked.
“That’s what I hope you boys will find out as you work and study with me. That is why I took away all forms of pay.”
“Any hints?” Mike asked. “We’re kind of tired of working hard, especially for nothing.”
“Well, the first step is telling the truth,” said rich dad.
“We haven’t been lying.” I said.
“I did not say you were lying. I said to tell the truth,” rich dad came back.
“The truth about what?” I asked.
“How you’re feeling,” rich dad said. “You don’t have to say it to anyone else. Just yourself.”
“You mean the people in this park, the people who work for you, Mrs. Martin, they don’t do that?” I asked.
“I doubt it,” said rich dad. “Instead, they feel the fear of not having money. Instead of confronting the fear, they react instead of think. They react emotionally instead of using their heads,” rich dad said, tapping us on our heads. “‘Then, they get a few bucks in their hands, and again the emotion of joy and desire and greed take over, and again they react, instead of think.”
“So their emotions do their thinking,” Mike said.
“That’s correct,” said rich dad. “Instead of telling the truth about how they feel, they react to their feeling, fail to think. They feel the fear, they go to work, hoping that money will soothe the fear, but it doesn’t. That old fear haunts them, and they go back to work, hoping again that money will calm their fears, and again it doesn’t. Fear has them in this trap of working, earning money, working, earning money, hoping the fear will go away. But every day they get up, and that old fear wakes up with them. For millions of people, that old fear keeps them awake all night, causing a night of turmoil and worry. So they get up and go to work, hoping that a paycheck will kill that fear gnawing at their soul. Money is running their lives, and they refuse to tell the truth about that.
Money is in control of their emotions and hence their souls.”
Rich dad sat quietly, letting his words sink in. Mike and I heard what he said, but really did not understand fully what he was talking about. I just knew that I often wondered why grownups hurried off to work. It did not seem like much fun, and they never looked that happy, but something kept them hurrying off to work.
Realizing we had absorbed as much as possible of what he was talking about, rich dad said, “I want you boys to avoid that trap. That is really what I want to teach you. Not just to be rich, because being rich does not solve the problem.”
“It doesn’t?” I asked, surprised.
“No, it doesn’t. Let me finish the other emotion, which is desire. Some call it greed, but I prefer desire. It is perfectly normal to desire something better, prettier, more fun or exciting. So people also work for money because of desire. They desire money for the joy they think it can buy. But the joy that money brings is often short lived, and they soon need more money for more joy, more pleasure, more comfort, more security. So they keep working, thinking money will soothe their souls that is troubled by fear and desire. But money cannot do that.”
“Even rich people?” Mike asked.
“Rich people included,” said rich dad. “In fact, the reason many rich people are rich is not because of desire but because of fear. They actually think that money can eliminate that fear of not having money, of being poor, so they amass tons of it only to find out the fear gets worse. They now fear losing it. I have friends who keep working even though they have plenty. I know people who have millions who are more afraid now than when they were poor. They’re terrified of losing all their money. The fears that drove them to get rich got worse. That weak and needy part of their soul is actually screaming louder. They don’t want to lose the big houses, the cars, the high life that money has bought them. They worry about what their friends would say if they lost all their money. Many are emotionally desperate and neurotic, although they look rich and have more money.”
“So is a poor man happier?” I asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” replied rich dad. “The avoidance of money is just as psychotic as being attached to money.”
As if on cue, the town derelict went past our table, stopping by the large rubbish can and rummaging around in it. The three of us watched him with great interest, when before we probably would have just ignored him.
Rich dad pulled a dollar out of his wallet and gestured to the older man. Seeing the money, the derelict came over immediately, took the bill, thanked rich dad profusely and hurried off ecstatic with his good fortune.
“He’s not much different from most of my employees,” said rich dad. “I’ve met so many people who say, `Oh, I’m not interested in money.’ Yet they’ll work at a job for eight hours a day. That’s a denial of truth. If they weren’t interested in money, then why are they working? That kind of thinking is probably more psychotic than a person who hoards money.”
As I sat there listening to my rich dad, my mind was flashing back to the countless times my own dad said, “I’m not interested in money.” He said those words often. He also covered himself by always saying, “I work because I love my job.”
“So what do we do?” I asked. “Not work for money until all traces of fear and greed are gone?”
“No, that would be a waste of time,” said rich dad. “Emotions are what make us human. Make us real. The word `emotion’ stands for energy in motion. Be truthful about your emotions, and use your mind and emotions in your favour, not against yourself.”
“Whoa!” said Mike.
“Don’t worry about what I just said. It will make more sense in years to come. just be an observer, not a reactor, to your emotions. Most people do not know that it’s their emotions that are doing the thinking. Your emotions are your emotions, but you have got to learn to do your own thinking.”
“Can you give me an example?” I asked.
“Sure,” replied rich dad. “When a person says, `I need to find a job,’ it’s most likely an emotion doing the thinking. Fear of not having money generates that thought.”
“But people do need money if they have bills to pay,” I said.
“Sure they do,” smiled rich dad. “All I’m saying is that it’s fear that is all too often doing the thinking.”
“I don’t understand,” said Mike.
“For example,” said rich dad. “If the fear of not having enough money arises, instead of immediately running out to get a job so they can earn a few bucks to kill the fear, they instead might ask themselves this question. `Will a job be the best solution to this fear over the long run?’ In my opinion, the answer is `no.’ Especially when you look over a person’s lifetime. A job is really a short-term solution to a long-term problem.”
“But my dad is always saying, `Stay in school, get good grades, so you can find a safe, secure job.’ I spoke out, somewhat confused.
“Yes, I understand he says that,” said rich dad, smiling. “Most people recommend that, and it’s a good idea for most people. But people make that recommendation primarily out of fear.”
“You mean my dad says that because he’s afraid?”
“Yes,” said rich dad. “He’s terrified that you won’t be able to earn money and won’t fit into society. Don’t get me wrong. He loves you and wants the best for you. And I think his fear is justified. An education and a job are important. But it won’t handle the fear. You see, that same fear that makes him get up in the morning to earn a few bucks is the fear that is causing him to be so fanatical about you going to school.”
“So what do you recommend?” I asked.
“I want to teach you to master the power of money. Not be afraid of it. And they don’t teach that in school. If you don’t learn it, you become a slave to money.”
It was finally making sense. He did want us to widen our views. To . see what Mrs. Martin could not see, his employees could not see, or my dad for that matter. He used examples that sounded cruel at the time, but I’ve never forgotten them. My vision widened that day, and I could begin to see the trap that lay ahead for most people.
“You see, we’re all employees ultimately. We just work at different levels,” said rich dad. “I just want you boys to have a chance to avoid the trap. The trap caused by those two emotions, fear and desire. Use them in your favor, not against you. That’s what I want to teach you. I’m not interested in just teaching you to make a pile of money. That won’t handle the fear or desire. If you don’t first handle fear and desire, and you get rich, you’ll only be a high-paid slave.”
“So how do we avoid the trap?” I asked.
“The main cause of poverty or financial struggle is fear and ignorance, not the economy or the government or the rich. It’s self-inflicted fear and ignorance that keeps people trapped. So you boys go to school and get your college degrees. I’ll teach you how to stay out of the trap.”
The pieces of the puzzle were appearing. My highly educated dad had a great education and a great career. But school never told him how to handle money or his fears. It became clear that I could learn different and important things from two fathers.
“So you’ve been talking about the fear of not having money. How does the desire of money affect our thinking?” Mike asked.
“How did you feel when I tempted you with a pay raise? Did you notice your desires rising?”
We nodded our heads.
“By not giving in to your emotions, you were able to delay your reactions and think. That is most important. We will always have emotions of fear and
greed. From here on in, it is most important for you to use those emotions to your advantage and for the long term, and not simply let your emotions run you by controlling your thinking. Most people use fear and greed against themselves. That’s the start of ignorance. Most people live their lives chasing paychecks, pay raises and job security because of the emotions of desire and fear, not really questioning where those emotion-driven thoughts are leading them. It’s just like the picture of a donkey, dragging a cart, with its owner dangling a carrot just in front of the donkey’s nose. The donkey’s owner may be going where he wants to go, but the donkey is chasing an illusion. Tomorrow there will only be another carrot for the donkey.”
“You mean the moment I began to picture a new baseball glove, candy and toys, that’s like a carrot to a donkey?” Mike asked.
“Yeah. And as you get older, your toys get more expensive. A new car, a boat and a big house to impress your friends,” said rich dad with a smile. “Fear pushes you out the door, and desire calls to you. Enticing you toward the rocks. That’s the trap.”
“So what’s the answer,” Mike asked.
“What intensifies fear and desire is ignorance. That is why rich people with lots of money often have more fear the richer they get. Money is the carrot, the illusion. If the donkey could see the whole picture, it might rethink its choice to chase the carrot.”
Rich dad went on to explain that a human’s life is a struggle between ignorance and illumination.
He explained that once a person stops searching for information and knowledge of one’s self, ignorance sets in. That struggle is a moment-to-moment decision-to learn to open or close one’s mind.
“Look, school is very, very important. You go to school to learn a skill or profession so as to be a contributing member of society. Every culture needs teachers, doctors, mechanics, artists, cooks, business people, police officers, firefighters, soldiers. Schools train them so our culture can thrive and flourish,” said rich dad. “Unfortunately, for many people, school is the end, not the beginning.”
There was a long silence. Rich dad was smiling. I did not comprehend everything he said that day. But as with most great teachers, whose words continue to teach for years, often long after they’re gone, his words are still with me today.
“I’ve been a little cruel today,” said rich dad. “Cruel for a reason. I want you to always remember this talk. I want you to always think of Mrs. Martin.
I want you always to think of the donkey. Never forget, because your two emotions, fear and desire, can lead you into life’s biggest trap, if you’re not aware of them controlling your thinking. To spend your life living in fear, never exploring your dreams, is cruel. To work hard for money, thinking that money will buy you things that will make you happy is also cruel. To wake up in the middle of the night terrified about paying bills is a horrible way to live. To live a life dictated by the size of a paycheck is not really a life. Thinking that a job will make you feel secure is lying to yourself. That’s cruel, and that’s the trap I want you to avoid, if possible. I’ve seen how money runs people’s lives. Don’t let that happen to you. Please don’t let money run your life.”
A softball rolled under our table. Rich dad picked it up and threw it back.
“So what does ignorance have to do with greed and fear?” I asked.
“Because it is ignorance about money that causes so much greed and so much fear,” said rich dad. “Let me give you some examples. A doctor, wanting more money to better provide for his family, raises his fees. By raising his fees, it makes health care more expensive for everyone. Now, it hurts the poor people the most, so poor people have worse health than those with money.
“Because the doctors raise their rates, the attorneys raise their rates. Because the attorneys’ rates have gone up, schoolteachers want a raise, which raises our taxes, and on and on and on. Soon, there will be such a horrifying gap between the rich and the poor that chaos will break out and another great civilization will collapse. Great civilizations collapsed when the gap between the haves and havenots was too great. America is on the same course, proving once again that history repeats itself, because we do not learn from history. We only memorize historical dates and names, not the lesson.
“Aren’t prices supposed to go up?” I asked.
“Not in an educated society with a well-run government. Prices should actually come down. Of course, that is often only true in theory. Prices go up because of greed and fear caused by ignorance. If schools taught people about money, there would be more money and lower prices, but schools focus only on teaching people to work for money, not how to harness money’s power.”
“But don’t we have business schools?” Mike asked. “Aren’t you encouraging me to go to business school for my master’s degree?”
“Yes,” said rich dad. “But all too often, business schools train employees who are sophisticated bean counters. Heaven forbid a bean counter takes over a business. All they do is look at the numbers, fire people and kill the business. I know because I hire bean counters. All they think about is cutting costs and
raising prices, which cause more problems. Bean counting is important. I wish more people knew it, but it, too, is not the whole picture,” added rich dad angrily.
“So is there an answer?” asked Mike.
“Yes,” said rich dad. “Learn to use your emotions to think, not think with your emotions. When you boys mastered your emotions, first by agreeing to work for free, I knew there was hope. When you again resisted your emotions when I tempted you with more money, you were again learning to think in spite of being emotionally charged. That’s the first step.”
“Why is that step so important” I asked.
“Well, that’s up to you to find out. If you want to learn, I’ll take you boys into the briar patch. That place where almost everyone else avoids. I’ll take you to that place where most people are afraid to go. If you go with me, you’ll let go of the idea of working for money and instead learn to have money work for you.”
“And what will we get if we go with you. What if we agree to learn from you? What will we get?” I asked.
“The same thing Briar Rabbit got,” said rich dad. “Freedom from the Tar Baby.”
“Is there a briar patch?” I asked.
“Yes,” said rich dad. “The briar patch is our fear and our greed. Going into our fear and confronting our greed, our weaknesses, our neediness is the way out. And the way out is through the mind, by choosing our thoughts.”
“Choosing our thoughts?” Mike asked, puzzled.
“Yes. Choosing what we think rather than reacting to our emotions. Instead of just getting up and going to work to solve your problems, just because the fear of not having the money to pay your bills is scaring you. Thinking would be taking the time to ask yourself a question. A question like, `Is working harder at this the best solution to this problem?’ Most people are so terrified at not telling themselves the truth-that fear is in control-that they cannot think, and instead run out the door. Tar baby is in control. That’s what I mean by choosing your thoughts.”
“And how do we do that?” Mike asked.
“That’s what I will be teaching you. I’ll be teaching you to have a choice of thoughts to consider, rather than knee-jerk reacting, like gulping down your morning coffee and running out the door.
“Remember what I said before: A job is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Most people have only one problem in mind, and it’s short term. It’s the bills at the end of the month, the Tar Baby. Money now runs their lives. Or should I say the fear and ignorance about money. So they do as their parents did, get up every day and go work for money. Not having the time to say, `Is there another way?’ Their emotions now control their thinking, not their heads.”
“Can you tell the difference between emotions thinking and the head thinking?” Mike asked.
“Oh, yes. I hear it all the time,” said rich dad. “I hear things like, `Well, everyone has to work.’ Or `The rich are crooks.’ Or `I’ll get another job. I deserve this raise. You can’t push me around.’ Or `I like this job because it’s secure.’ Instead of, `Is there something I’m missing here?’ which breaks the emotional thought, and gives you time to think clearly.”
I must admit, it was a great lesson to be getting. To know when someone was speaking out of emotions or out of clear thought. It was a lesson that served me well for life. Especially when I was the one speaking out of reaction and not from clear thought.
As we headed back to the store, rich dad explained that the rich really did “make money.” They did not work for it. He went on to explain that when Mike and I were casting 5-cent pieces out of lead, thinking we were making money, we were very close to thinking the way the rich think. The problem was that it was illegal for us to do it. It was legal for the government and banks to do it, but not us. He explained that there are legal ways to make money and illegal ways.
Rich dad went on to explain that the rich know that money is an illusion, truly like the carrot for the donkey. It’s only out of fear and greed that the illusion of money is held together by billions of people thinking that money is real. Money is really made up. It was only because of the illusion of confidence and the ignorance of the masses that the house of cards stood standing. “In fact,” he said, “in many ways the donkey’s carrot was more valuable than money.”
He talked about the gold standard that America was on, and that each dollar bill was actually a silver certificate. What concerned him was the rumor that we would someday go off the gold standard and our dollars would no longer be silver certificates.
“When that happens, boys, all hell is going to break loose. The poor, the middle class and the ignorant will have their lives ruined simply because they will continue to believe that money is real and that the company they work for, or the government, will look after them.”
We really did not understand what he was saying that day, but over the years it made more and more sense.