Darel Rex Finley in 888

Five Times What They Paid For It

2013.05.25   prev     next

CONSIDER the person who says they’ve sold their condo for five times what they paid for it. There’s this not-so-subtle implication — never directly stated because they don’t want to bring it out into the open — but there’s this implication that all you have to do is decide that you want to be selfish and you want to tread all over other people, and you can do stuff like that. You can go buy a condo and sell it for five times what you paid for it. And become rich. Off of other people’s backs. And of course the corollary to that implication is that everyone who isn’t doing that, is refraining from doing it because they’re nice. Because they don’t want to hurt other people. Because they really don’t like the idea of buying a condo and selling it for five times what they paid for it. So they wouldn’t even try to do that.

But the truth is that there are a great, great many people who try very hard for many, many years to do stuff like that, and never succeed. And are middle-class the whole time. Or possibly even lower than middle-class. And also, many, many, many of the people who do something like that, who sell a condo for five times what they paid for it — they didn’t plan to do that. It wasn’t like some sort of selfish scheme. They just bought a condo because they wanted to live there; they thought it was a nice place to live, and then it appreciated in value dramatically. Nobody knew it was going to, or it wouldn’t have even been for sale (or not at that price). And then when it did appreciate dramatically, they decided, wow, I like this condo and I like living in this area, but hey, if other people are willing to pay five times what I paid for it, maybe I should just take the money and leave. And so they do.

I think this whole mentality — that the people who are rich and successful are people who decided that they wanted to selfishly pursue wealth and success, and that the people who aren’t rich and successful are people who decided that they didn’t want to pursue that, and that’s why they’re not — there’s a tiny bit of truth in it, in that if you don’t even try to succeed, then of course you won’t. You won’t be running a successful business if you’re not even trying to run a business at all.

But there’s also a gigantic amount of falsehood in the idea. And I think that basically where the idea comes from is that the typical person’s experience is this:

I decide at an early age that I want to be rich and successful. Why do I decide that? Well, because really, most people do. It’s just a very common thing. Who wants to be poor? Who even wants to be middle-class, and have to work some drudge job just to get by? No — people want to be rich and successful.

OK, so I want to be rich and successful, and the idea that it might be a total crap shoot (whether I actually can) is just really too hard to face. So I have to make myself believe that if I just sincerely try, I’ll be able to do it. If I just really, earnestly try to become rich and successful, then it will happen. Maybe not immediately, maybe not this year, but it will, and relatively soon. The idea that it may not, that it probably won’t, is just too hard to stomach; it’s just too hard to face.

So then I don’t become rich and successful. So eventually I stop trying. But I never let go of this idea; I don’t realize that it’s not really a function of how hard you tried, or how earnestly you wanted it. There’s really an enormous luck factor. A lot of people who didn’t even try might sell a condo for five times what they paid for it. A ton of people who do try, are never able to do anything like that.

I never really let go of this idea that if you try to become successful, you will. The reason I never want to let go of the idea is because I don’t want to believe that I’m never going to have it. And maybe I haven’t really quit trying; maybe I’m still trying, although I try to keep the degree to which I’m trying a secret, because I don’t want other people to know when I’m failing. I don’t want other people to know how badly I want it. In order to keep trying, in order not to become so discouraged that I quit, or kill myself, or something, I have to believe that if you try, you will become successful.

And so when I look out at the world and I see successful people, I think, “Those are the ones who tried. Those are the ones who decided that they wanted to be successful, much more successful than other people, and so they just went out and did it.”

And when I see the people who aren’t successful, I have to believe that they are people who didn’t try, who didn’t want that. They were happy to have a middle-class existence, or a lower-class existence, or whatever they have. And that’s why they’re not rich and successful, because they didn’t really want that. And I have to believe that’s the way things work, because the alternative is to realize that I’m not likely ever to be successful myself. So part of maintaining my belief that I can become successful while I’m still half-way young, is to believe that everyone who is successful, is someone who just decided to do it. And went and did it. And the people who aren’t, are the people who decided they didn’t really want that.

And then, applying that viewpoint, applying that belief — it’s a very, very easy jump from that, to thinking that rich people are selfish and greedy, and that’s how they got rich. By being selfish and greedy.

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Hear, hear

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