I Won’t Wipe Your Ass for You, and Other Sound Financial Advice

I frequently get messages from people on Facebook Messenger, and through other channels, asking me to give them stuff. Sometimes it’s a house, and sometimes it’s a few hundred grand; what’s a few hundred grand between Facebook friends anyway? One guy insisted that I give him five million dollars, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept tweeting at me: “Can I have five million dollars now?” Sometimes being on the internet feels like living inside a psychiatric ward.

I think that people do this to me in particular because I wrote an article called, Multi-millionaire at 27. What I learned. That article went pseudo-viral, having now been read (not just viewed) about 24K times, and republished by CNBC and translated into Russian. Soon after I released that article, I started getting requests for financial mentoring from people who also wanted to become wildly wealthy.

This led to me realizing, during meditation, that I needed to come clean and reveal that, actually, I spent all of my millions. This is what I learned. Well, that article also went pseudo-viral, racking up around 22K reads at the time of this writing. Surprisingly, after publishing that article, I received even more requests for mentoring.

“Did you read that I spent all of my millions?” I would ask, and they would respond with something like, “Of course! Now you know both what to do and what not to do. You’ve been there, done that, seen it all, and bought the t-shirt.” It’s gratifying to witness my theory that fully engaging with the process of life and transparently revealing the lessons learned is a relatively optimal business model.

Anyway, the point is that I’m not rich, at least not in material terms. On the other hand, I am extremely wealthy in my level of contentment, in my engagement with life, in my relationship with my wife, and through my enormous and satisfying network of friendships. I’m wealthy because I love to take care of the tiny garden on my patio. I’m wealthy because I can sit down deeply into my body like alighting a throne. I’m wealthy because I have this unstoppable torrent of creative energy coursing down through the crown of my head, and twisting up from the soles of my feet, pouring through my chest and out through my hands into this keyboard. Too woo-woo for you?

I guess I do actually have a lot to say about money and wealth and I can (and do) spend some of my time coaching high-performing leaders to take their success game to the next level. I also have a lot of articles on wealth in my publishing pipeline.

I want to get back to the folks who come to me asking for money. I’m not going to call it begging because that seems to belittle it, shame it, or make it wrong. I’ve known people who refer to letters that come to them from charities, letters asking for donations, as “begging letters.” They’re not “begging letters,” they’re requests. They’re requests for help. It’s the same with all these messages I get asking for cash and houses. This is the most effective way that these people know of to ask for help, and it’s a reflection of their superficial understanding of wealth.

It often takes a lot of courage for someone to ask us for something, and when we shame them for asking, it’s really a reflection of our own discomfort with saying no. If the thinking could be made fully conscious, it might resemble something like this: “They’re poor but they’re asking me for something, and I don’t want to give them something, so does that make me poor? No, I’m not poor like those beggars. I don’t dare ask anyone else for anything and reveal my own lack or need.”

In any case, I sometimes try to explain that I’m not rich, but they usually cannot hear that, and persist in requesting, sometimes to the point where I feel dehumanized by it, like I’m not a real person but an ATM (cash) machine. Whether or not I engage directly with the request for liquid material assets, I nearly always end up engaging in a discussion about wealth, and I offer my best attempt at helping them. As the Chinese proverb states,

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

When people message me asking for a house, I think “that would be nice.” One day, when the time is right, I will again own a house (or two). But buying things is no longer my mission. My primary mission in life is to empower as many people as possible by helping them to rediscover and harness their inherent wisdom and internal resources. Put another way, as I recently wrote to someone who continued to insist that they just needed “someone” (me) to take care of them,

I won’t wipe your ass for you, but I’m one of the best ass-wiping instructors in the world. I give away a lot of my instruction for free. I spend a lot of time and effort generating this stuff.

I recommend reading, digesting, and practicing what I wrote in the following articles:

Apart from the fact that I don’t have a couple of hundred grand in cash sitting around (like I used to), I don’t actually believe that it’s helpful, in any deep sense of that word, to throw cash at someone. I have thrown a lot of cash at people in my time, and it’s always come back to slap me in the face. I honestly believe that what I offer, for free, in the above articles is world-class advice in developing wealth and success.

Most of the time, the people who message me end up being able to understand this, and they express gratitude for my guidance, but sometimes they angrily complain that I’m not simply helping them out with money. This reminds me of the rare homeless person whose cardboard sign will request help, but who will throw a McDonalds meal back at you. These people are so fixated on getting a hit of the drug that they are addicted to that they are not interested in receiving any real sustenance that they could use to fuel their recovery.

Even though it’s obvious that we’re not helping a drug addict by giving him drugs, or the money to buy drugs, people labeled “codependents” around the world do this every day. What is less obvious is the insidious “enabling” (disabling) we do every day by giving people things that they could more adaptively learn to get for themselves. For example, in school we give children knowledge rather than teaching them how to search for it. In relationships we often reassure our partners before they are challenged to ask for reassurance.

Trying to take care of other people’s business, and expecting other people to take care of our business, is one the main mechanisms by which we disempower ourselves and others. I hope that we can all continue to learn how to coexist in increasingly adaptive ways.

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

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