Look in the Mirror image

True Power Comes with Looking in the Mirror

Why money isn’t the answer to your problems

When I was a child, my dad told us that the Japanese were aware of three powers: the sword, the jewel and the mirror.

The power of the sword (weapons)

The sword symbolizes the power of weapons. Great nations throughout history have invested in their military to gain an advantage over other nations. For instance, America has spent trillions of dollars on weapons, and because of this, is the most powerful military presence in the world.

Many crooks also rely on the power of the sword to make a living. This is sometimes by choice, and other times it is forced upon them. But for whatever reason, there are those who use weapons in order to make their impact on the world and to gain power.

The power of the sword is based in fear. It is the fear that if you do not have weapons, you will be overcome by another power that does. People who rely on the power of the sword say, “It’s a dog eat dog world.”

Personally, I own guns and love to collect them and shoot them. I have them if I need them, but the power of the sword was never really for me, even when I was in the military. I don’t believe true power and success comes from the power of the sword.

The power of the jewel (money)

The jewel represents the power of money. I’ve observed there is some truth to the saying, "Remember the golden rule. He who has the gold makes the rules." History is filled with examples of the rich using the power of money to gain an advantage.

Money is a neutral medium. It can be used for good or for bad. Someone like Bill Gates uses his wealth for doing much good in the world. But there are those who also use money to take advantage of the weak. There is power in money, but it is not the ultimate source of power and success.

This may surprise you, since I am known for having a lot of money and my life is based on teaching people about money and how to be rich. But my calling has never been about just money and being rich alone. No, I do what I do because I want people to have true power and success, and that starts with the most important power.

The power of the mirror (self-knowledge)

The mirror symbolizes the power of self-knowledge. And, according to Japanese legend, self-knowledge is the most treasured of all three powers because it guides how all other powers are used, whether they are used for good or for ill. I believe this to be true. Let me share a story to help illustrate.

In my senior year of high school, rich dad’s son, Mike, and I were lined up in front of a small group of students made up primarily of the leaders of our class. Our guidance counselor turned to Mike and me and said, “The two of you will never amount to anything.”

Some of our classmates laughed as the counselor continued, “From now on, I am not going to waste my time on either of you. I’m only going to spend my time with the students who want to be here and to learn. You two are the class clowns and you will never amount to anything if you keep it up. Now get out of here.”

Those words hurt Mike and me deeply, but that counselor also did us a huge favor. Essentially the guidance counselor forced us to make a choice. Would we believe what she had to say about us? Or would we look in the mirror and believe what we knew to be true about ourselves? By inspiring both of us to strive even harder and be true to ourselves, her words carried us through college and into our own businesses.

Many years later, Mike and I went to our high school reunion together. It was interesting to see that most of the so-called senior leaders, the people whom our guidance counselor had lavished praise on, had not become successful in the years after high school.

Mike and I were not academic whiz kids. We were not class leaders, financial geniuses, or athletic stars. For the most part, we were slow-to-average learners and students. In my opinion, we were not as naturally gifted as our fathers. But we knew who we were and what we wanted out of life. Rather than buy into those stinging words from that guidance counselor, we used them as fire to keep going, learn from our mistakes, and endure in both good and bad times.

What this taught me is that success can rarely be predicted. Instead, you must determine whether you will be successful or not. You must work hard to earn success. You must look in the mirror each and every day and determine what you will be and how you will shape the world.

What does the look in the mirror tell you?

For the middle-class, the power of money all too often controls them. Each day, members of the middle-class get up, work hard and fail to ask if what they do makes sense.

Instead, controlled by the power of money, the middle-class follows the crowd. They conform rather than question. They blindly repeat mantras handed to them by so-called experts: “Diversify.” “Your home is an asset.” “Get a safe job.” “Don't make mistakes.” “Don't take risks.” “Save your money.”

Ultimately behind the power of money is fear

Just like with the power of weapons, the power of money is often rooted in fear. We fear not having enough, and we fear being ostracized. The fear of not having enough causes us to work harder and harder. The fear of not being ostracized causes us to try and keep up with the Joneses. All too often, the result is the same. The American dream turns into an American nightmare. Here is the familiar story.

Recently married, a happy, highly-educated young couple moves into a cramped, rented apartment. They realize they are saving money because two can live as cheaply as one. For a while they are happy.

Then, the apartment begins to feel cramped. They see friends moving into homes and having kids. They decide to save money to buy their dream home so they can have kids too. They now have two incomes, and they begin to focus on their careers. They make a lot more money, but their expenses go up as well.

As the young couple's income goes up, their tax burden rises. And when they buy their dream home, they incur property taxes. Additionally, they also buy a new car, new furniture and new appliances to match the new house. Their liabilities column goes up and is full of mortgage and credit-card debt.

income expenses and liabilities go up personal financial statement

They are now trapped in the Rat Race. Soon they have a baby and work harder to make ends meet. A credit card comes in the mail, and they max it out trying to stay afloat. A consumer credit agency calls and promises to help them consolidate their debt into one low payment. They do it, pay off their credit cards and feel like they've done the smart thing. They breathe a sigh of relief.

Then their friends invite them to the mall for the Memorial Day sale. The young couple promises themselves they won't buy anything, but they bring the credit card just in case.

I've heard this story thousands of times all over the world. Each time, the story is followed by the question, "How can we make more money?"

Trust in yourself

Most people do not have money problems. Rather, they have a financial education problem. They don't know the difference between an asset and a liability.

Money seldom solves people's problems. Intelligence and a financial education solve problems. And if you want to be rich, you must understand both how money works and how you work. You must look in the mirror and understand your motivations, desires, and dreams—and stay true to them even when it means going against the Joneses. You must trust in yourself and not pay attention to others around you, what they value and how they value you.

Even though you may not be good at everything, take time developing what you need to learn and your world will change rapidly. Never run from what you know you need to learn. Face your fears and doubts and new worlds will open to you.

If you did not do well in school, or if you were not the most popular, or you’re not good at math, or whatever other reasons you have to sell yourself short—none of it matters in the long run. Those so-called shortcomings only count if you think they count.

For those of you who are considering embarking on your own financial journey of success, you may have some doubts about your abilities. All I can say is: Trust that you have everything you need right now to be successful financially.

Remember that the only person who determines the thoughts you choose to believe in about yourself is you. So, the reward from the journey is not only the freedom that money buys but also the trust you gain in yourself. My best advice is to prepare daily to be bigger than your smallness. In my opinion, the reason most people stop and turn back from their dreams is because the tiny person with the loud voice found inside each of us wields more power than our bigger person.

All it takes to bring out your natural, God-given gifts is your desire, determination, and a deep faith that you have a genius and a gift that is unique and that the world needs.

Some people go after the power of weapons. Others go after the power of money. But true power comes from the mirror.

I encourage you to spend some time tapping into its power today.

Portions of this post were adapted from Rich Dad Poor Dad.

Do you see someone with a financial education when you look in the mirror?

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Original publish date: October 16, 2012