Poverty is simply persistently lacking what you need. It is either real or imagined. Poverty is real when someone lacks the basic needs in life: food and water, clothing, shelter, good health, etc. You imagine it when you think you need something and you can’t seem to get it.
From the above definition, being poor goes beyond having little or no money or no material possessions. A man who has money and material possessions but has no good health is poor with respect to his health. We associate poverty mainly with lack of money because money affords us the opportunity to meet so many needs.
To the extent that nobody has everything s/he needs, poverty is relative. Opportunity however exists to leverage on what others have to meet your own needs. In essence, someone has provision for the need you have. The question is: How do you get the possessor of what you need to help you meet your need?
The optimal strategy for meeting whatever need you may have is the focus of this article. Though the points lean toward achieving financial freedom, they have universal application nonetheless.
Administrative redistribution is no solution
Inequality in income distribution is an obvious fact. Less than 1% of the world population controls over 80% of the wealth. Efforts made to correct this skewed statistic through direct intervention and control systems have not yielded any positive results because such measures amount to a departure from the fundamentals.
Even if all the material wealth in the world is equally distributed among the population, the 1% from whom the bulk of the wealth is withdrawn would, in a short time, recover what has been taken from them.
If a small percentage of the population has more wealth than generations after them need to live well, is it possible for a larger population of the poor to get from the rich? It is possible! The challenge is that the poor do not seek right.
The Reason for Poverty
One reason why people are poor is ignorance. The manufacturer of man said: “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Almost always, poverty precedes destruction of man. Therefore, we can say that lack of knowledge brings about poverty which eventually results in destruction.
When you desire to live life to the fullest, make getting the relevant knowledge your first port of call. This is to extent that the acquired knowledge would enable you achieve your set goal – breaking away from poverty.
Information is not the same as Knowledge
The internet has made enormous amount of information available. However, this has not reduced the overall poverty level because what is really important in overcoming poverty is knowledge not information. With the internet there are complexities that one must deal with through knowledge before deriving benefits inherent in it.
It’s better to have knowledge than to just have information. However, getting knowledge takes more effort. Daniel Clark perfectly captured the difference between knowledge and information in his article Completing the Zen in Performance Management. He wrote, “Knowledge requires viscosity, which uses rich sources and context; while information normally uses velocity for quick transfer. This is why knowledge can be so hard to come by at times — it takes time as knowledge, unlike information, is full of details and context; and at times, it can be quite subtle, thus one has to dig for it.”
The above explains why you can read through a newspaper in a matter of minutes while it may take you days to finish a good book on managing a business. From one you get information and from the other you get knowledge.
What do you seek – Help or Transportation?
Help means aid or assistance. For instance, you help someone when you assist him to accomplish his goal. To seek help means you’re ready to work – you are an active participant in the solution to whatever challenges you’re facing. On the other hand, when your involvement in your issues is that of a passive onlooker spectator or observer, you seek ‘transportation’ – you want to be carried from lack to abundance. While it is not a bad idea to seek a free ride, the unfortunate thing is that IT DOES NOT WORK.
Difference between seeking help and transportation
Symbiotic / Parasitic relationships
Naturally, we value symbiotic relationships and abhor parasitic ones. When you seek help from others, you’re very likely going to get positive responses because you align with their value system. Seeking transportation is a parasitic orientation that everyone wants to avoid.
If you’ve not been getting the help you need, it may just be that you’re seeking to be carried not helped.
Non-exclusion / Exclusion principles
Humans want far-reaching influence more than limited influence. This understanding is critical when you seek to improve your situation through the help of others. It’s easier to help 500 people than to carry 5 people. One person carrying another person results in many others who are also in need being excluded thus limiting the carrier’s influence.
On the contrary, helping others follows the non-exclusion principle. With a singular act, one person can help 1 million people.
For instance, if you consider this article valuable, you will likely send it to your friends and loved one. This can go on and on so much so that it would be difficult to estimate how many people may be helped because I took a few hours to pen my thoughts on breaking away from poverty. It is however limiting in influence and time inefficient for me or any other person to share this article with one person or even 5 persons at a time.
Benevolence / Generosity concepts
In my book Live the Significant Life, I took time to explain the difference between benevolence and generosity and why human beings can be generous while only God is benevolent.
To seek transportation from others is to expect them to show the benevolent attribute of God. On the other hand, when you seek help from man you seek right. So long as you’re committed to finding solutions to your challenges you will find help from man, ultimately.
One of the reasons man can only be generous and only God is benevolent is because of knowledge asymmetry. God possesses perfect knowledge and man’s knowledge is imperfect. Consciously or subconsciously, man is aware of this knowledge asymmetry and this restricts him to the generosity sphere.
Recently, I evaluated the relationship with one of my long-term friends. I realized I had received cash and benefits-in-kind in sum of about US$8,000 (including US$4,700 towards my mother’s medical expenses) from him since I left paid employment 3 years ago. Then I asked myself, “Wale, are you sure you’re not now seeking transportation in this relationship?”
While I was grateful that my friend assisted me, I wanted to know if I was taking things for granted. More importantly, I wanted to know that I wasn’t doing anything to arouse pity. I thought, “Leaving my job was a choice I made and what I need is encouragement not pity.”
Even though I concluded I wasn’t seeking transportation, one of the steps I took to guarantee that I don’t seek transportation was to stop discussing my needs with my generous friend. Instead I focused on knowledge sharing which has served us well in our 27-year-old friendship.
I’ve shared my thoughts on how to get what you need. Your awareness of these thoughts is only the beginning. You now need to do the work of seeking knowledge of the things contained in this article. Do remember to share the article with others.