The Matthew Effect

"For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him" (Matthew 25:29)

We have all have heard of "The rich get richer while the poor get poorer." This holds true whether talking about rich in money, rich in knowledge, rich in friends, or just about anything else.

What we have builds upon itself. At first just about whatever we do takes a lot of time and effort. Over time, however, it gets easier and easier. You gain knowledge on how to do things better, get systems into place which do the work for you, come up with efficient processes to do things faster and more reliably and create strategic alliances with others who augment your capabilities. As you continue to work you do more, better and faster.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is what is commonly called the "downward spiral." We see this with the poor and uneducated. They have not the money nor the knowledge on how to manage their lives.

One example of the downward spiral at work is in how the poor attempt to get rich. This typically takes the form of get rich schemes or the lottery. The plain fact is that these courses to trying to get rich almost always result in a lighter pocket book. On the incredibly rare chance that they pan out, the person who does get rich has money but quickly loses it because they never learned to manage their money. In fact, most people who win the lottery or sweepstakes end up worse afterwards because they spend themselves into great debt and lose it all. Regardless, the fact that they participate in these ways to quick and easy wealth show they lack the knowledge of what true wealth is or how to manage their money. That means they lack the knowledge of money they need to retain and grow the wealth that has fallen into their lap.

The perpetuation of ignorance is another example of the poor (this time in knowledge) remaining or becoming poor. Quite often those who do not have knowledge do not know how to defend their beliefs. When these beliefs are challenged, the typical response is to get defensive. It is not to engage in intellectual discourse and learn but rather to stand their ground and refuse to hear what the challenger has to say. The more ignorant the individual, the more defensive they can become. Meanwhile the highly educated seek out knowledge and are not as often put into a defensive posture. Highly educated people tend to like attaining more knowledge and feel they can better hold their own when challenged. As a result they are more often open to listening to others and learning more.

When we are young we are taught that we must be perfect, that mistakes are bad and that we are bad for making those mistakes. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one is perfect and we learn best by making mistakes. But when we fear mistakes, we also fear challenging our skills. Without the challenge being met, we do not gain more knowledge and skill from trying and making mistakes. So the people who keep trying grow their skills and are encouraged to seek out more practice to hone their skills while those who have weak skills often are afraid to spread their wings and never gain or grow the skills they need to perform well in society.

One of the biggest problems I have seen plague the more intelligent people I have had the opportunity to work with is how they never seem to have enough time to do what they need to do. These are people poor in time. The less time they have, the more they rush around trying to catch up and get things done. These are often the people who work the hardest. They are also the people who get very little done relative to how hard they work. They are so caught up in getting things done they never stop and take a look at whether they are doing the right things and whether those things are being carried out in the most efficient way. This is a problem that plagues our Western society. People are in such a hurry, doing this, doing that, and they so rarely see that most of what they are doing is needless busy work which just serves to make them feel like they are getting things done.

So what do we do about it?

The first thing you need to do is determine just what your are poor in in your life. Do you have very little money? How about education? Skill? Time? Something else?

Once you identify what you seem to lack in your life, you need to take a step back and take an objective look at what you are doing. Then look at the people around you who do not seem to have this problem. What are they doing that you are not? What are they not doing that you are doing?

This is much like how when we were children we picked out people in our lives that we idolized. Sometimes these were fictional characters but when they were real people, we had a real template for modeling our lives. It is funny how we loose this fascination with idols as we grow older. It is like we have reached a point where we are too old for that ridiculous stuff. But having an idol or better yet multiple idols to help us model our lives after helps us put a real world direction to our path. If someone has achieved something we wish to achieve, who better to model ourselves after?

Of course we don't pattern our whole life after our idol. Personally I like to find a number of people I wish to be like in some way. I like to pick out a diverse group that has one common quality I wish to emulate in my life. I then look for the commonalities in all these potential idols. This helps me see what I do and do not want to incorporate into my life based on what I see these others do.

You can also use this in reverse. Find the individuals which you want to be very different from. What are these anti-idols doing? That will help you see what you do NOT want to do.

Improving yourself takes time. Don't rush it. And keep dedicated to making yourself better. If you get into a hurry you will likely get discouraged and stop working toward the improvement and it shall be taken from you. But if you keep building up on what you lack, over time it will begin to come in in abundance.

Work smarter and not harder. Keep reflecting on what you are doing and what is and is not working. Hard work may be required at first but over time you should see ways to improve that require less and less effort. Keep taking the time to reflect and come up with better ways to attain what you are after.

Look for mentors (educators, business mentors, local foundations, apprenticeships, internships). There are a lot of people out there who will happily share what they know to people who are passionate about what the mentor has gains expertise in.

Also seek out industry experts. These experts may have written books or provide training. They may be willing to provide consulting hours to help you do what they do. This can save you years of effort and help prevent you from having to make costly mistakes.

However you do it, know that you have to build and keep on building. Look for success and emulate that success. And remember that over time you will begin to grow faster and faster, it will become easier and easier and you too will have the qualities in life that others enjoy.