How Every Decision Can Make You Richer – or Poorer

Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.

– William Arthur Ward

You go to lunch with a colleague. Everything is good. When the waiter puts the bill on the table, the total is $26.

Do you pick it up? Do you wait and hope he does? Or do you suggest you split it?

On the surface, this is a minor decision. But in truth, it is one of a million chances you’ve had, have, and will have to become wealthier.

A cheapskate might look at it this way:

* If we split the bill, I’ll be $13 poorer.

* If I can get him to pay it, I’ll be $13 richer.

* If I pay the whole bill, I’ll be $26 poorer.

To the cheapskate, the best decision is obvious. So when the bill arrives, he gets up to “go to the bathroom,” hoping he’ll be $13 richer when he returns.

But I have a different view. For wealth building, like quantum mechanics, often operates according to laws that seem contrary to what is “obvious.”

Paying the tab, in other words, might actually make you richer. Because the $13 you spend on your lunch partner might give you a return of much more than $13.

Your generosity might signal to him that you are the kind of person he can trust. It might tell him that you are someone who is willing to give first without demanding recompense. If he sees you in that light, a relationship might be seeded by this small investment on your part. A year later – it is possible to imagine – he might recommend you for a promotion when he himself gets promoted to head up your department.

It depends on your assessment of his character.

If he impresses you as a person who believes – as you do – in reciprocity, you will know that the $13 is a wise investment. If, on the other hand, he shows you that he is a person who believes in exploiting others, the wise move might be to pay only your share of the bill and not develop the relationship any further.

In either case, you are richer.

In the first case, you are richer in a potentially lucrative business relationship. In the second case, you are richer in knowledge – knowledge about him that can help you avoid trouble or seize opportunity in the future.

I am making two points:

* Almost every event in your life is an opportunity for you to become richer.

* By seeing every situation as a wealth-building opportunity, you can take the actions that will gradually make you very rich.

I am sitting at a cigar bar as I am writing this. I am wondering if I should take a break from the writing and have a drink. On the face of it, this is an ordinary situation. But I am going to view it as a wealth-building opportunity.

Here’s how:

If I have a drink, several predictable things will happen:

* It will give me a warm feeling.

* It will make me think the writing I am doing right now is better than it actually is.

Only the first of those things will make me richer. But it will be a fleeting richness that will require a second drink to sustain itself. And if I drink too much, all sorts of bad and potentially costly things could happen that will leave me poorer.

So I decide to pass on the drink and continue to write.

That will give me an immediate return, because I will feel good about my decision. And I’ll be engaged in thinking again.

Life is full of these small decisions – each one a wealth-building opportunity.