I was watching a series with Molly. It was about a hotel in London where the uber-wealthy go to stay. After some too-rich woman came on-screen and said something stupid—”I like knowing that if I leave towels in a pile on the bathroom floor someone else will pick them up”—I turned to Molly and said, “I hope, if I get rich, to never be like that.”
I was serious. I know, the chances of me becoming so filthily rich are quite small. And it’s not as if that’s a burning ambition of mine. But if it did happen, I know what I wouldn’t do and what I wouldn’t become. I wouldn’t become arrogant. I wouldn’t go in for ostentatious displays of wealth and influence. I wouldn’t treat people who didn’t have my resources as lesser beings. In short, I wouldn’t be a giant douchebag. Or even a minor one.
How do I know this? Because I’ve already decided.
If someone contacts me about my writing or editing services, I have a predefined idea of what I will do and what I won’t do, and why. I’ve imagined some likely and unlikely scenarios and opportunities in advance and prepared some tentative responses. These responses are liable to change, but the point is, I’ve done some of the leg work before the situation arises.
It’s the same with wealth. If, for whatever reason, I come into wealth, I know what I’ll change and what I won’t. I have an idea of what I’ll be able to do differently. I have an idea of the options that will be available to me. In a similar way, I’ve prepared some responses to a complete loss of wealth, to bankruptcy. In my head, I know what I’ll be able to do, what I won’t, what will change, what will stay the same, and how I’ll pull myself out of the hole.
I have a suspicion that the people on shows like the one above did none of this. Their wealth came to them when they were unprepared. And because of their unpreparedness, they made decisions and took actions whose motives were heavily tainted by the glimmer of the riches they found themselves with.
I heard this phrase in one of Pusha T’s songs: “poor minds are poor decision makers.” It’s true. People who are relatively un-wealthy are usually the ones who engage in the most destructive behaviours: they drink, smoke, do drugs, neglect their health and wellbeing. Why? My suspicion is that they didn’t have time to prepare for the burdens of their position. So they were forced to make decisions, from scratch, in an environment where long-term hope seems non-existent and short-term alleviators of pain are readily accessible, where the future is discounted heavily in favour of the present.
Good situation or bad situation, it doesn’t matter. If you have a chance to play through the scenario in your mind, do it. Make decisions about what you’ll do before you have to actually do it. Here and now, you have distance, you have perspective. Your perception isn’t so distorted by the demands of the moment. So make it easier for yourself to make the right choice in the future; decide before you need to.