Why the Rich Get Richer

It’s one thing to ponder the socioeconomic causes of the growing wealth gap in America, it’s another matter entirely to decide which side of the gap you want to be on. That’s right; it is a choice. It always comes down to a choice.

Look, how things turn out for you in life may not be entirely within your control, but one critical factor is. It’s something everyone talks about but few actually do: Finding what you love to do.

Believe it or not, that is the single most actionable factor – the lynchpin that determines the outcome for each and every one of us. And the truth is, pretty much everyone on the “successful” side of the wealth gap has cracked the code. Let me explain how doing what you love for a living relates to wealth and success.

Let’s assume you lack the motivation to search for whatever it is you’re meant to become, choose the path of least resistance and settle into a job of some sort. Since your work doesn’t inspire you, you’ll spend your life trying to find fulfillment through other means, all of which involve spending money.

That’s right, if you’re not making money, you’re spending money. It’s a pretty simple equation. Best case you’ll raise a family, make ends meet and maybe save a few bucks. Worst case you’ll spend your life living hand to mouth, become jealous of others’ success and be filled with regret over what could have been.

If, on the other hand, you have the courage to follow your heart and have faith that it will eventually lead you to a career that’s meant for you, that changes everything. Because you love your work, you’ll work hard, be effective and maybe even do some innovative things.

Granted, there are other factors that determine how successful you’ll become, but at least you’ll have the best chance of achieving things you can be proud of. And you’ll not only find satisfaction in your work, you’ll find that you don’t need so many meaningless distractions and material possessions – all of which cost money.

That’s why the vast majority of successful people live far beneath their means. That’s why they’re so good at saving and investing. Their lives are fulfilling so they don’t need to surround themselves with every toy and gadget. Of course some do – for reasons I’m sure a good shrink could explain – but most don’t.

While that’s a pretty convincing argument, I can make an even better case with a few examples. Take me for example. I grew up in a working class family in a tiny rent-controlled New York City apartment. We had nothing. I graduated college but my grades were mediocre so I ended up back home with my folks working some lousy job for minimum wage.

Then it happened. My girlfriend’s father took me to a semiconductor startup on Long Island and I was suddenly hooked on technology. I was inspired and motivated. I went back to college, got an engineering degree with excellent grades and started my career in the high-tech industry in 1980.

Even then, after ten years I found myself stuck in middle management until I tried my hand at sales, then marketing. That turned out to be my true love and I excelled at it. Within a few years I was VP of marketing at a publicly traded company and the rest, as they say, is history.

If the same person can go from zero to doing great work simply by finding what he loves doing, that pretty much proves the point, does it not? Not convinced? Want more famous examples? Fine, I’ve got plenty.

I’m sure John Grisham was a fine attorney and politician in Mississippi, but if he’d never put pen to paper and published A Time to Kill 18 years into his career, he obviously would have missed his calling. Today he stands as one of the best-selling fiction authors of all time.

Ronald Reagan may have been an OK actor, but he was clearly meant to be in politics.

If you’ve ever met someone like Bill Gates, Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg, you would instantly know that they are geeks who were born to code.

Looking back, you might be tempted to see the success of all those people as preordained in some way. That’s simply not true. Their extraordinary accomplishments were the result of finding what they loved to do – what they were meant to do.

If you’re looking for an excuse to spend your life bitter and angry as a perpetual victim, there’s certainly no shortage of popular political rhetoric to fuel your fire. But if you want to control your own destiny, you have to have the guts to keep looking until you find work you love doing.