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Corporations: Rich But Sad?

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What is a country? A piece of land? That’s part of it. What really makes a country is the millions of “units” who inhabit it: citizens, people!

Can you imagine a country with no people? It would be useless, and meaningless.

How about a smaller entity: a company, or a big corporation, what is it? It’s a business, indeed. It’s there to make money by selling a product or service. Could a business exist without customers and providers, buyers and sellers? No! Then the money alone is useless and meaningless without the people who create and sell, and the people who pay and buy!

But companies could function just like a despotic country: The top executives and owners make all the money, while the workers make minimum wage!

You know one example too well: Wal-Mart! It’s where one branch could close the day having made hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the cashier goes home having made $8 an hour, from which he or she will even give a few dollars in taxes!

What would we think of a country where the president and ministers are rich and happy, but the citizens are sad and poor? It’s a country which needs a revolution!

Why don’t we feel the same about corporations that don’t make their employees happy?!

It’s totally right that the CEO makes more money than the cleaning crew, but the question is: how much more?

The question is: What is the quality of life of the cashier compared to that of the owner?

Thankfully, many young (and BIG!) companies are now adopting a new culture of making the work place fun and the employees happy (think Google and Zappos, for example).

It’s not only about paying people enough; it’s about the quality of the hours they spend at work.

What does a company that is rich but sad have to offer to the world, to life?

As customers, we should use our money and voice to vote for companies that care about its people, and against the ones that use people as mere means to make money.

Money is here to serve us. Once people are used to serve money, the world becomes a toxic place. That’s what it is now in many places and cases. It shows how much the lack of compassion and humanity is at work!

The math is simple and clear: Corporations – Lack of compassion + low quality of life for most employees + abundance of money for owners and top executives alone = very bad deal for our world!

We Are All Billionaires!

Woods trail 2

My income is no greater than my expenses. I’m in debt. I am not rich. Am I poor?

An accountant can calculate our net worth accurately. But none but us can calculate our comprehensive net worth, our real life wealth.

See, wealth is not only monetary. We often overlook other assets in our living account balance. Our “income” is not only the money that we make.

If we’re healthy, we’re wealthier than the sick in terms of health.

Would you lose your eyesight and get $10 million instead?

I wouldn’t, which means I have a quality that is much more expensive than the ten million!

Would you go to prison for 5 years and get a million dollars for it?

I wouldn’t go to prison even for one year for a million dollars. Therefore, every year of life that I live free is worth more than a million dollars, only it terms of freedom!

Every good friend, every brother and sister and parent adds up to our wealth. Would you trade your sister for a million bucks? If not, that means you have what is worth more than this very sum of money. How about a loving spouse, would you trade her or him for 2 million? If not, then you have something more precious than millions of dollars!

Next time you see this expensive car driving by and you say to yourself, “God, why can’t I afford such a car!”, ask yourself if you would take the car and lose your legs or your hands! If not, you have something more precious than the car, you’re already rich!

Or when you pass by that glorious house and sadly wonder why they can afford such a house and you don’t, ask yourself if you would take the house and get a terminal and painful cancer!

Would you trade your intellect for a billion dollars? Get the billion and go with a blank mind? I damn wouldn’t, even for a trillion dollars. We have in our little and fragile heads something more precious than a trillion dollars! How incredibly rich!

If we think of the monetary worth of all our assets that we overlook we will never feel that we’re in financial trouble. We’ll see the abundance that overwhelms us. And as the wisdom goes, we get more of what we focus on. If we feel rich, without money, the money will end up coming too.

Restroom encounters and the ASS-U-ME lesson!

We pass by so many people every single day. We don’t pay attention to them. Everyone has a story behind. And every story has much wisdom and many lessons to it.

And we usually keep to ourselves. We don’t explore people. We think it’s intruding. But the reality is, in most cases, people won’t mind a friendly approach and a few questions. We are designed to be social. God created people to co-exist. To enjoy sharing and being together. To help each other. To learn from each other.

Recently I had a small experience that got me thinking about all that. Someone I meet a few times a week in the restroom. His office is in the same floor. I always pass by his quiet office and wonder what kind of business does he do under this “web services” title. I’d even say to myself, this office looks like they’re not doing any business in this tough economy. I even went on wondering why won’t the owner just have a home office and save a few thousands a month in useless rent. He doesn’t seem to be making any money any anyway!
 
I was wrong! I remembered what a friend taught me once, a lesson that was passed to her by one of her school teachers. The lesson is simple, and it goes like this: “ASSUME… makes an ASS of U and ME!!!”. What a genius remark!
 
I met him as usual. We say hi and hello, how are you and how’s it going. Fine thank you. Blah blah blah! But that day I just was in the mood for some real questions:
 
- How’s business going?
- Actually it’s going very well.
- Wow, really! So you do web services? What’s that exactly?
- We shoot videos for companies that wish to have some YouTube presence.
- So you shoot the videos in the office?
- Yes. And we’re trying to expand and add some space to the office. It’s become too small.
 
Wow! How wrong was I. I assumed things by what I see from outside! I was feeling sad for this company and wishing they just save the rent and move to a home office instead, telling myself I’d do this smart move if I was in their place! Why worry about an expensive Chicago downtown location when you can create your web sites from home!
 
But I knew better after this short conversation! Their web services didn’t include making websites at all! And they were expanding their office, far from thinking about moving to a home office and save the rent! I also learned that YouTube is creating new business opportunities. But most importantly, I learned not to judge anything when we look from the outside!

Build, Before You Spend!

That’s the golden, yet simple rule for financial freedom. It’s a principle that this great country lives by its exact opposite. We spend what we don’t have. We borrow money from others (banks) to buy stuff for ourselves. Just for a moment, think of this scenario as if the bank was your friend. You like a new shirt, or desire a yummy steak at your favorite restaurant, so you go “borrow” money from your friend to buy it. Can we see ourselves do that? I guess not, it sounds insane, even indecent and irresponsible, as long as we don’t do it out of necessity. Who will ever say that we can’t live without a brand new car, a fancy dinner every week, and new cloths every couple weeks! Well, only those who don’t have a clue what “real life” is will say so!

In the famous book “The Millionaire Next Door”, one of the noteworthy characteristics that the author found common in self-made, first generation millionaires is that they live “below their means”. Not only they don’t spend what they don’t have, they actually don’t even spend “all” that they have. And that’s how they could build real wealth that ends up liberating them from money. They might live a simpler life, and others, who heavily rely on their high incomes to qualify for big credit, live a more sparkling life, dwelling in more expensive homes and driving luxurious cars. But the first group lives a simpler, yet comfortable life that is “theirs”, while the latter lives a luminous life that doesn’t really belong to them. They are at risk of loosing it every month, even every day. If their big fat paycheck stops, their ill-founded life falls apart. This is indeed a sure prescription for stress and the inability to truly taste and enjoy what we “think” we own.

I recently heard from a friend about a pilot who committed suicide. He got laid off, and obviously couldn’t find another job with a similar income. He gave up on life once he was hit and paralyzed by his finances falling on his head. He must have relied too much on his big pay, borrowing heavily to buy a nice house and new cars, etc., the typical scenario. Had he waited and lived “within”, not even below, his real means, he wouldn’t have ended up in trouble. He could have rented a nice place to live, or bought a reasonable house, used his big pay to save money while living comfortably, and his life would look very different by now. He’d probably be having enough savings to cover all his expenses for a long time, until he figures something out. He was one of the millions of victims of the norm. I wish more of us humans were strong enough to go against the norm, when it’s not really normal, if we just use some common sense! When enough of us do that, soon we will change and restore the norm to a more normal and harmonious state.

I like this advice from Suze Orman, even though I myself am nowhere close to it at the time of writing this. She suggests that we should have enough savings to cover our expenses for 6 months. That’s the first financial foundation we should build on. If your paycheck brings you a decent sum every month, I’d even say it’s safer to start by building enough savings for one year in case you lose your job. Six months sounds good, but we all know that life is UNPREDICTABLE. Yes, in capital letters, because I want it to look you bigger in the eyes! It’s one of those obvious facts that we tend to forget.

Well, I do think that the system itself is not going the right direction. We have seen what happened in the last years in the US market, and how many people lost their homes. I don’t think it’s even fair that you make payments for your house, then lose everything once you can no longer afford to pay. Buyers make mistakes and buy things they can’t really afford long-term. Buying a house is really a long-term commitment, mortgages going for 15, 20 or 30 years. We need extra caution when committing to something this long. However there is something wrong with the system itself.

In Islam, interest is strictly forbidden. I do believe that the Islamic rules are divine and meant for the ultimate, long-term good of both individuals and societies. Interest is a passive and abusive profit. We need no proof; those who got caught in debt know it too well. It’s hard to get out, and it enslaves the borrower to his ever-increasing debt. I do think that we can use the rule of “no interest” with the lessons of modern economy, and we can come up with the best formula. We need a just economy and just profits. No one can go wrong with justice, because it’s a win-win. In the meantime, we individuals have to start by our own selves. You don’t have to believe that interest is evil, because you might not believe in the Islamic teachings as I do. But we can all believe that it’s always better to use what we have. We can easily believe that buying a house or a car that we’re not sure to afford over time is like living in the house with no roof over our heads. It will get damaged with the first storm, and we’d even loose what we already paid in the walls and the furniture, thinking that the storm will wait for us until we can get to that roof and build it!

Build the whole house first, then move in and enjoy it! Now it’s really yours.

Winning!

If you live in the United States and watch television, then you know Donald Trump. He is a business man, yes, but he is as famous as a Hollywood star. His show “The Apprentice” must have been a big factor in his becoming a star. I believe he represents a better model of being star. The model of success through intelligence, hard (passionate) work, personal branding, knowledge (continuous learning), and common sense.

Once familiar with the show, I started to look for Donalds’ books. I do declare that I like him very much as a writer. This fact only proves my belief about success: truly successful individuals, in any field, seem to always have a solid intellectual ground. After all, every human has exactly the same form of material manifestation in the world: one anatomy, one body. What we have up there makes all the difference: vague things that reside in our chest, and in our head! When I started this blog, I posted my selected quotes of the following books by Donald Trump, check them out: How to Get Rich, and The Way to The Top. I will post my quotes of his other books soon, insha’Allah (God willing, in Arabic).

Well, I am from Egypt. Trump is not a famous name there. So I knew nothing about him in my first years in the country. Until I met “The Apprentice” on TV. I think the first time I saw the show was in its second season. I am only an occasional TV watcher, but this show captivated me, and it soon became my favorite. May be it’s my business sense. I gradually came to like business. However my interest in business didn’t start early in my life. I grew up in a business environment. My family had a ready-made clothes factory, established by my elder brother, who created this business while he was in medical school. He truly is a multi-talented entrepreneur, and I always believed that if he had come to a business-friendly country like the US early in his life, he would have been a billionaire by now. Even my mother, who has, all her live, been a housewife, never working outside her home, was very involved in the business. Growing up with business all around me, I didn’t really like it. I was more interested in intellectual pursuits. I never even liked to read about business. May be I didn’t like the fact that all my brothers went into the family business. I didn’t want to do something unless it’s genuine and of true personal meaning to me. I didn’t want to be a slave of money. I, as a human being, as a creature of the greatest Creator, am ABOVE money. I can have it as a tool, but I won’t work for it.

Then something changed. May be it was in my genes, hidden there til the time comes. My first personal, or face to face experience with business came my way when I was in my last year of college, studying French literature and translation. One of my professors approached me and asked if I a good Internet user. I wasn’t even a bad one! I had never used it at the time. My professor said that she, along with two other partners, were interested in establishing a translation company, and they wanted me aboard. I was a unique student in the institution at the time (in a good way), which is another story. That’s probably why they chose me.

I immediately accepted. I knew nothing about the business. But I loved the people I was working with, and I was very appreciated in return. In the spirit of a team, exploring and learning about a world unfamiliar to us, everyone took charge of what they knew best. Well, what I knew best was to learn what I didn’t know! And to become an expert shortly after. I didn’t think of what I was doing as a business. I just did it, but I didn’t name it. When I look back, I see that as a revealing of the entrepreneur in me.

See where the chain of thoughts took me! I started this post with the intention of writing a “brief” post about MY WINNING. You still don’t even know what I won! I am going to tell you very, very shortly.

Back to Donald Trump. Well, I didn’t win The Apprentice, otherwise this would have been already known all over the nation! Not that I don’t qualify for it, I know I do. I even qualify for much, much higher things. But my winning is related to Trump… University. Yes, Trump University.

Shortly after I discovered Trump Blog, a contest was advertised: readers were asked to post their questions to Donald Trump, restricting their questions to “success-related topics about personal achievement, real estate investing and entrepreneurship.”

I did post one entry, with three questions. I don’t know yet which question of mine was selected by Donald Trump. I’ve been checking the blog for news about the winners. I had a feeling that I could win. I knew there were hundreds of other entries, but I thought that my questions were well to the point. However, I wasn’t sure. When I saw the post about the winners tonight, my name was eight on the list. As I was quickly getting to the end of the list, without seeing my name, I expected that it wasn’t going to be there anyway. May be after five years of struggling as an immigrant, five years of suffering from not being able to live up to my potential, I sort of got used to losing. I was used to winning back in my home country. My immigration experience taught me that I was wrong when I took it for granted. I won’t say that I wasn’t prepared for that, I did leave my comfort zone to put myself in difficult circumstances. I saw it as a means to build my character, and to teach me more about the truths of life and of living.

I won a free course offered by TU. A new and different chance of learning. The ability to learn is a blessing. I am grateful to God for giving me a mind capable of understanding, and the resources necessary to find knowledge.

See my name among the winners in Trump Blog

“O my Lord! advance me in knowledge.”
Quran: Chapter 20, Verse 114