The word gamble triggers many childhood memories. I remember watching the classic Saturday movies in the 90s with scenes of New York mobsters collecting the souls of penniless debtors. And then there was Sundays in church. I can still feel the hard pews and the tension of the guilty souls wanting to obtain favor from an invisible deity. Preachers of every cloth crafted gripping messages but at the conclusion of delivering the ‘Word of God’ – payment was due. Pastors condemned casinos while cajoling ‘faith-based’ parishioners to toss their money into collection plates and expect nothing in return. All based on vague notions of potential blessings from above. (James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is a must read).
Religion is an interesting tool because it can be used to bypass critical thinking and embed ideas deep within our emotional network. It can spark the spirit or snare the soul depending on how it registers within our psyche. Humans are social creatures. How we are conditioned greatly impacts the way we view ourselves and others. Perceptions govern most of our interactions and contribute to behavior patterns that produce predictable economic outcomes. (See Social Economics).
Money governs the day to day function of most people on the planet. Morning coffee, transportation, child care expenses, school, medical bills, utilities, rent and mortgages all require money. Most parents want their children to be able to eat a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Food is essential; and since food costs money it is fair to equate that money is absolutely essential within our society. The trouble in America, is that money is often a taboo topic.
As a young adult I continued to attend church and I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrase “The Lord will provide” within the context of some financial problem. Typically, this phrase preceded an exercise of hoping and praying rather than formulating effective actions to address the root cause of the issue. The phrase is somewhat of a psychological impediment. The mind focuses on provisions from an external deity, rather than tapping into one’s internal well of productive consciousness.
Fortunate and unfortunate events are part of the human experience. In colonized church models, there is a palpable level of cognitive dissonance deployed. This functions to interpret life events thru the narrative of the social order. For example:
- Ascribing good fortune to God and adverse occurrences to the devil.
- Referencing the will of ambiguous, invisible personas.
- Using religious dogma as a justification or basis for supporting a public policy.
- Theories, philosophies, and concepts are presented as absolute facts.
- Intellectual dishonesty is used to preserve the belief.
Many religious institutions in America are built on ambiguous and highly selective indoctrination. Scientific evidence tends to be rejected when it runs counter to faith based assumptions. There is a maxim of law that points out that a deceiver deals in generalities.
The promise and hope of a heaven, where everything is made better, is a lucrative business. In the U.S., faith based organizations pull in revenues to the tune of over $375 billion a year. The market value of the faith sector is well over 1 trillion dollars. The question is, who are the players profiting from your social, spiritual, emotional, mental or economic needs.
Most people like to feel good. Trauma, pain, loss, and disappointment are harsh realities. The prospect of being invited into a never ending utopia by a higher power is seductive. It sounds good. It feels good. Think about this: Remember how easy it was to get us to believe in Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. And don’t leave out the Tooth Fairy. That was social conditioning. We are all affected. It feeds the good and the ills of the culture – such as racism. The goal is to increase awareness and be clear headed in our decision making. Separating fact from fiction, while monitoring the unknown, is a best practice.
As community and business builders it behooves us to critically analyze well-placed dangling carrots. Spiritual development can be a powerful discovery of energy and values. Mindfulness and engagement are key characteristics rather than blind obedience and faith in religious doctrine. Whether you are within a religious construct, or not, is irrelevant. Just understand the faith industry and the forces that drive it. Avoid dogmatic systems. An indicator of a toxic order is:
- People are ostracized for questioning authority, tenets, or for being different.
- Obedience and loyalty are hyper emphasized.
- Fear and guilt are used to manipulate people into conformity.
The first step to solving the complex problems in our society is to troubleshoot and reassess the systems in which we exist.
When the economic status of a community rises, the demand and appetite for services shifts. John Hope Bryant has a program that lifts personal credit scores 120 points in 24 months. As people gain access to banks they leave the check cashing places in the dust. As they gain access to reasonable credit they abandon the payday lenders. The supply and demand matrix evolves when people are empowered. What would happen to the faith sector of the economy if newly minted wealth was invested into therapy, healthcare visits, local politics, education, travel, and passion projects? Would the market shrink?
Most of us desire greater financial autonomy. There is dignity associated with having enough funds to address minor problems, accumulate assets, and establish your estate.
If the light bill is paid, the lights stay on. No one attributes normal bill payment to God or the devil. Bills are only stressful when there are a lack of funds to pay them. When there’s enough money to pay the bills, neither God nor the devil are evoked. Could we leverage our own spirit (subatomic light energy) to increase financial literacy and accumulate assets? Could we collectively eliminate the risk and pain associated with weak economic positions? Wealth generation is a transformative metamorphosis that can recreate a community from the inside out.
Improved, holistic, and efficient economic models will emerge as more individuals are willing to increase their self-awareness, financial acumen, and challenge useless notions. Especially as it relates to religion and money. I highlight the Christian church in America because of its broad social impact and political power dating back to chattel slavery.
Much of the rhetoric and misnomers spread during the colonial era haunt the average American in today’s economy. Slogans like ‘America First’ or ‘Make America Great Again’ feed feelings of international and domestic superiority that induce hollow ingenuity and mass mediocrity. It may flatter egos, inflate feelings of perceived strength, but it weakens the subjects resolve to scrutinize or hold political hustlers accountable. From street corners, to churches, all the way to the White House – this phenomena is universal.
Socially conscious investors must be diligent and resist these manipulative ploys. Visceral emotions are roused but relevant positive outcomes are not being delivered for those being played. It is good to exercise objectivity and understand our biases. For the socially responsible investor education is continuous. Research is mandatory. And there is absolutely no place for baseless presumptions, fealty, or cognitive dissonance.
Observation Over Belief
Belief doesn’t require much. Simply accepting what you’re told is sufficient. Research, source validation, and vetting are not requisites to satisfying the concept of belief.
As an investor I categorize beliefs into 3 buckets of assumptions:
- poorly researched
- prematurely accepted
The first two are self explanatory, but the third has to do with gathering data and forming conclusions without respecting the limitations of the source material. For example:
You learn that getting comparable prices of similar homes sold within a one mile radius in the last 12 months is a good way to figure out a value range for a fix and flip property. The comparisons show that the home should sell for at least $200k after repairs which will cost you $20K. You need the appraisal to come in at 190k to turn a healthy profit. You make an offer and purchase the property for 160K and it gets accepted. But your stomach sinks when the appraisal comes back at $180k. Your deal just became a nightmare. There’s no equity left after repairs so you can’t deliver on your exit strategy. You’re stuck.
What happened? You ran the numbers right? Yeah, but your source was Zillow. It may work for doing a scan of the area, picking up general county info, but not for tracking all of the actual sales within a period of time. Zillow should be used as a screening tool, not a diagnostic feature for your deal. You should always get comps and a broker price opinion (BPO) from a local realtor that knows the market.
In this hypothetical, you did your research but failed to contextualize your data. You believed the information was good. What you should have done is utilize a professional to verify the numbers.
Validation is a process of checks designed to confirm or flag sources of information. If an investor wants to ‘just believe’ the numbers are good, then they’re gambling and their risk of loss increases. It pays to double and sometimes triple check as an investor.
Observation is more reliable than belief. Vigilance and continuity are implied. It is not passive. You must actively pay attention to meet the definition. Expanding our ability to detect opportunities, identify risk factors, and enlist professionals is fundamental to our role as investors. Observation is part of the scientific method. It helps investors reduce the probability of costly setbacks and retain more profits.
Entertainment, Tithes, and Lotteries
My conditioning around money as a youngster was heavily affected by popular culture and religious sentiment as well as the awkward moments where my request for lunch money would generate noticeable hostility from my mom. At the time I thought it was absurd to get mad at a request for 3-5 dollars. I didn’t realize how emotional money issues were. Especially because financial education and self-awareness was not, and still is not, a part of basic school curriculum in America. As a young adult it took years for me to untangle the web of poor socialization, religious dogma, and cultural taboo which shaped how I deployed the dollars I earned.
According to most Christian churches, the love of money was evil yet God wanted 10% of the action. As a reward for my gamble or taking a chance on the ‘Word of God’, God would allegedly bless me and send me more money or opportunities. Theoretically I could rinse and repeat until I became financially secure. This hustle was so effective because the doctrine of ‘faith’ meant giving without asking questions. This cuts the individual off from developing independent thought and wise stewardship. Once I realized the game, I broke free from the tithe hustle.
Casinos, lotteries, sports, and the entertainment industry are so enticing despite being low probability opportunities. Even though few will strike it rich, millions will exhaust their resources just for a chance to ‘make it’. Millions playing to get lucky at casinos, or hit the lottery, inevitably end up spending thousands more than they ever win during their lifetimes.
Sports elites can easily be overlooked or sidelined due to catastrophic injury. Entertainment is a finicky industry and very few will end up where they imagined. The allure is the potential to score a windfall of cash.
Chasing a dream or a quick buck can be exhilarating. There is a place for these activities but we need to establish ground rules so that pipe dreams don’t turn into nightmares. Investors and gamblers are both attracted by possibility. The difference is how they proceed. Investors use a business approach which prioritizes research, planning, risk mitigation, and ROI (Return On Investment). Gamblers tend to rely more on instinct and impulse.
Whether you are gambling or investing please set a budget. Be disciplined. If you have 1,000 dollars to spend, then that’s it—do not spend $1,001. If you go over your budget then you need to take honest inventory of why you violated your own rules. Please seek help if you struggle in this area. Reach out to a coach, counselor, or professional help if you have an addiction or disorder. There’s nothing wrong with being proactive on this front. You can still invest but protocols may need to be put in place; such as a fiduciary that acts on your behalf or a coach to help you discover the root of your intentions when spending.
In America most nearly nearly 70% of citizens are in a financial danger zone. Most Americans don’t own stocks or invest in real estate. We can alter these statistics. Each of us can commit to becoming more informed and capable. We can change.
Please use the self-improvement books and resources that are out there. The point is to exercise discipline and restraint so that you benefit from great choices. You are the CEO of your actions and agenda. Healthy boundaries begin with respecting and following your own rules.
Whether it’s maintaining integrity with a partner, or choosing how to address a problem, self-control pays dividends in helping you develop and maintain quality of life.
I hope you’re encouraged to evaluate your system of thought on a continual basis. Be willing to apply the time and energy it takes to excel in your role. Don’t let belief short circuit creative and innovative solutions. Avoid the limitations, and errors of living with cemented belief system.
Humans are physically weaker than other primates but our greatest evolution has been the level of imagination and consciousness that we replicate in the world. No other species creates cities or planes or PS4s, lol.
We are highly complex, yet we get tripped up and hustled because of misplaced or misused belief. We should believe in each other, hope, and definitely imagine, but not to the point of allowing fiction to govern our choices. If we’re bold enough to question the things we believe, then we can shed emotional crutches. If we assess why we believe certain things, it will help free us to focus on actually improving quality of life on this planet.
Socially conscious investors choose to be good stewards of ourselves, for others, and the environment. We choose our purpose and set our agenda. We are difference makers. We provide answers because the solutions are contained within us. This is the mindset and energy that propels many of us everyday. We are servants of the the global community.
Regardless of our beliefs, cultures, and preferences we are committed to removing the barriers to our collective improvement. We strive to create win-win-win scenarios everywhere we go.
Don’t leave anything to chance. Be intentional. Plan and invest to build wealth secured by positive stewardship. Reconfigure your thinking –change the world– as you practice the art and skill of sophisticated choice.