By CPA Dr. Joseph Nyandiko Nyanchama
The comedian Joe Lewis used to say, “There is only one thing money won’t buy and that is poverty”. In most cases we love to criticise wealthy people but secretly we long to be wealthy ourselves.
Personally, I have no apologies for wishing to be wealthy through the sweat of my brow. When you grow up seeing poverty first hand and what it does to people, you do not want any part of it and that is for sure. I have learned that wealthy people all share one thing in common, without exception, they earn. They understand the pride and profit of earning. In other words, the principle of creating wealth is the principle of earning by sincere means. That means if you do not earn then you are poor.
One day my friend told me a story about an incident during dowry negotiations that preceded his marriage. He borrowed a suit from his close friend who also accompanied him to the negotiations. Every time he would take a sip of soup during meal time, his friend would stare at him with strong eyes fearing that he could spill the soup on the suit and consequently make it dirty. He was always tense and never free. He told me that when you have what you call yours which you have worked for and earned through sincere means, you walk freely.
I congratulate those great entrepreneurs who have built their wealth honestly because it is the true way of owning and enriching the world. However, there is a category of people like my friend who do not own anything but walk around in suits that do not belong to them. I mean “borrowed suits” which I have metaphorically used to describe and depict wealth that has not been honestly earned.
When you see these people, you’d think they come from a privileged background and appear like they are the ‘elite’ of society. They wear those beautiful tailored suits with the latest “power” ties and handbags. They have charismatic personalities and earn instant respect and admiration. Some of them have magazine cover spouses and their children appear great. They dominate in TV news and they are the darling of media interviewers. I am sure you recognise these people; you probably even know them. Some of them may be your leaders in the Organisations where you serve and others probably are national political leaders. You envy them because you think they are the Country’s success stories. In fact, when they attend your church, all those seated in the front row of the church hall are relocated to the back seats so that space is created for them to have a vantage and proper view of the rostrum.
But you know what is discouraging about that picture? These people are nothing like you and me. Let me paint a different picture about them. These people behave like the ‘Kissing Fish’. They are not what you think they are. In fact, the following illustration about the Kissing Fish makes their character manifest.
In the coral reefs of the Caribbean lives a small fish known as the Kissing Fish. It is only about two to three inches long, bright and blue in colour and delight to behold. Most fascinating is its kiss. It is not uncommon to see two of these fish with lips pressed and fins thrashing. They give the appearance of serious underwater romance you would think the species would be aquarium lover’s dream. They look energetic, vivid, illuminant and affectionate but looks can be deceptive. For what appears to be a gentle friend in the sea is actually a pint size bully of the deep. Challenge his boundaries and he will take you on – jaw to jaw. What appears to be a fight is actually underwater martial art, mouth pushing, lip-locking, literal jawboning, power moves with the tongue.
We don’t have to go to the Caribbean to witness false appearance. Look closely at some people in our Country. You might be surprised how fishy things get when people want to build false wealth. Like the kissing fish, they appear illuminant and smartly dressed with latest fashions.
Unfortunately in the real sense they do not own those suits. Those suits have been given as a gift by clients who need favours or bought by money not honestly earned. They claim they have been able to build their dream houses and they have managed to buy dream cars for their spouses and provide top-notch education for their kids. All these are falsehoods because they have used public resources which they have not acquired fairly. They are no better than my friend who borrowed a suit.
When institutions question them to provide sources for such wealth, they start to exhibit characteristics of the kissing fish. We saw from the foregoing that when you challenge the kissing fish’s territories, he will take you on jaw to jaw. Similarly when you challenge them they will say it is a witch-hunt, tribal and political. They do no not want to face reality. But in their hearts they know what they possess is not theirs. It is high time such people learned a lesson like my friend did that it is not good to walk in borrowed suits because if the owner demands it back you will become naked.
The advice I wish to give to these people who behave like the Kissing Fish is that the most important factor in achieving great financial success is not the money. It is the kind of person you have to become to earn that money and then hold on it. In other words, riches acquired through improper methods is full of uncertainties and you won’t have to look far before you will see many ex-wealthy people who are present day beggars.
I wish to illustrate this with the story I read about nine most powerful and rich Americans who ended miserably. These nine men met at the famous Hedge-water Hotel, Chicago in 1923.The nine men put together commanded more wealth than there was in the United States treasury at that time. They were the greatest financiers of the world yet they ended in a most miserable way.
They were: Charles Swart, the president of the largest independent steel company; Samuel Insole, president of the largest utility company; Howard Hopson, the president of the largest gas company; Arthur Carlton, the greatest wheat speculator; Richard Whitney, the president of New York stock exchange; Albert Fore, a minister in the president’s cabinet; Jesse Luminal, owner of one of the greatest industry on wall street; Lesser Fraser, president of international settlement; and Ivan Krugar, headed the world’s greatest monopoly.
How did they end their journey? History has it that after living on borrowed money for five years, Swart and Arthur died penniless; Samuel Insole died a destitute in a foreign land; Howard died insane; Whitney and Fore died in prison; Jesse, Lesser and Ivan committed suicide. What a tragedy!
This story needs to remind you that you need to get back to the track and enrich the world instead of taking what has been created by others. If you are in a position of influence, stop this habit of giving with one hand under the flashing light of cameras and taking with the other hand in the shadows. Take the wise counsel of Woodrow Wilson who said, “You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand.”