10 May

Profits Over Poverty: The Mindset

Lessons From My Real World

As the barrier to entry in regards to tech entrepreneurship shrinks, the disparity between those in poverty and the rest increases. Many of our experiences while living in poverty have destroyed our mindsets. Those experiences and the lack of familiar faces in tech have created a bigger economic gap than most of us would like to admit.

Even if some came from poverty, rich investors or founders will always tell you that it doesn’t matter where you came from, who you know or how much money you have to start a business. Even though most of the times they are correct, that is not what people that came from poverty want to hear.

Most will tell you not to worry about profit, to worry about growth. This is something that is hard to grasp when you came up on food stamps; when every dollar counted towards your survival. I came from this and my mindset was messed up until I got to college, where growth happened.

For context picture this; you grow up in poverty, welfare is your best friend and only way to survive. You work hard in school, get into a great college, graduate and land a corporate gig paying 60k plus a nice 401k match! Now 60 k doesn’t sound like a lot but when you live in a family of 5 and live under the poverty level you just became “hood rich” and you got real insurance! That’s the reality that most of us have to deal with. Some of us are the 1st to go to college or even get a decent paying job, but you want us to believe that we must risk it all to achieve greatness?

It’s hard to risk it all when you become the “one.” The one that made it to college, the one that got a good job, the one to make something of themselves. For us it has to be Profit Over Poverty at all times. Our minds were built that way by our upbringing so going against that mindset isn’t the easiest.

That mind set was one that took me forever to let go and I’m sure many will never let it go. If anything I argue that growing up in poverty actually helps us. It gives us something big to strive for, The World! The Profits Over Poverty mindset shouldn’t stop you either! Get your mind right below!

Keeping The Lights On Vs Working For Free

Growing up in poverty, there was one goal that stuck out the most. It was a simple one; make enough money to keep the lights on. However keeping the lights on becomes impossible when you work for free all the time or start a new business.

Nothing beats free labor, this is a term I hear all the time. It is especially heard from startups that focus on growth instead of profit. You can’t even fault them, especially when they can hire people who don’t fear the real complications of being broke and can also get the job done.

This is where our Profit Over Poverty mindset can really hinder us; working for free won’t necessary make sense.

When you are poor like I was, everything you do has to have a profit involved. The pressure you endure as the one that made “it” in the family is huge. Working for free isn’t something a kid born from poverty looks forward too especially when it might just send him/her back to that poverty stricken life.

F You Pay Me is the mindset many of us who grew in poverty have and it will stay that way for a very long time. Taking a huge chance like that is unrealistic for the majority of us, especially after working so hard to get all the credentials the “real world” deemed necessary to survive.

That F**k You Pay Me mindset stops us from starting a company or even stops us from helping someone we really want to work with. Is it easy to kill that mindset??? Not really, but it is a must. It’s ok for you to do work for free when you have a clear goal and time frame in sight. You should never run the risk of losing it all to help someone else chase their dreams but a few missed pay checks won’t kill you. You will find a way to keep the lights on because you you found a way to survive in poverty. believe in yourself!

Sometimes You Profit With Out Making A Dime

While in college; I was asked by one of my professors if I wanted to “intern” at a big computer company. My 1st question to him was how much was I getting paid? I had the Profit Over Poverty mindset!

It was my freshman year in college, so all I wanted to do was get fresh, not work for someone for FREE! I didn’t want to give up my summer doing that. I was raised in the hood, if there wasn’t money coming in I wasn’t doing it, point blank!

The professor sat me down and educated me on internships, he told all about the trade offs but especially took the time to change my mind set about them. He knew where I came from and knew he had to approach that free work stuff differently. It worked!

I knew I wanted more and took the internship with zero pay! Those 3 months changed my life, I was around people 10 times smarter than me and they didn’t look anything like me. I didn’t make a dime off that job but yet it was the most profitable. I was able to learn things about myself that I never knew and to be honest no one else could ever teach me. That was my PROFIT and it was huge. That maturity led me to real profitable experiences because now I knew the real value of my time.

Coming from the hood, profit to me meant a bigger bank account which is all I cared about at the time! But after that internship, I learned that sometimes a profit doesn’t come in the form of a paycheck. Sometimes you profit by developing your skill set, adding new people to your rolodex or even adding to your life experiences. Sometimes the best reward isn’t the cash, but knowing what you are willing to do for it and what you won’t do for it.

It Takes Money To Make Money

While I was in High School and College I would buy extra pairs of Jordans on its release date and then resell them at a premium. I learned the value of supply and demand from all my drug dealer friends and knew that reselling sneakers was lucrative and easy at the time.

I learned how you needed money to make more money! This was a hard lesson for my friends who all quickly shunned the idea. They all said they couldn’t afford the risk or didn’t have the money. They couldn’t put up a couple of hundred dollars and run the risk of losing money or breaking even. Let that soak in, they couldn’t afford the risk of just breaking even????

The Profit Over Poverty mindset struck again. They couldn’t risk losing $200 due to their circumstances! The fear of going broke was so strong that it hindered their forward view.

I was different, I knew that fear would hold me back but I also knew the game. I took the risk and purchased sneakers on my credit card for the next few months until I didn’t need to do it anymore.

Was I afraid? Hell yeah! Those interest rates on those cards will send you back to poverty real quick if you don’t pay attention. But I also knew that I needed an initial investment to get rolling and took it upon myself to get it.

The same rules apply in tech, there is only so much free stuff we can do with our businesses. Sooner or later you will have to invest in star players, marketing and so much more. In the beginning your biggest asset; time, will get you far but sooner or later you will have to step it up! All businesses need to scale and for that you need cash!

It takes money to make money but the credit markets aren’t always open for people that look like me. Investors are worried about investing in “us” because we don’t look like the others they have invested in. We don’t look like Mark Zuckerberg, there’s nothing relate-able about us to most of them. But yet we all wait for “them” to cosign us and cut a check instead of hustling to get our own seed capital.

The thought of going back to poverty is real people; it will hinder many of us. Raising capital isn’t easy for us, but until those check books open up you must consistently execute. Make your customers your seed round and make the investors over pay later. Worst case scenario, work a real job and hustle on the side until you can do it full time.

Don’t let the lack of funding stop you, you will live within poverty for life if you continue to wait for “them” to put you on!


Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Jamelle Sanders

    May 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Wow, this is so good! Mindset is everything. As I always say, mindset is the catalyst to money manifestation. You really delved deep into the crutch that keeps so many from prospering.

    • james

      May 12, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks man!!!!!


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