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Wealth Creation: Knowledge vs People

I would like to touch on the subject of a common blind spot for people who spend a lot of time learning and improving their knowledge, as I have found that it can sometimes be counter-productive when it comes to wealth creation. Let me explain.

People who are willing to spend an enormous amount of time to learn often implicitly hold the belief that knowledge is power or intelligence leads to better opportunities. This is true to a very limited degree by my observation, as you can easily find people around you who are much less educated but who have amassed more wealth than those who are a lot more intelligent and educated. There won’t be just one explanation for this phenomenon obviously, but I would like to offer one particular viewpoint to see if it makes sense to you.

There are two distinct but different views of wealth creation at work here:

  • Knowledge View: Here one believes that wealth is created through your knowledge, hence the more knowledge you have, the more opportunities you will have.
  • People View: Here one believes that wealth is created by opportunities given by other people around you, hence the more people who like you, the more opportunities you will have.

If you lean towards the Knowledge View, you might spend most of your time learning and improving your knowledge, and try to discover money making opportunities through your knowledge. If you lean towards the People View, you might spend most of your time making a contribution to others around you, as you believe that the best money making opportunities come from others who like you.

Depending on your family upbringing and your reference point from your social environment, people tend to lean towards one view over the other. It is not common to hold both views simultaneously well. For example:

  • if you come from a family which believes that knowledge is the main source of power and you are brought up to study all your life, the chance is that you will see references in your life of how people become financially successful through their knowledge and skill, for example profiting from a patent or invention or being the most skilled in some area;
  • if you come from a family which believes that your network is the main source of power and you are brought up to see opportunities given to the people who have the right connections, the chance is that you will see references in your life how people with the knowledge end up working for people with the right connections.

I spent many years working in the corporate world before starting our business. I remember often hearing people with high levels of knowledge and experience complaining about how others with less ability were promoted ahead of them purely because they spent more time “sucking up to their bosses”. This is a typical case of the Knowledge View underestimating the power of the People View – they forget that people like to do business with the people they like, not necessarily the people who are more knowledgeable and smarter than them.

I see the same phenomenon in the wealth creation business today. People who do well financially are often the people who are willing to do the hard work and spend most of their time solving some repetitive problems that do not necessarily require higher intelligence or more knowledge. They succeed simply because they are given more money making opportunities by others who like to deal with them. Super intelligent and highly knowledgeable people often look down on simple and repetitive tasks, hence they can come across as “unhelpful” to others. To make matters worse, many people feel intimidated by highly intelligent and knowledgeable individuals as they are much too hard to control. Hence you often find money making opportunities tend to be given to people who are less knowledgeable or intelligent, as they are perceived to be more controllable by the people who can give them those opportunities.

Apart from being an habitual thing, people with the Knowledge View often see socialising with others as a waste of time rather than an emotional investment. While it is true that most social gatherings may never amount to anything, this is not different to most of our knowledge we spend time gathering never really becoming useful to us in any shape or form. Hence people with the People View regard time spent on gathering knowledge a waste of time as well! They would rather spend time looking after the people who may give them more money making opportunities later.

Summary

So what would be the best approach? I guess the answer should be whichever gives you the best result. For example:

  • If you’re exceptional in most things you do, the chance is that you would like to create your own opportunities as other people are “afraid” to give them to you. You may then need to develop a particular area of expertise as we get paid for the best we can offer. So the Knowledge View may be your main theme, but it wouldn’t hurt to give some value to the People View, as the more people like you, the more opportunities for you to use your knowledge. The ultimate challenge for people in this category is not to be the centre of attention, be humble and not intimidating, and willing to go to the background to let other people shine. This way they will be given lots of opportunities to use their knowledge on top of the ones they can create themselves.
  • If you’re average in most things you do, you have an advantage of not being threatening to most people, so the chance is that you are likely to be given opportunities by people who like you. The People View may be your main theme, but it wouldn’t hurt to give some value to the Knowledge View to improve your knowledge as you may need the wisdom to decide which opportunities to take. The ultimate challenge for people in this category is saying NO to good opportunities so that they can focus on the great ones.

Until next month, happy investing.

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