Rule 5. Spiritual Capital Is the Start of True Wealth—Own Your Power

“If you have spiritual wealth, you will never be poor. If you don’t have spiritual wealth, all the money in the world will not save you.”

Life is all about energy. Think about everything that is important to you and in your life. I’m talking about love, charity, compassion, faith, belief, vulnerability, joy, confidence, self-esteem, empathy, sympathy, and countless other feelings of the heart.

But what do most people obsess about? Things. Homes, boats, cars, jewelry, clothes, and other things that blow away with the winds of time.

And this is precisely why most people are, well, miserable. Most people are looking for love in all the wrong places. In things.

If you want to get rich, then fine, focus your energy on things.

But if you want to gain wealth, true wealth, then learn to think differently, which I first talked about in Rule 2. Ambassador Andrew Young told me, “Real wealth comes from how you think, and not what you obsess about. Real wealth is about a certain view of the world. A perspective. A certain view of yourself.

There is a difference between being broke and being poor. Being broke is a temporary economic condition, but being poor is a disabling frame of mind, a depressed condition of the spirit, a broken view of oneself.

True poverty has little to do with money.

To be clear, I am not talking here about sustenance poverty. Everyone deserves a roof over their head, food to eat, and the ability to take reasonable care of their health. Human dignity, basically. Everyone deserves this. But what next?

I am talking about building wealth beyond acquiring food, shelter, and basic health care needs.

I am talking now about a path to financial dignity—which begins with having spiritual wealth.

First of all, I am talking about self-esteem and confidence, which is half of the challenge in dealing with poverty and wealth. Because if you don’t know who you are at 9 a.m., by dinnertime, someone else will tell you who you are.

I am talking about role models and your environment. Because if you hang around nine broke people, I can guarantee that you will be the tenth. Moreover, if you hang around nine wealth builders, you will also likely be the tenth.

The grandmother of my friend Dr. Regina Benjamin was an entrepreneur. She ran a business in town, and she was a landowner. Living in the rural South in the 1920s and 1930s, she was a role model, a transformational presence in her small town. Both Dr. Benjamin’s grandmother and mother were strong female role models whose self-esteem, confidence, and spiritual wealth seeped into Regina’s bones.

College was a forgone conclusion for Regina. It was not K–12 in her family—an education in her family meant K–college. Regina was also a joiner. She loved joining clubs. Well, the most popular club at Xavier University was for premed students, so she joined that club with confidence. Before she knew it, her environment was a network of type A achievers in the medical field.

In 2009, Regina became Dr. Regina Benjamin, our nation’s eighteenth United States surgeon general.

Dr. Benjamin’s family taught her the art and practice of hope, which leads me to my next point: I am talking about aspirations and opportunity. Aspiration is a code word for hope. And just as dollar bills are the currency of economic capital, hope is the currency of spiritual capital. Hope is the outward sign of spiritual wealth within.

Not only is the most dangerous person in the world a person with no hope, the opposite is also true: the most powerful person in the world is a person rooted in their own sense of hope.

Not in what people think about them. Not in what their public image is.

Not in whether they are liked or not liked.

Not in whether they are admired, even, or whether they can play the game just right.

And certainly, not in what their net worth is or how many things they own or possess.

I am talking about a hope rooted in faith, based on love, and inspired by something larger and more important than oneself.

Hope is light in the world even when darkness is all around us. Hope has its own “true north” even when everyone else is pointed in the opposite direction. Even when everyone else may disagree, hope lives on.

Only with hope can you become “reasonably comfortable” in your own skin— and the most powerful asset you can have in your life is to be reasonably comfortable in your own skin. For me, it has been the essence of my spiritual power, and it has created my spiritual wealth. It is my personal secret sauce.

You cannot have hope, particularly when the world seems to be working against you, without being reasonably comfortable in your own skin.

Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray once told me, “It’s not what people call you, it is what you answer to that is most important,” and to “never, ever, answer out of your name.” That’s what you do if you are reasonably comfortable in your own skin. If you have built spiritual capital. If your path is fueled by hope.

Hope reminds us that badness is failed goodness. It reminds us that darkness has no definition without light.

Even that punk Lucifer from the Bible was once an angel, which means that even God Almighty gives the devil permission to exist. That is how powerful hope is—it is a first cousin of the One That Is.

Human evil does not exist outside of yourself, nor does spiritual goodness. All of it actually rests inside of yourself. And both sides are fighting for domination of your day. Every. Single. Day.

So the questions become: Who is winning, and what does winning take? Better still, do we need to fundamentally rethink what winning looks like?

Excerpt from, “The Memo: Five Rules for Your Economic Liberation” (Berrett-Koehler, 2017), John Hope Bryant