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Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Most people have heard of the New Age concept of plenty and wealth.

In a nutshell, this philosophy says: What you focus on, you attract. If you harbor beliefs of scarcity, separation or inferiority, the world will give you evidence to suggest this is true. Or: If you are always worry about your low checking account balance, your account will always stay low because you are not allowing the universe to work through you to change that. Translated: the less you worry about money and the more you spend the more money you will get.
Thank you, benevolent universe!

Now, I don’t which Swami on which mountain top in the Himalayas thought this up, but Oprah sure seems to love it. And some very practical people seem to swear by it too. (Is it an irony that most of these practical people happen to be wealthy?)

I got a heavy dose of this philosophy the other night when I was invited to dinner by a wealthy friend. My friend means well and I have no wish to criticize him too harshly, but when he invited me to be his guest in a local popular suburban restaurant, I assumed I wouldn’t have to spend anything. A guest is a guest, right? Well, what I didn’t count on was that after dinner he asked the invited guests to “chip in for the tip.” This sounded reasonable until I threw in a five dollar bill for my twenty-one dollar entrĂ©e, and was told that it was not enough.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of anyone inviting someone to dinner and then demanding that they pay a fixed-sum for a tip.

“Put in a ten,” he said, “the wait staff works hard.” That they work hard I have no doubt, but I also work hard, and five extra dollars is five extra dollars I can use for Septa tokens. A ten dollar tip was roughly half the cost of my dinner. As it was, the server was getting a huge fifty dollar tip for the table’s one hundred dollar bill.

I am not cheap. I give to homeless people. I even help out a much younger friend by buying him soda and lunch several times a week. But when somebody invites me to dinner in a restaurant, I think it should be up to me what sort of tip I leave.

“You need to adopt the prosperity mentality,” my friend told me. “If you fear for every dollar you spend, money will not come to you. If you spend money freely, let it go in and out, money will come to you—easily!”

I’ve heard this New Age sauerkraut before, first from author Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich. But even Hill admits that the fear of poverty is the most destructive of fears and the most difficult of any fear to master.

Years ago I delved into Indian and New Age philosophies where the underlying teaching was, “Thoughts are things.” I still believe this to a large extent but when it comes to money I think we’re talking about a different ballgame. Money just doesn’t flow to you because you project positive thoughts or because you visualize an overflowing bank account. You may find random cash in the 15 trolley, or you may spot a five dollar bill while walking through the neighborhood, but for the most part these are freak occurrences.

My friend insists that I have a poverty mentality because I always think of the account balance in my checking account before spending anything. Well, don’t most people?

This reminds me of a recent talk I had a talk with a Dominican gentleman who pushes a shopping cart around the neighborhood. “Sam” collects aluminum cans and throwaway appliances that he can then cash in at the local bone yard. Two years ago he won a $65,000 insurance claim and proceeded to spend the money in an easy “in and out flow” that reminded me of the prosperity mentality my friend keeps talking about: cash- out, cash- in. Unfortunately, the cash out thing for “Sam” worked like a charm, while the cash- in thing stayed stalled like a car on I-95. “Sam” is now homeless.

After ironing out or respective theories on money, my friend wanted to drive his daughter and me to Johnny Brenda’s on Girard Avenue for an after dinner drink. As we cruised down the avenue, she suddenly began to worry about finding a parking space. Not only was he worried about not finding a space, he was holding that worry “inside her head” in a tightly controlled manner, the same way I get when it comes to spending cash.

I saw my opportunity.

“What about prosperity parking?” I said. “Don’t hold it in, open up! Let it flow! Make a U-turn, drive anywhere, the universe will provide: prosperity parking!”

He game me a cross look but then something happened. Within two minutes we had found a suitable parking space without any effort at all.

Had I unknowingly tapped into an ancient truth while thinking I was making a joke?

I’m still holding onto my money, thank you.

Thom Nickels

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