“Sorry I do not speak trust fund”. I heard this expression while watching the TV series Lethal Weapon – the series will not win an Oscar but it is entertaining. One of the character said that sentence to a wealthy kid as a diss.
Recently it clicked with me. We should all learn to speak “trust fund”, because if you don’t, your chances to get ahead are slim.
- 1% of the richest people in the world controls about 50% of the world’s wealth.
- That’s about 85 billionaires.
- The majority of them are white males.
You need to build rapport in order to influence people. How could you convince people if you do not even speak the same language? And even if you manage to say a few words in a language they can understand, how are you going to pick up their behavior and their values. Behavior and values are hard to learn.
In hindsight, I realize that there are profiles that perform better in a corporate setting. An ex colleague, young white male from private school, once told me that he a senior executive liked him because they were so similar. Same school, same major, same neighborhood. Let’s be clear. He is a smart person, well read and a real good guy. He deserves the success he is experimenting. But his success is accelerated by his behavior and values. He wears Brooks Brothers shirts – I had never heard of that brand ever before! He is a member of the NY Sport Club – fancy gym that requires a special membership. He goes to Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s vineyard on vacation – Again I had never heard of most of these places, except for Martha’s vineyard because the Obamas go there.
I do not think this has anything to do with racism. People like people who look like them. And since so much of the world is controlled by rich white males, white males have an advantage. It is the same on the flip side. I am an urban black guy from the French Carribbean, when I meet another black guy from the French Carribbean in the US, we become friends real fast. We understand each others right away. We bond.
So what can we do? Let’s explore the traits of the rich and why we should care:
- The rich are patient. Especially with people. They build relationships with other ambitious people. They master soft skills to help them tread carefully in sensitive situations. I love this quote from Corley: “You have to know how to act and how to do certain things when you’re around people”. And this is not about keeping it real! It feels more like sucking up your ego, having people in your network that you would not trust with a 10 foot pole. Because they can help you get what you deserve.
- The rich are positive. They have a positive outlook on life. They are the type of people who always say that everything is fine when you ask “how are you doing?”. Don’t be a Debbie downer around them. It brings negative energy and they do not like it.
- The rich surround themselves with success-oriented people. I once heard that you are the average of the 6 people who are the closest to you. This is why rich people seek an entourage of other successful people. I also believe that’s the reason for the expression “fake it until you make it”. Although I do not recommend to be that extreme, it certainly helps to show your best self.
- The rich had strong examples growing up. Academic achievement, financial discipline, work participation, family loyalty and civic duty are strong values that they recognize. Even if you did not experience all of these values directly from your family, find examples that will help the rich to relate. You may have had a strong role model through great leader’s biographies, you may want to give back to your community.
Many urban minorities have different values. in my case, Although I was lucky to have strong examples growing up, I was far from being frugal. I was not patient. I valued speaking my mind and being frank with people. I was negative – or realistic as I preferred to see myself – always highlighting the flaws in things. And I surrounded myself only with people I liked.
However, I strongly believe that everybody should understand the world in which they are living. I see too many people being frustrated when they are not getting what they deserve. At the same time, They are not behaving in the way people with the power, would expect them to. Except in rare situations, and despite what many people say, hard work does not speak for itself. You have to convince people of the value of your hard work. For that you have to speak their language.