One of my favorite Simpsons episode is the episode where Montgomery Burns is asked to speak at elementary school and his speech is essentially, “Family, Religion and Friendship, these are the three demons you must slay to succeed in business…”
But I think a more accurate representation is a cube because it has six sides and six things, in my opinion, you need to overcome to succeed.
Bottom Side of Cube – Family
The first basis of our cube prison is family. How did my family hold me back growing up as a kid? In simple terms, it was the lack of my parents education that held me back. My parents knew little to nothing on bonds, equities, options, forex or anything beyond simple banking, credit cards, and mortgage for their home. I had great parents growing up, they were kind and helpful but not being educated enough to tell me that when I turn 18, I should open a brokerage account and start putting even tiny amounts of money in the S&P 500 would have been a game changer in my life from the start.
Side 1 – Religion
My parents, unfortunately, spent too much time in religious institutions. I say unfortunately because far too many religions teach that being “rich” is bad so to alleviate that problem you should donate as much of that evil “rich” money to the religious institution. These religious institutions often prey on the uneducated so it makes perfect sense that the more religious the person the poorer they tend to be and inversely the richer you are the more far removed you typically are from religion.
Side 2 – Friends & Community
In the movie Goodwill Hunting, the main character Will is a genius stuck in a poor neighborhood but stays there because his life and friends there are the only things he has ever known. It’s his friend, Chuckie, that warns him that if he doesn’t leave that cycle of poverty that he will kick Wills as for wasting away his talents. I wish I had had friends like Chuckie and the community of professors and others that helped Will move along for a better life. Unfortunately, most of my friends had the same issue, uneducated parents, low hopes and guidance counselors that all thought we should become mechanics, grocery store managers, or other working class jobs.
Side 3 – Education
I would say that the best and easiest wall to break when trapped inside a cube is the one labeled “Education” because once I smashed that window, the rest of the cube began to crumble to set me free. Unfortunately, I grew up in a small town not unlike the school featured in the TV show “Friday Night Lights.” In that show, the whole town, the school and the people revolved around high school football. My high school teachers were also often “coaches” which tells you the low quality of education I had but despite that I spent most of my free time going over to the local community college library and reading books there while in high school. To this day I am appalled by the sheer amount of money wasted on football at the elementary, jr. high, high school and college level. The billions of dollars wasted on this sport is mind boggling especially considering issues of healthcare, energy, pollution and others but hey let’s spend billions on football!
Side 4 – Environment
My financial success began when I made the decision to leave the small town I grew up in. I knew back then that my job and career prospects would be very limited in a small town. I simply did not have access to an educational ecosystem that would foster my intellectual growth. I did not have access to a job market ecosystem that would foster my financial growth. I did not have access to a community that would mentor, sponsor, and advocate for me. I went off to university in a large city, entered the job market in a highly competitive and compensated city and grew my career over 30 years.
Top Side – Me
Ironically, if you smash the four sides of a cube keeping you imprisoned the top side eventually crashes away unless you lift your arms to keep it over your head. I must admit, once I smashed all the four sides of my personal prison cube, I held onto the top side for a bit too long. The reason? Fear.
It is easy to become accustomed to a certain way of thinking and living which is why 80% of people that are born never venture more than 25 miles from their birth place.
This has been a journey into my personal prison cube and I’m sure everyone out there has a story of their own with different sides of the cube. Some of you may still be in prison, some may have broken out and some will never even know they live in a prison but just accept it as part of life.