“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”

— Luke 19:26, NIV

The Rich Get Richer

Why do the rich get richer?

The rich invest their extra time and money in ways that create extra time and money.

They get into upward spirals.

When I say 'upward spiral', think a chain reaction, a flywheel building up speed until it becomes unstoppable, a snowball rolling down a hill -- each success makes the next more likely.

Because you're reading this, you're already likely at the beginning of an upward spiral.

You're learning new things to better yourself and your situation. You also have the privilege of internet access and at least a bit of free time.

How upward spirals happen

Small wins free up time, energy and money. These freed-up resources can be re-invested to create even more time, energy, and money.

In this way, small wins lead to continued small wins, which eventually snowball into big wins.

Fig 1. A person in an upward spiral is investing their time in a way that creates more abundance. Inspired by the excellent Rich Dad Poor Dad.

The person in Fig. 1 has been upward spiraling for a while. Their life is satisfying.

They have developed a system and/or uplifting habits that keep them happy and growing.

However, they didn’t develop their time, money, and energy ‘investments’ overnight. Most started with small changes -- just like you can.

Most people spend their time, money, and energy in the “stuck on the ground” way, like the person in Fig. 2.

Fig 2. Those on the ground often spend too many resources on non-investment ‘wastes’.

The person in Fig 2. might be spending several ‘empty’ hours a day on Netflix, social media, or watching news; hours that, after they are done, neither lead to happiness, nor to growth.

If you feel “stuck on the ground”, like most people, know that the gap between “stuck on the ground” and “upward spiral” is crossed with tiny, almost imperceptible wins.

Heroism is not required -- in fact, heroism is counterproductive.

If you have a glimmer of interest in entering an upward spiral, look at the list below, and if anything seems achievable right now, implement it.

Get a quick win if you can, but be kind to yourself. Be patient. But keep trying small things.

Some actions to trigger upward spirals

It’s hard to predict which action might start your upward spiral, but the activities below are common for many people.

Keep your eyes open for an idea that jumps out at you; if you feel inspired, take a small action to make it happen. It could be the start of a big change for you.

Learn how to form habits

I recommend the Tiny Habits program. It's deceptively simple, but having this key skill helps with everything else on the list below.

Atomic Habits and Tiny Habits (book) are also great resources for learning to create habits.

Start exercising

Even a little bit of exercise makes you feel great; because of this, it improves your energy, makes your relationships better, improves sleep, and improves decision making.

I recommend starting VERY small - e.g. one pushup after you pee or one jumping jack when you get up in the morning, aiming for playful consistency. Let the habit grow roots before you go gung ho.

In other words, use the Tiny Habits method mentioned above.

Read a self-development book

Nothing like an inspiring book, full of practical examples to get your upward spiral going.

I recommend The Compound Effect. It's easy and can help you internalize a mindset of slow but steady improvement.

Forming a long-term reading habit is very powerful, but it is a bit advanced when you’re starting out. So start with one book.

Reduce social media and Netflix use

Reducing addictions is a very high leverage change for most people. (but it’s not always easy, which is why I don’t mention it first).

Many people spend hours a day on social media, and hardly realize it. It ruins their sleep, which hurts decision-making. It wastes time. Scale back the addiction with tools like BlockSite, StayFocusd, and deleting or hiding offending apps from your phone.

If freeing up 3+ hours per day for upward-spiraling inspires you, check out Nir Eyal’s great book, Indistractable.

Grow a financial cushion

If you don't have a financial buffer, you'll soon be forced to make short-term decisions that cost more money in the long term, which keeps you trapped in a cycle of poverty and dependence.

If you can afford it, automatically set aside a small amount every paycheck even if it's only a few dollars; a few weeks, months, or years down the line you'll thank yourself.

Though not everyone can afford it, most people who can afford it don't do it.

I recommend setting up Personal Capital. It tracks your net worth, and gamifies growing your financial cushion.

If you are inspired to read further, I recommend Rich Dad Poor Dad (if you are entrepreneurial) and I Will Teach You to Be Rich (if you are more practically-minded).

These books can make you incredible amounts of money over time.

Plan your day

Practice The Ivy Lee Method; prioritizing the day before may easily double your effectiveness.

Sleep more

More sleep leads to better decision making, which affects everything else.

I estimate that 70% of sleep problems come from being on a smartphone or computer around bedtime.

A good place to start is moving your phone charger outside the bedroom. Don’t sleep with your phone.

Create a routine

Don't duplicate the morning routines of billionaires. They didn't start with fancy routines. Start simply with one small thing you do right when you wake up.

One example is writing down 3 things you're grateful for. The Five Minute Journal is a nice way to start that habit.

 The Maui Habit is a great as well, and even simpler way to start.

Spend time with uplifting friends

Spend time with friends who are growth-minded and who want you to succeed.

You’ll absorb new skills and mindsets by osmosis.

A couple of years ago I started weekly meetings with a good friend, and we’ve helped each other grow tremendously.

I am also co-building what I consider a core peer group, and we’re growing together and pushing each other week by week!

Get a coach

When you can afford it, having a coach to diagnose your bottlenecks and give you guidance on habits can be priceless. Coach.me is a helpful platform to find one. Personally, Rob Filardo has been a great help.

In Summary

Upward spirals - once you get into one, you’ll want more.

If you’re inspired to kickstart one, start with whatever small investment most appeals to you.

For those of you who are taking action - what’s your next tiny action? (remember, no heroism!)

Know someone who’s on the verge of an upward spiral? Share this with them!