This is a true story.
I was at the grocery store this past weekend, at the ATM.
I was depositing a check from a client, for royalties earned on one of my promotions.
Now picture this. At this particular grocery store, the ATM is between the bank office itself and a little “coffee bar” if you can call it that.
The coffee is free, and I’ve tried it exactly one time. It comes out of a machine that looks nice enough, but looks like it belongs in a convenience store.
There are buttons on the front, to allow you to select single serving, whatever. I don’t remember the machine itself that well because, again, I’ve only had coffee from it exactly one time.
I’m not really a coffee snob. I like good coffee, but most of the time I’m content with my Maxwell House, brewed in a drip coffee maker.
However, I’ve had good coffee enough to know what really bad coffee tastes like. And the coffee that comes out of that machine is really bad coffee.
I believe it’s made single-serving with freeze-dried coffee. It tastes burnt, like it was what was left over in a roaster left on all night (or whatever would be about 10X too long for a coffee roaster to be left on).
Even if I’m jonesing for a caffeine fix, I’ll skip this coffee every time, now that I know what it tastes like.
I don’t care if it’s free. I probably wouldn’t even drink it if you paid me.
Which makes me really not understand why anybody would drink it. The water fountain around the corner is free, too. And it won’t make you wretch!
So, I’m at the ATM depositing my check, and this woman walks up to the coffee machine…
She’s an older woman, probably retired. May be living off Social Security or dwindling savings (or may be a millionaire for all I know). But she’s older, and she’s there for the free coffee.
Yes, she’s actually there for the gross, disgusting, burnt-to-a-crisp free coffee that comes out of the gas station single-serve coffee machine.
“Mumble mumble mumble mumble?” I hear…
I’m just trying to deposit my check, and I’m not a fan of talking to people at ATMs. I generally like to trust people, but with my back to the world and making a financial transaction, I can feel a little vulnerable. Even in a grocery store where I otherwise feel comfortable There’s a reason they put rear view mirrors on walk-up ATMs. It’s probably undue paranoia, but it’s there.
“Huh?” I ask her, having not heard her the first time.
“Are they giving out samples?” She asks.
I’m legitimately confused. When my kids come to the grocery store and we talk about getting free samples, we’re talking about donut holes in the bakery. Which is in a completely different corner of the store.
She points to the ATM. “Are they giving out free samples today?” She asks again.
It dawns on me.
I chuckle. More to humor her, than because she humored me.
Here I am depositing my earned money in the bank, so I can take it out later, and she’s asking if they give out free samples? I only expect to take out what I put in (though perhaps with interest) so this is legitimately a joke I would NEVER have thought of on my own.
She thinks she’s a comedian…
I’m a captive audience until I finish my transaction, so she continues.
“I used to ask it to the bank tellers, too. But now I won’t do that because, well, you know.” The implication is that they’ll think she’s robbing the place. I doubt it, but I don’t want to engage.
If her asking that to the bank tellers makes them uncomfortable, it’s not any more welcome walking up behind me at the ATM and asking. Except the tellers are getting paid to deal with her — I’m not.
Apparently done with that subject, she moves on.
She takes the overflowing drip tray from the coffee maker that only serves burnt coffee, and dumps it into the bar sink next to the machine.
“This is my one contribution to society,” she says, referring to dumping the drip tray.
Makes me think she drinks that coffee regularly. When there’s a perfectly good water fountain with decidedly not-burnt (and even refrigerated!) water 20 feet away.
Now, I don’t know much about this woman other than what I’ve just told you. Other than a brief sideways glance, I barely know what she looks like. I didn’t want to engage.
But as I finished my transaction and was walking away, I couldn’t help but reflect on the conversation…
The quest for free money…
Like I said, I don’t know this woman, or anything about her financial situation. But if I had to guess, I’d say she probably needs money more than she has money.
The comment about free money from the ATM is a good first sign. The bad coffee she’s drinking most likely because it’s free coffee is a likely second sign. The attitude about money and contribution to society is a third.
From the sound of it, she’s also likely not doing much with her life. Hence the “this is my one contribution” comment.
Now, before you jump down my throat on this, hear me out. I know there are a million and one reasons someone may no longer be employed, especially as they age. Maybe health issues have made it hard for her to find work. Maybe something else. Maybe, because she grew up in a time when gender roles were more fixed, she never worked and lived off her husband’s income for decades. I don’t know.
What I do know is that everything about our interaction screamed that she had a toxic attitude toward money…
She seemed proud that the ONLY contribution she made toward society was dumping out the drip tray from the bad coffee maker at the grocery store.
She really seemed to like her joke about wanting free and unearned money from the ATM machine.
If you want to make a good amount of money (however you define that) and build wealth (primarily financial — but again, however you define that), you MUST adopt the opposite philosophies.
Money comes to you, for the most part, because you choose to make a contribution.
There are all sorts of ways to make contribution, and some are considered far more valuable than others.
But for the most part, if you want more money, you have to focus on giving more contribution.
Fast and free money is most often squandered and lost, leaving you worse off for its coming into your life. Just ask the majority of lottery winners.
Money made through contribution is money that is actually valued. And because you understand the contribution it took to make that money, you will work harder to use that money in building wealth.
Anywhere between 30% and 100% of that check that I was depositing as this woman was asking for free money will go into a long-term savings account for me. It will be set aside for a rainy day, or for my retirement. I will spend it wisely when I do, knowing what it takes to earn that money. Knowing the contribution I made to my client’s business such that he was happy to write that check.
Developing a healthy attitude toward money, contribution, and wealth creation is one of the highest-impact breakthroughs you could ever have…
If you foster toxic attitudes toward money — such as wanting for free what others must earn…
If you minimize your contribution, secretly wanting others to be responsible for everything…
It’s time to get honest with yourself, and turn yourself around.
Like I said, I could be totally wrong about this woman. She could be a “millionaire next door” who looks and acts like an average Jane. I know quite a few who are in this situation — who seeing them on the street you’d never guess how well they’ve done for themselves.
And yet, when I talk to any of the folks I know who are self-made millionaires and multimillionaires, I’d never hear them making the jokes or the comments that woman made.
Hopefully there’s a lesson in that for you.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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