Wealth Isn’t a Zero Sum Game – A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats


Tom Corley boats - crop

There are a lot of people who just don’t like the rich. They believe rich people become wealthy on the backs of the poor.

Is that true?

Because, if it were true, they should be hated. Right?

My family had struggled with poverty from the time I was nine years old and I grew to hate the rich. I believed that the rich were responsible for most of the poverty in the world because they took advantage of the poor by keeping them in low paying jobs or by figuring out a way to take what little money the poor had.

There are, however, a lot of other people who don’t hate the rich. In fact, this other group admires the rich and aspires to become one of them.

“If he or she can do it, so can I”, was the youthful mantra of Australian self-made millionaire, Michael Yardney, who, at a very young age truly believed that he could one day become rich.

I happen know this self-made millionaire very well. Michael is the co-author of our bestselling book, Rich Habits Poor Habits.

Michael had a very different philosophy about wealth. He would often tell me that just because someone gets rich, that didn’t mean someone else gets poor.

And, as it turns out, Michael was right. Just take a look at what’s happening in China.

China’s emergence as a world economic juggernaut began back in 1978, when eighteen farmers from a small Chinese village called Xiaogang gathered in a mud hut to sign a secret contract. The farmers decided to divide up the land among the eighteen families. Each family agreed to turn over a minimum amount of produce required by the Chinese government. Any excess produce, above the government quota, went to the families.

At the end of the season, they had an enormous harvest. Yen Hongchang, one of the eighteen farmers, said that year’s harvest was greater than the previous five years combined.

Local officials soon learned what the farmers had done. Word of what had happened in Xiaogang made its way up the Communist Party chain of command.

At one point, Yen Hongchang was hauled in to the local Communist Party office. The officials swore at him, treated him like he was a criminal and threatened his life.

Fortunately, for Mr. Yen and the other farmers, there were powerful people in the Communist Party who wanted to change China’s economy from a socialist system to a capitalist one. Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who would go on to create China’s modern economy, had just come into power.

Instead of imprisoning or executing the Xiaogang farmers, the Chinese leaders decided to hold them up as a model for all to follow.

Within a few years, farms all over China adopted the entrepreneurial principles in that secret document. People could now keep what they grew. Throughout China, record harvests on nearly every farm, resulted.

Encouraged by this success, the Chinese government launched other similar economic reforms, in other industries. China’s economic revolution had begun.

As of 2018, there were 819 billionaires and over 1.7 million, millionaires in China.

Since 1978, 500 million people in China have been lifted out of poverty and thrust into the middle-class.

JFK, a hero in my family, once famously said that a rising tide lifts all boats.

When you succeed in the pursuit of your dreams, that success doesn’t just lift you up, it lifts everyone up. It creates new jobs, boosts the economy and inspires others who have their own dreams, to pursue those dreams.

For those of you, like myself, who struggled with poverty growing up, don’t hate the rich. Wealth isn’t a zero sum game. If anything, wealth is a multiplier that helps lift people out of poverty.

Be Sociable, Share!
Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
Email Tom
| Download Media Kit


  1. Lisa Schreiber says:

    I love this post! I never tire of reminders that by fulfilling my own dreams I will be contributing to the fulfillment of the dreams of others!

Speak Your Mind