There’s something to be said about reality checks. Sometimes, they come from the unlikeliest sources.
Last year, I attended an OWN Bahamas conference over at Atlantis. Several cast members from ABC’s Shark Tank, including Daymond John, were on a powerful lineup of speakers. One of those speakers was Island Luck CEO, Sebas Bastian.
During his address, Mr. Bastian said something that has remained with me to this day.
I sat in the audience eager to hear him talk about his road to success and what has kept him at the top. Instead, I heard how over the years, he had been targeted for being innovative and hated for being successful.
In one of his more powerful points, he used an analogy to show that there is room for many Bahamians to enjoy success and opportunities in this country, but they are thwarted because there are individuals and families who are determined to keep all of the wealth and power for themselves. The point was especially powerful because several members of prominent families were sitting in the audience at the time.
Here was a man who had clearly done well financially, enough to be considered one of this country’s most successful and richest businessmen, and yet, he understood that there was a system in place to keep power in the hands of a select few. Not only did he understand it, he likely experienced it. The audience seemed grateful that he acknowledged it.
I often remark that there are two versions of The Bahamas. If you’re fortunate to have wealth and a well-known surname, this could be the greatest place on earth. However, if you’re poor, unknown and uneducated, don’t expect much.
We need look no further than how people without means are treated by police or the judicial system. There are certain courtesies that are extended to those with familiar last names versus everybody else. You’d have to be blind not to see the preferential treatment.
Even on a more basic level, people are disregarded based on where they live, what they do for a living or what schools they attend.
This leads many underprivileged people to develop a deep-rooted resentment towards those they view as society’s elite. It fuels the ever-growing divide between the haves and the have-nots and is perhaps one of the reasons we have so many social ills.
What many fail to realize is that we’re all a result of our circumstances. If we were born at a different time, in a different place to different parents, we might not be who we are today.
If you are fortunate enough to have a thriving career, a family that loves you, a nice home and can afford to send your children to some of the best schools you are indeed blessed. But, under no circumstances should you look down on those who don’t have those things or fool yourself into thinking they could have had more if they simply applied themselves.
I hate to break it to you, but not all poor people are poor by choice. It’s not because they don’t work hard or don’t have ambition. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite. They work incredibly hard, sometimes two or three jobs and very long hours. And they have ambition. Lots of it. They are fueled by their need to escape their circumstances, but not who they are at the core.
That being said, not everyone who is wealthy is elitist, mean or views others as being beneath them. Many of them have what they have because they worked extremely hard for it and had an insatiable drive to be successful. Sure, some inherited it, but they had to be smart enough to maintain it. They should not be hated or envied for what they have.
It is a fact that not everyone is going to be rich. But, not everyone wants to be rich. Some are content to be comfortable, and that’s fine. But, that doesn’t mean they deserve to be respected any less or treated with disdain.
The minute you fool yourself into thinking that you’re better that everyone else is the moment you find yourself in a room with someone whose money and power eclipses yours. That’s the way of the world. There’s always a bigger fish.
It’s important to know that any situation could transform anyone into a pauper. It doesn’t matter how much money you have today. It doesn’t matter that your doctor just gave you a clean bill of health. One illness could erase your fortune; one business mistake could cost you everything. No one knows what tomorrow brings.
One thing is for certain though. None of us will make it out alive.
Despite our wealth, despite the fancy letters behind our names and no matter how much we have acquired or how much education we have gotten, we’re all going to leave this earth and take nothing with us – headed to one hole and nothing in hand.