Bad Decisions and Poverty

Today was a busy day for me. I had probate work to deal with in the morning, probate errands to run, I think I still managed to add 1,000 words to my current manuscript, and I had to clean my house this evening to host a critique group meeting tonight. Cleaning house always makes me a bit anxious because my husband is a chef who pretty much throws food everywhere when he cooks, so it’s a regular slop-fest when he makes his magic each night. But I was able to return my kitchen to its sparkly, happy self, which is always a relief before company arrives.

I got a little sidetracked this afternoon though. I remembered this essay I had read in The Huffington Post a few months ago, which some of you might have seen, as this essay went viral in a huge way. “This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense” by Linda Tirado, posted November 22, 2013.

Don’t ask me why this picture of her is so pixelated, as I haven’t a clue.

Linda Tirado

Doesn’t she look really pretty? I think so. But in her essay, she talks about her skin being bad and how her teeth are messed up, but looking at this photo, she just looks beautiful to me. And of course, her baby is adorable– what a cutie!

Now, because I love to listen to Tony Robbins so much, reading Linda’s essay about bad decisions and poverty was like listening to a Tony Robbins video on Opposites Day. Here’s why.

Tony Robbins does not talk about success as something that drops out of the sky, as a big event that just hits you. Success is a product of tiny, day-to-day choices over a number of years. Miniature decisions don’t seem very important in the big scheme of things, but take a lot of them over time, and they add up like compound interest. The smallest decisions actually have big consequences, even though they don’t seem to.

Since Linda’s essay was dealing with failure (along with failure’s buddies, such as hopelessness, poverty, and depression), she’s discussing the negative side of all those little decisions. What happens when you make the wrong choice time and again, on things that seem so inconsequential. Tony Robbins focuses on taking those little decisions and realizing how important they are. Linda’s essay is about understanding how someone can take those little decisions and give up on them day after day, because they work within a belief system that says things will never get better, so there’s no point in trying.

But one of the big truths in life is that, if you don’t believe in something, then no one else will, either. If you want to change your life, you have to believe change can happen. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else can jump on your bandwagon.

Today, I felt like reading Linda’s essay again. It’s a great essay. Then I followed the link to her blog. I read her blog posts. But I was sad to discover that she hasn’t posted anything since December 3, 2013. Which feels like ages ago.

I discovered some fascinating things.

After Linda’s essay went viral, she set up a gofundme site and people donated $61,630.00 to help her get her teeth fixed and write a book. Soooooo awesome!!!!

A literary agent also contacted her and offered representation for her unwritten book, certain that a publisher would buy the manuscript. More awesome!!!

So Linda had the surgery to fix her teeth, and decided she would find a way to help other people in poverty, the way she has been helped. Very cool!!

Now, I don’t know what Linda’s been up to the last few months, but I’m really hoping she’s working on her book. I also emailed her today to let her know I looked forward to buying a copy when it was published, and I sent her my e-book, Love and Student Loans and Other Big Problems, because it’s a piece of art I made that deals with poverty, and I hoped it might make her laugh. She is collecting stories of poverty from people who visit her website or contact her because of her essay, and my characters in my second novel fit the theme.

If you grew up in poverty, or grew up with a family categorized as the working poor, you might want to send Linda an email and share your story with her.

Which leads me to my final thought on this topic tonight, which is summarized by You Are a Badass author Jen Sincero, who is another one of my favorite peeps to touch base with online.


This is Jen with a camel. She is awesome.

She was the keynote speaker at the UtopYA conference last year, where she talked about what it takes to change your life and go for whatever it is that you want:

She’s talking to a group of writers in that video, which is cool.

According to Jen, there are two key fears that follow us around in life. “The first fear is that we’re not good enough. The other fear is that what we want is not available to us.”

Typing out her words doesn’t have the same impact as listening to her does. (The same can be said for Tony Robbins.)

But when I reflect on the psychology of poverty, and why bad decisions make perfect sense, I know that those two fears need to show their sad, ugly heads for hopelessness and poverty to really make sense. Linda doesn’t mention these two basic fears in her essay, but I know they are there, unspoken but present in every sentence.

People who have given up are people who, consciously or unconsciously, do not feel they are good enough (i.e., do not feel they are deserving of love), and do not believe that what they want is available to them.

You can be poor and have nothing, and not be impoverished. Because poverty is a state far, far worse than being poor. Poverty is a trap. It sinks its teeth in and doesn’t want to ever let go. The difference between being poor and being impoverished is fear. Fear we’re not good enough, and fear that the world cannot provide what we need.

It can though. It can, it can, it can. But you have to be the first to believe.

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