Medium 9781523084586

The Memo

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True power in this world comes from economic independence, but too many people have too much month left at the end of their money. John Hope Bryant, founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, illuminates the path toward liberation that is hiding in plain sight. His message is simple: the supermajority of people who live in poverty, whom Bryant calls the invisible class, as well as millions in the struggling middle class, haven't gotten “the memo”—until now.

Building on his personal experience of rising up from economically disadvantaged circumstances and his work with Operation HOPE, Bryant teaches readers five rules that lay the foundation for achieving financial freedom. He emphasizes the inseparable connection between “inner capital” (mindset, relationships, knowledge, and spirit) and “outer capital” (financial wealth and property). “If you have inner capital,” Bryant writes, “you can never be truly poor. If you lack inner capital, all the money in the world cannot set you free.”

Bryant gives readers tools for empowerment by covering everything from achieving basic financial literacy to investing in positive relationships and approaching wealth with a completely new attitude. He makes this bold and controversial claim: “Once you have satisfied your basic sustenance needs—food, water, health, and a roof over your head—poverty has more to do with your head than your wallet.”

Bryant wants to restore readers' “silver rights,” giving them the ability to succeed and prosper no matter what very real roadblocks society puts in their way. We have more power than we realize, if only we can recognize and claim it. “We are our first capital,” Bryant writes. “We are the CEOs of our own lives.”

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The Memo


True power in this world comes from economic independence; this is also your primary protection from social injustice, political manipulation, and profiling.

Nobody can give you economic independence—you must gain it for yourself.

You, and only you, can gain this power from the way that you manage your “inner capital.” This inner capital is made up of your mind-set, relationships, knowledge, and spirit. Financial capital (money or wealth) is a function of how you invest your inner capital.

If you have inner capital, you can never be truly poor. If you lack inner capital, all the money in the world cannot set you free. Once you have satisfied your basic sustenance needs—food, water, health, and a roof over your head—poverty has more to do with your head than your wallet.


The Five Simple Rules for Economic Independence


1. We Live in a Free-Enterprise System—Embrace It.

2. Your Mind-Set Makes or Loses Money and Wealth—You Choose.

3. Your Relationships Are Investments—Build Relationship Capital with Yourself First.

4. Don’t Just Get a Job—Be Entrepreneurial.

5. Spiritual Capital Is the Start of True Wealth—Own Your Power.


Getting the Memo


On April 7, 2016, I did what I thought would be a fairly routine radio interview with commentator and friend Roland Martin. The topic was turning our inner city and our underserved communities around, and I assumed it would be a straightforward discussion. No drama here, I thought.

I was dead wrong.

During the course of the interview, I mentioned something I wrongly assumed everyone already knew: Slavery was first and foremost economic in nature. It was about money and wealth before it was about anything else. It was about free labor.

The radio station switchboard lit up.

I went on to explain that slavery—as immoral and cruel as it obviously was—was primarily and at its core about building a country for free, and building wealth for some (i.e., Southern plantation owners) through what I call “bad capitalism.”

The message board on the Roland Martin Show was going crazy, and not in a good way. But I hadn’t a clue; I just kept on talking.

To me, this was plain common sense. It was not an emotional issue for me. It was simply a stack of statistical facts for us all to understand and a problem for us to then solve: how do we go forward?


Rule 1 We Live in a Free-Enterprise System—Embrace It


Money runs the world from the moment you wake up until the moment you hit your pillow and head to sleep. Actually, money is even intersecting every aspect of your life while you sleep!

I am talking about YOUR life, not some random person you don’t know and cannot relate to. I am not talking about a city’s economics, or a company’s balance sheet or revenue, or a country’s identity, brand, or GDP. I am talking about YOU.

So, you doubt me? Okay, that’s understandable. Check this out:

You woke up this morning at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., or whatever. What precisely woke you up? An alarm clock, or an alarm setting on your mobile phone or smartphone? That’s money, folks. (It’s actually more than that. It’s entrepreneur-ship, which I address in Rule 4 in the book.) You or someone who loves you spent hard-fought-for cash money for that alarm clock or phone. No one got it for free.

You pulled back the sheets someone purchased and rolled out of the bed that someone purchased and put your feet on the ground of a house or an apartment that someone is paying for (even in most public housing the tenants pay a portion of the rent out of their own pockets).


Rule 2 Your Mind-Set Makes or Loses Money and Wealth—You Choose


Before you can be the CEO of anybody else, you must be the best CEO of YOU.

The reality is that YOU are capital. All wealth—and all poverty—begins with you. In fact, it begins within you, with the knowledge in your head and your heart and your soul. With your mind-set.

I believe that fully half of modern poverty—beyond basic issues of sustenance of course—is tied to a poor mind-set, to low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. Because if you don’t feel good about yourself, no one else will. Because if you don’t know who you are at 9 a.m., by dinnertime someone is going to tell you who you are. And bad things will come after that.

Here are some universal truths:

If I don’t like me, I am not going to like you.

If I don’t respect me, I don’t have a clue how to respect you.

If I don’t love me, I don’t know how to love you.

And it naturally follows, if I don’t have a purpose in my life, I am going to turn your life into a living hell.


Rule 3 Your Relationships Are Investments—Build Relationship Capital with Yourself First


I have spent a good portion of this book focused on helping you to get pointed in the right direction and to be well positioned for your own success. Why? Because there is no more important relationship than the one you have with yourself. Everything else in your life pivots off that relationship.

The relationship between you and yourself will be the first in the hopefully long and growing line of relationship capital in your life. This is why the most important commitment I made early on in my career was to become “reasonably comfortable” in my own skin.

The reality is that no one is totally comfortable in their own skin. That is perfection, and perfection simply does not exist. Perfection is an illusion, and we all just need to get over that and move on, living the best and most authentic lives we can.

We all know people who go through the vast majority of their lives striving to project an image of perfection. Not only is this “pretending to be perfect” thing not in any way convincing, it actually stresses the person in question out. They get stressed, and if it continues, they will get older and less healthy quicker. Why? Because your body is made of 70 percent water, and when you get hot and bothered all the time—stressed, upset, angry, highly negative, and negatively charged—you are theoretically “cooking” your organs. Done repeatedly, over time, it simply isn’t healthy.


Rule 4 Don’t Just Get a Job—Be Entrepreneurial


I don’t like it when people refer to me first and foremost as an author, or a philanthropist, or a community leader, or an adviser to governments, or even a thought leader, as much high regard as that involves.

I am and always have been, first and foremost, an entrepreneur.

This is the attitude that has allowed me to survive, that has sustained my life, and, most of all, that has given me the continual edge on everyone trying to take my seat at the table of opportunity. It is my advantage when all the world is changing and closing in around me.

What everyone needs today—especially anyone looking to leave the Invisible Class—is to be entrepreneurial. It is a crucial survival skill in the twenty-first century when the only thing that is certain is change.

It really does not matter whether you want to be an entrepreneur. Regardless of what you do in life, you can benefit from thinking the way entrepreneurs think, from the way they approach life, solve problems, and even how they see problems. From the way they approach challenges and overcome things. From their optimism about everything.


Rule 5 Spiritual Capital Is the Start of True Wealth—Own Your Power


We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience.


Life is all about energy. Think about everything that is important to you and in your life. I’m talking about love, charity, compassion, faith, belief, vulnerability, joy, confidence, self-esteem, empathy, sympathy, and countless other feelings of the heart.

But what do most people obsess about? Things. Homes, boats, cars, jewelry, clothes, and other things that blow away with the winds of time.

And this is precisely why most people are, well, miserable. Most people are looking for love in all the wrong places. In things.

If you want to get rich, then fine, focus your energy on things.

But if you want to gain wealth, true wealth, then learn to think differently, which I first talked about in Rule 2. Ambassador Andrew Young told me, “Real wealth comes from how you think, and not what you obsess about. Real wealth is about a certain view of the world. A perspective. A certain view of yourself.


Conclusion: This is Your Memo


The civil rights movement was waged and won in the streets, but the silver rights movement will be waged and won in the suites.

Civil rights was about race and the color line, but silver rights is about class and poverty. If you deal with class, you often get race for free. It is time for a new movement, and its color is green (as in the color of money).

But wealth—just like poverty—begins in the heart, the soul, and the mind before it ever ends up in your pockets.

We must remember that we are our first capital. We are the CEOs of our own lives.

We are investors and investments.

We are holders of relationship capital.

We are translators and transmitters of our dreams.

We must become lifetime learners.

We must never give up our childlike curiosity, our hope, and our joy.

We must accept that there is no one else just like us on this entire planet.

And then we must embrace this reality, acquiring self-esteem and confidence, absent of arrogance and unnecessary ego.


Resources: So You Got the Memo. Now What?


One of the first steps to economic independence is financial literacy. Here is a list of financial education resources to help you “know what you don’t know” and to put what you know into action. And, of course, Operation HOPE is here to work with you every step of the way. Visit us online at www.operation

Federally mandated free credit report:

FICO scores from all three credit bureaus (paid subscription):

Credit card reviews, ratings, and comparisons:

Tools to create your own debt elimination plan:

Guidance on becoming debt-free:

Guidance on choosing a credit card, filing for bankruptcy, and repairing your credit:

A starter retirement savings option from the US Department of the Treasury:

Kiplinger Retirement savings calculator:



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