09/02/2015 07:20 GMT | Updated 08/04/2015 06:59 BST

Get Rich or Die Trying


The seduction of becoming rich has the power to grip the imagination and inspire endless daydreams of 'making it big'. Moreso for those from less privileged backgrounds, the prospect of escaping the struggles of financial lack can drive a particularly all-encompassing pursuit of large living. I would even say that this accounts for the lack of engagement from particular backgrounds with disciplines that are among the most powerful tools for cultural critique and knowledge production such as the arts and humanities.

Those who are born freer from the real or perceived threat of financial insecurity may find the idea of abundant riches less hypnotising and can afford to spend less time concerned by their future financial prospects. This allows them to pursue deeper forms of self-expression that facilitate an awakening of consciousness and a heightened ability to challenge the world around them. In the inverse case, the world is inherited as it is and the money-minded individual seeks to become an income-generating cog within its overwhelmingly complex economic machinery. Those hailing from backgrounds marked by material scarcity though are privileged enough to excel academically attend the best universities with the express purpose of securing the highest possible return on their investment in education. The educationally empowered tend to pursue careers in industries that preserve a status quo historically hostile towards the very backgrounds they came from in the first place.

Despite the innumerable reasons for wanting to pursue highly lucrative economic activities, cultural and socioeconomic consistencies can be identified. Personal circumstances characterised by a distinct hue of lack, struggle or adversity can condition an individual into understanding success and contentment as synonymous with being rich - I call this 'ambition from below'. Ambition from above comes in the form of parental or cultural influences that esteem traditional sectors such as Medicine, Law or Engineering as preferential. Careers offering high pay and high social standing are encouraged and the individual seeks to fulfil cultural expectations of success. Arguably, if there is an absence of these motivating influences from above and an intense pressure from below, there is a heightened likelihood that a desire to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time will lead down paths of illegality. In any case, mediating ambition mainly through experiences of lack produces a very real and very powerful psychological disposition that conflates a desire to be rich beyond excess and not much else more. Popular culture also plays a key role in reinforcing ideas of who the winners and losers of society are.

The potent grip of never again wanting to experience financial lack can consume all rationale and drive an uncompromising determination for economic power. A noticeable manifestation of success that has been derived primarily from a fear of financial insufficiency, one could argue, are lavish displays of newly acquired economic freedom even while other freedoms may remain impaired. Freedom from the snare of economic marginalisation is seen as the end goal, rather than a potential means to further-reaching ends such as an unrestrained ability for self-expression, self-determination or, indeed, radical selflessness.

Given my personal ambitions it may seem contradictory to suggest that career decisions should not be made entirely for financial reasons, however I can quite safely say that a desire to be rich is not the engine of my motivation. Part of all my decision-making is governed by the constraints posed by student debt and a background far from economic plenty to fall back on, nonetheless, I make a conscious effort not to allow a desire for financial security cascade into a single-minded and, in many ways, debilitating treasure hunt. I empathise with experiences of financial hardship and think back to my 16-year-old self, wondering if I would have bought any of this. Probably not.

It's honourable to aspire to financial freedom. A background of struggle can serve to provide a burning drive to succeed that stops nothing short of excellence and a profound appreciation of achievement at every step of the way. That being said, ambition ought to be fuelled less by soon-to-be past experiences of financial malaise and more by a forward-looking approach characterised by positivity, possibility and passion.