The Words of the Sakuwa Family

Recognizing and Utilizing Our Personal Assets

Chiofa Sakuwa
July 23, 2009

It is fairly common knowledge that commercials aired during the Super Bowl, due to their exceptional graphic and rhetoric qualities, are often as anticipated, if not more so, than the outcome of the game itself. One such commercial aired during Super Bowl 2009 struck at me like no other. It featured a career-building / job hunting site, displaying first a corporate executive sitting behind his grand oak desk and under a rather prominent looking moose head taxidermy mounted on the wall behind him. Then the camera panned to the other side of the wall, where a subordinate “everyman” character worked at his computer situated underneath the stuffed rear end of the same moose whose head graced the executive suite.

At first I thought this to be extremely clever; but after the laughter subsided, I began to see this commercial in a more realistic context -- one not related to job hunting or status. The moose to me began to symbolize life in general, especially how the decisions I make, and more importantly, my attitude, would determine which side of the “wall” would be my station. In other words, if I were to recognize and properly utilize opportunities in my path, I would most likely lead my life at the head. Conversely, should I neglect or fail to recognize opportunities, or squander my God-given assets in fear of failure I would more than likely lead my life at the rear of the “moose.”

I came to realize that how we recognize and utilize our intangible assets, such as our time, innovation, innate talents, and attitude, will most likely determine the extent of our tangible assets such as estates, career success, and financial freedom and thus our ability to contribute to society as a whole. Simply put, each and every one of us possesses unique assets through which we can maximize our potential to contribute to society, as well as enhance the quality of life both spiritually and externally, should they be used wisely.

Although recognizing personal assets beyond those of material is never an easy task, especially during periods of economic struggle, doing so is the key to changing one’s current situation in order to grow toward a more ideal situation. And the first step toward recognizing our unique, intangible assets is to take some time to stop and reevaluate the focus of our daily lives. Is my focus to bring joy to others as well as myself by applying God-given talents toward worthy causes? Or is my personal focus to just merely survive and not bother with the intangibles?

One simple but very profound concept I picked up in real estate entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad is to not work for money. This concept of not working for money appeared revolutionary and unrealistic at first, given the fact that with three children and a host of expenses with which reality charges us, we were in no position to “not work for money.” But as I continued to read, I came to find that the concept is more about a shift in focus, as opposed to literally working for free.

For example, the author tells a story about his boyhood when he asked his friend’s father, whom he later referred to as his “rich dad,” how to become as independently wealthy as he was. After giving the matter a good deal of thought, “Rich Dad” offered young Robert a proposition: that he work in one of his grocery stores on Saturdays for 10 cents an hour (a paltry wage even in 1956) in exchange for his financial tutelage. Robert worked very hard for weeks but still heard no word from “Rich Dad” on how to build wealth as promised.

The time finally came when Robert confronted his “Rich Dad,” asking why he received no formal lessons on wealth building and saying that he felt he deserved at least a raise for his hard work. His “Rich Dad” smiled and pointed out the plight of several of his longtime employees. As much as he needed them and respected their work, he mentioned that as long as they worked for a paycheck and came to him for raises, instead of seeking to capitalize on their own personal resources, they would never become independently wealthy.

Then “Rich Dad” offered young Robert a new proposal: that he perform the same work in the grocery store for free! This both surprised and enraged him; but he still decided to take the challenge and perhaps learn the unseen lesson hidden in the store. While working along with his best friend, who was also “Rich Dad’s” son, he discovered that several shipments of comic books were being sent to salvage as new issues came in to be sold. Robert and his friend asked the comic book distributor if they could keep them instead. As long as the boys agreed not to resell them, the distributor consented. Using a spare room in “Rich Dad’s” home, with his wife’s permission, the boys set up a comic book library, where they charged a ten-cent admission fee for unlimited comic book readings within library hours. This venture became a success; through the boys’ own ingenuity, they were able to net a profit far beyond what they would have reaped had they ignored their personal innovative assets and simply relied on a fair wage at the grocery.

Now this story, as mentioned in the book, does not negate the need for valuable service sector employees, such as mechanics, attorneys, ministers, teachers, police officers, and so forth. And, in many cases, individuals achieve the utmost personal satisfaction by applying their focus and personal assets toward success in these professions. But in this case, Robert’s key focus was entrepreneurship, as achieved by “Rich Dad.” This story serves as but one example of how an individual can assess his or her key focus, and then recognize and utilize innovative assets in order to achieve his or her goal, as well as enhance his or her ability to contribute and attain a greater degree of happiness.

Innovation and creativity are vital personal assets, indeed. However, other intangible personal assets I would like to discuss include, but are not limited to, innate talents, motivation, and time. As mentioned before, each individual possesses unique talents and abilities that need to be nurtured and cultivated in order for the individual to achieve his or her full potential. In his book Rich Kid, Smart Kid, Robert Kiyosaki expresses his belief that all children are “born geniuses”; but he also points out that without the proper encouragement and development, children are at risk of gradually losing the “genius” they were born with as they grow and are more likely to become despondent as adults. Therefore, it is critical to identify personal “geniuses” as early in age as possible, children in particular.

Examples of innate “genius” qualities Kiyosaki discusses include verbal / linguistic, numerical / scientific, and intrapersonal / interpersonal talents, among others. In the case of children, those possessing the above-mentioned qualities are often glorified in the school setting but may become discouraged if they fall short in another talent valued in the school setting ( i.e., strong in writing but weak in math) or, worse yet, if their innate talent(s) fall outside the parameters of those valued within the school setting.

For example, during my own grade-school years, drawing was always my forte; however, it always seemed to me that the kids who were good at math (numerical/scientific genius) were celebrated as the “smart kids,” while those who demonstrated artistic talent were often sidelined or ignored. This caused me to give up on art for a while because I thought this “genius” was not “important” enough and chose to focus more on math, science, and technology. Though math, science, and technology were, and still are, very critical subjects to master, I struggled because I chose to focus all my time and energy on subjects for which I did not possess the innate genius, while ignoring my artistic gifts. After reading Rich Kid, Smart Kid, I realized that in order to master a subject that might not fall within my range of innate talents, I also had to make time for activities, art, in my case, that are in line with my natural gifts in order to generate the confidence necessary to succeed in any endeavor. I have taken up the arts again; however, as a wife and mother heading an exceedingly busy household, I express my artistic prowess in more practical forms such as creative cooking and soap crafting! In this respect, art continues to enhance my life as I let it back in. I also make it a point to identify and cultivate “genius” evident in my own children, so that they will not only develop these talents but also use their talents to build the overall confidence they will need to overcome inevitable disappointments, learn from mistakes, and create their own success stories.

Another intangible asset, which is often overlooked and in many cases taken for granted, is time. As it is a nonrenewable resource, time can be considered even more important than money. How we utilize our asset of time in the present, especially when it comes to raising children, will ultimately determine how we will shape the future. With many obligations and ambitions competing for our attention, it is almost too easy to let time slip by unnoticed -- like a certain child at a certain festival.

Ironically, as a full-time mother of three, I find myself extraordinarily busy but at the same time somewhat bored, wishing I were speeding down the fast lane of an exciting career track commensurate with my education. However, when I take one of those rare quiet moments to reevaluate my personal intangible assets, I begin to see priority in physically being there to raise my children full time. As I may enter the job market soon due to opportunity and/or basic necessity, I realize how limited and precious the first few years of my children’s lives are and that those years will never come back.

It is truly vital for us to make the most out of our present time, as well as to plan, prioritize, and adapt for future endeavors. Meanwhile, as I clip coupons amid the constant rattle of toys and games, I realize that recognizing and utilizing our God-given intangible assets may not always be easy or obvious, but doing so is the key to leading life at the head. The simple beauty: It’s up to none other than you and me!

Written by Chiofa Sakuwa, a second generation Marine Corps. Veteran who is currently serving as a full-time wife and mother of three sons. Chiofa earned a Masters of Criminal Justice at Boston University. 

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