You go to lunch with a colleague. Everything is good. When the waiter puts the bill on the table, the total is $26.

Do you pick it up? Do you wait and hope he does? Or do you suggest you split it?

On the surface, this is a minor decision. But in truth, it is one of a million chances you’ve had, and will have, to become wealthier.

A cheapskate might look at it this way:

  • If I pay the whole bill, I’ll be $26 poorer.
  • If we split the bill, I’ll be $13 poorer.
  • If I can get him to pay it, I’ll be $13 richer.

To the cheapskate, the best decision is obvious. So when the bill arrives, he gets up to “go to the bathroom,” hoping he’ll be $13 richer when he returns.

But I have a different view. Wealth building, like quantum mechanics, often operates according to laws that seem contrary to what is “obvious.”

Paying the tab, in other words, might actually make you richer. Because the $13 you spend on your lunch partner might give you a return of much more than $13.

Your generosity might signal to him that you are the kind of person he can trust. It might tell him you are someone who is willing to give first without demanding recompense. If he sees you in that light, a relationship might be seeded from this small investment on your part. A year later – it is possible to imagine – he might recommend you for a promotion when he himself gets promoted to head up your department.

It depends on your assessment of his character.

If he impresses you as a person who believes – as you do – in reciprocity, you will know that the $13 is a wise investment. If, on the other hand, he shows you that he is a person who believes in exploiting others, the wise move might be to pay only your share of the bill and not develop the relationship any further.

In either case, you are richer.

In the first case, you are richer in a potentially lucrative business relationship. In the second case, you are richer in knowledge – knowledge about him that can help you avoid trouble or seize opportunity in the future.

I am making two points: First, almost every event in your life is an opportunity for you to become richer. And second, by seeing every situation as a wealth-building opportunity, you can take the actions that will gradually make you very rich.

The people I call “instinctive wealth builders” naturally understand this. They see every transaction – social, personal or business – as a wealth-related opportunity. They are always angling, even subconsciously, to increase their wealth.

Most of us aren’t born with that instinct. For us, a casual conversation is just a casual conversation. And choosing to join a club or to hire or fire an employee is that and nothing more.

But the moment we put this principle into practice, we see the world very differently.

So before you take any action, train yourself to ask the following four questions…

  1. In what way is this situation an opportunity for me to become more wealthy? (Note: You don’t ask, “Is this a wealth-building opportunity?” – because every situation is a wealth-building opportunity.)
  2. What is the potential of this opportunity?
  3. What are the possible problems with this opportunity?
  4. What can I do to seize this opportunity?

And ask yourself these four questions even in the most mundane situations, including…

  • The first thought you put in your mind when you wake up in the morning
  • What you listen to on your commute to work
  • How you greet your boss and fellow workers
  • What you talk about at the coffee machine
  • The expression on your face and the firmness of your grip when you shake hands
  • The conversation you initiate with the person next to you on a plane
  • How your voice sounds when you answer the phone
  • How you prepare for a meeting
  • Whether you go out to lunch or eat at your desk.

Some of your opportunities will be small, and some will be big. But by asking yourself these four questions before taking action, you will bring your batting average way up…

If you make it a habit to approach every situation this way, it will soon become automatic. And before you know it, you will have seized hundreds – even thousands – of wealth-building opportunities… each one making you a little richer.

Good investing,