Making Sense of Money
"If you really knew me and my relationship with money, you’d know ___________." Welcome to one of the more intense sessions we do in many of our MEA workshops.
What if money isn’t your real problem? What if your real problem is your relationship with money? After all, money is emotional, and the unconscious beliefs and thoughts we have about money far outweigh the conscious ones. The fact is, these hidden assumptions about money often control us and how we live our lives. Making matters more interesting, those beliefs, thoughts, and assumptions are not necessarily "true" in any real sense. They are ideas given to us from our families and from living in a capitalist, consumerist society. If we grew up and lived elsewhere, we’d likely have different ideas about money.
So much about how we deal with money is how we FEEL about money. Unconscious beliefs about money deeply influence how we live in the world. What are YOUR "money scripts?"
If you’re not sure, answer a few of these questions:
1. What were the first messages you got about money? How have they affected you and how you run your life? Do any of these money scripts from childhood feel like they have an imprint on you:
- Money Avoidance ("money is the root of all evil")
- Money Worship ("money creates happiness by buying things")
- Money Status ("my self-worth is based upon my net worth")
- Money Vigilance ("a penny saved is a penny earned"
2. If you were in a long-term relationship with Money (and you are), how would you describe it to your therapist if you went to couples’ counseling? What would Money say about you? What would you say about Money? What does a healthy relationship with Money look like moving forward?
3. What is wealth? And, what’s the relationship between money and freedom? Does money create freedom or take it away?
If you really knew me and my relationship with money, you’d know that I read books like "Think and Grow Rich" in college and spent my 19th year as a commercial real estate agent in Silicon Valley. I took almost a year off from school and went to work for my uncle’s prosperous company filled with the kind of guys that were straight out of David Mamet’s "Glengarry Glen Ross." While I went there with a "money worship" mindset, after a year of being around men who chased money as much as they did skirts, I was a bit sickened by it all. I went back to college with a "money avoidance" mindset.
In some ways, it’s strange I went to graduate business school given that new mindset. But, as much as I abhorred the effect of money on people, I also wanted to make a difference in the world and believed business was my vehicle. I also thought becoming an entrepreneur would offer me creativity and freedom, two prized values of mine.
Not long after graduating with my MBA, I started Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a boutique hotel company dedicated to "creating the opportunities to celebrate the joy of life." We wanted to make joy, not money. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. While Joie de Vivre grew into a big company, I rarely had that much money in the bank. I would go for four years at a time, not paying myself during the lean times and investing in the growth of the business during the good times.
It was during the Great Recession, more than two decades after starting this business, that I came face-to-face with my blended money script that I’ll call Money Confusion: "money is my currency for making the world a better place, but it’s also my currency for self-esteem and that scares me, so any money I make I use to grow the company because I feel weird when I see a lot of money in my bank account.” For me, Money Confusion was a blend of status and avoidance, fueled by the cognitive dissonance of loving and hating money at the same time. Seeing its value and loathing its power.
That brutal recession forced a reckoning in me. I didn’t feel creativity or freedom anymore. "Think and Grow Rich" had become "Think and Grow Your Ego." I was humbled (yet relieved) by the process of selling my company at the bottom of that recession. After two dozen years of running that company, which was a magnifying mirror for my ego AND my idealism, I was released from prison.
And, from that point forward, something miraculous happened. Money came to me without any ego attached. I saw money as a currency that flows through me, or as an ally, not as something you give a stripper at a Friday afternoon happy hour (my Glengarry Glen Ross experience).
I’ll finish with a quote from Lynne Twist, who wrote "The Soul of Money," and will be co-leading an MEA Mastery workshop with me in Baja December 6-11 this year. Would love to have you join us by reserving here.
"We all have an identifiable, though largely unconscious and unexamined, relationship with money that shapes our experience of life and our deepest feelings of ourselves and others. Whether you count your change in dollars, yen, rupees, or drachmas, money is one of the central, linchpin issues in all of our lives. It is in mine, and it is a central issue for everyone I’ve ever met, no matter how much or how little money they have."