Most people binge watch television shows these days, but I, who am at the precipice of change, force myself to binge read.
I have been on a steady diet of Seth Godin books for a while now, and have absorbed the novel idea that money might only be a story. It is one of the many stories we tell ourselves, each, and every day. Stories that hinder us from doing and being who we want to be.
We become card carrying members of one of two groups. We are either give our money away or we lust for it. Sometimes, we inquire, and want to know if the money people have at their disposal is somehow dirty or if its clean. We admire those that have worked hard for theirs and look in judgement on those who came by it easily, or who simply don’t deserve it.
At the end of the day, however, no matter how or why we have the money that we do, it really doesn’t change a thing.
For most of my life, I have become accustomed to using debit cards. It is one of the easiest ways to pay for things, and I am not alone. That thin, cheap, and little plastic card, offers incredible convenience and is always readily available to serve.
I have dreamt of being rich and winning the lottery more than once, and I have even imagined what it would feel like if I was on the other extreme; unlucky enough to be robbed at knifepoint.
I think my debit card would come to my rescue. It would create a very distinct and unique force-field, surrounding me with its protective energy. It would triumphantly keep me safe and sound, until help arrived.
I do think, I have this wrong.
It is probably my debt that deserves all the credit and would be brave enough to come to my rescue. I can only imagine the disappointment on their face. No thief wants to make my acquaintance.
But how is money a story, you may be patiently waiting to ask?
I will explain.
No matter who you are or how much wealth you have, the story we tell ourselves about our debt or financial security is not very easy to decipher. There is nothing intrinsically good or evil about our crumpled-up dollar bills or our dirty little coins. How we see money and the connection we make with has very little to do with our happiness. Happiness begins in our mind, not in our wallet.
Case and point.
I read recently that a good way to change your story about money is to simply give away. When someone less fortunate has the courage to ask, we should never hesitate and give unconditionally.
It is important to be open to this experience. It is essential not to close our hearts and minds. We need to share what we have, even if we only own a jar full of unwanted pennies.
For years, I have not been faithful to this idea. My mind was blocked by some pretty erroneous reasoning.
I falsely told myself that if I gave a homeless person some money, they would most likely use it to get drunk. By giving them a dollar bill or some discarded change, I was in fact making their life worse and not better.
I’m ready to face reality today. I was just really cheap.
I tried to keep as much of my money as I possibly could. I was hoping that by doing so, one day, in the not so distant future, my debt would finally be paid, and I would be set free. I would be free, but I finally realize that in truth I make a terrific little Gollum.
This was some brilliant faulty reasoning.
We end up getting what we focus our attention on.
When you give your money to someone who begs for it, you are in control of only your end of the bargain, and that’s how it should be. You have been given the power to either keep your money or give it away. The person who receives you gift, has the same power. They are free to do with it what they please. They can save it, buy something to eat, or simply lie and get wasted. In either case, you and I are never affected by someone else’s decision. They cannot rob us of our gift. They can only waste theirs.
Last Friday was quite the day.
I will write more about it later, but that’s for another time.
In the late afternoon I found myself at a coffee house. After a delicious cup of coffee and a cranberry scone, I was sufficiently nourished and warmed up, so I headed back to my car.
On my way, a young man, in his early twenties, intersected my path, and with his hand out stretched, asking me for a quarter. I don’t believe I even made eye contact. Instinctively, I found myself saying sorry, and told him that I didn’t have any change.
While I was rejecting him, I impulsively put my hands in my pocket and was shaken awake by my subconscious mind and the cold texture of the coins that surrounded my fingertips.
I looked up, made eye contact, and asked him why he needed the money.
He answered that he needed four dollars for bus fare because he wanted to get home.
My fingertips told me that I had exactly four dollars jingling around in my pocket, which was quite the coincidence, I thought. It was the left over money I had from a transaction earlier that morning.
I ignored all logic and engaged my gut instinct.
I reached in my pocket, and gave the young man his four dollars. I wished him a splendid evening, and headed to my destination.
That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t.
A day later, and at about the same time I met this young man, I headed over to do some portrait work for a client I spoke to briefly on the phone.
I should probably backtrack a bit and explain how it happened that I come in contact with this gentleman.
Earlier last week I received a phone call and so I naturally ignored it. I get lots of phone calls, and they are always selling things I don’t really need.
I checked my voicemail later that day and learned that this particular gentleman needed some photos done and he needed them done fast. I have received similar unsolicited photo requests before, and they were initiated by someone trying to get a quick passport photo, as they anxiously try to leave the country.
I usually send them to Walmart and call it a day.
This was a strange assignment though.
Not in its scope. The job itself was easy.
He needed one simple headshot and I could call it a day. What was strange about all this was that we never discussed the price. When he hung up, I considered for a long while if I could call him back, but something told me to let it go. He sounded very nice on the phone and really needed my help. He was a professional man. Business was slow. He needed this to generate more income for himself.
I was prepared to do it for free if necessary. I was feeling giddy for some reason.
I arrived at his house on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Bantered for a bit. Set up my lights. Prepared the scene. Snapped some great photos and began to pack up.
He asked me how much I wanted for my time, and in my head, I had the figure of fifty dollars. I thought about it after our phone call, and the figure never changed.
I know I am worth more than that, but in a pinch, I have always undervalued myself. I think I need a business manager or an agent. This has been my single worse entrepreneurial downfall.
I kept my mouth shut. I looked up and told him that he should be the one to decide what was fair. I vowed this year to only work in two hour increments, and had no idea what I deserved to be paid.
He wrote a cheque for two hundred dollars.
I was floored.
As I write this, I am still floored.
I didn’t realize it until later, when I got home, that this is exactly four times the amount I wanted from him to begin with.
I gave away four dollars to a rainy Friday afternoon to a perfect stranger.
On Saturday, another total stranger, was giving me four times what I would have asked for, because I was the one begging.
Money is just a story.
It is a hell of a good one.