I was working with a brilliant and trusted business mentor over the period of a year. During our first encounter, I distinctly remember saying, “Making money doesn’t light me up.” She encouraged me to leave room for the possibility that it DOES, and that I just hadn’t earned enough yet to see.
So I launched a product, made about $89,000 in one week (read it again, because FUCK THAT’S A LOT — $89,000 in one week) and promptly felt…nothing. I was grateful, but by no means lit up.
No over-reaching sense of achievement, no need to go drink pizza and beer and celebrate. Just a bunch of zeroes in my bank account.
I concluded that I was broken.
So I did a money blocks class, because clearly money and I were not on good terms.
I meditated about money. I hired a spiritual healer to help me work through my money issues and clear residual energy.
And I felt pretty much the same. Still broken.
Then I learned that I made more money than the person teaching the money block training. And realized that I’m not broken. I’m just wired differently.
In fact, lots of us are wired differently about money.
If you’re working on money blocks, you’re assuming there’s something you need to fix. But you’re not broken. And I’m not, either.
My true currency — the ways that I feel fulfilled by what I own, what I’m making, and my business — just isn’t the same as my mentor’s. No one’s right, no one’s wrong. We’re simply different in the ways that we approach earning and spending money.
The project went on to make over one hundred grand — and I say that not to brag, but to show you the extend of the money “problem” — but still didn’t do anything for me in my lady bits. Didn’t light me up, didn’t make me feel alive, didn’t even make me feel great even when people responded with overwhelming applause and high fives and congratulations.
It didn’t make me feel freer, and it wasn’t really fun to make. So it didn’t give me any of my true currency. And I resented it.
Our money models seem to be either super strict — SAVE MORE, DAMMIT! AND USE YOUR ENVELOPES! — or destined to beat us up about our “limiting beliefs.” We look to mega-earners with great awe, but without knowing why we want to earn more cash or how we use what we already have, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
Currency is just money. Your true currency governs the way you use money in everyday life. And knowing your true currency can change everything you feel about money.
So let’s explore the options, ’cause you’re gonna feel less broken in about forty-five seconds. Keep reading if a description doesn’t resonate with you, ’cause one of these will.
True currency: freedom and fun.
If your true currency is freedom and fun, you use your money to get away, to take vacations, and to try new things. I spend the majority of my money on experiences, not “major purchases” like a new couch or new car or down payment for a house. It’s how I ended up at a Turkish bath house a week ago, sweating until I looked like a lobster and then pulling the cold water shower chain onto myself while a nice maintenance man with a Russian accent egged me on from the sideline: “Yah go go go go!”
Try scheduling me for 14 hours a a day and I’m not interested in the cash, no matter how much you’re paying me. That intense scheduling means giving up my freedom, and I will straight kick you in your nether regions as you drag me away from open days, open timelines, and being in charge of my own existence. We freedom and fun peeps do not envy Oprah, ’cause she’s scheduled to within an inch of her life for the next three to nine months. For us, the money isn’t worth the trade of so much freedom.
True currency: pioneering and prestige.
Since I just mentioned Oprah, let’s dig deeper. Oprah appears to be motivated by doing things no one else has ever done, and by doing them extremely well. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates. If pioneering and prestige is your true currency, you’re driven by conquering completely new territory. You use your money to explore the unexplored and to enter into new realms of human accomplishment, pushing the bulk of your resources into being a modern pioneer. Along the way, you gain prestige for your work. You’re disciplined, driven, and willing to settle for nothing less than the cutting edge.
And if you can’t do exactly what you want with just one show? You start your OWN network. 😉
True currency: community and collaboration.
If community and collaboration drive your money habits, you’re typically working with someone else, for someone else, and/or to help someone else. You’re willing to found a nonprofit, to volunteer regularly, or to spend hours upon hours a week at your church to help make sure the [insert event here] goes off as planned. You’re likely to thrive in corporate environments because you freaking love people so much. (And you’re probably an extrovert.)
Given epic amounts of money, you will fund more projects and take part in more collaborative activities. That means making more events, planning more retreats, hosting more dinners, teaching more classes…you get the idea. You’re interested in making your life a haven for others.
True currency: spirit and service.
Spirit and Service is the quieter, somewhat less outgoing cousin of community and collaboration. If this is your jam, you’re likely to donate quietly and regularly to a number of causes. No big deal, no major hoopla about it — but the check is in the mail, the envelope is stuffed with cash, the donation is on its way.
You’re interested in serving others with their money, using it to create change in some way. Whether that’s funding an artist’s project on Kickstarter or writing a big ol’ check to a nonprofit, you use money to help fund the world’s progress.
You also use money to feed your own spirit. That big stack of books about a topic you find fascinating? Spirit and service. That retreat in New York or that workshop in San Jose — the one your friends think is a little bit [insert judgmental adjective here]? Spirit and service. Waking up at 5 a.m. to do yoga just because it makes you feel good? Spirit and freaking service.
You’re dedicated to growing your own consciousness. And you’ll use money to further your own spirit, regardless of whether the rest of the world “gets it” or not.
True currency: affirmation and achievement.
If you have certificates, plaques, pictures of you with famous people, or awards all over your walls, affirmation and achievement is your true currency. Three degrees, eight certifications, and twenty-three ongoing course credits in the topic of the day? A sign of the ultimate achievement seeker. Whether you’re working toward your second diploma or you’re enrolled in three classes and up for an award, you use your money to strive for achievement. Whether that’s achievement at a personal level, like kicking ass in the local bowling league and bringing home a trophy — or at the professional level, like advancing in your company or furthering your education — is entirely up to you.
True currency: safety and security.
I have a friend who knows how much money is in his bank account, down to the penny, at all times and in all circumstances. He loves the sound his money-managing software makes when he opens it. He saves receipts and painstakingly categorizes them. He plans every major purchase. Nine years until a new car, three years until new carpet…the list goes on and on. He uses money as a foundation to keep him feeling secure.
If you think of money as a fallback, a safety net, or security — or if you’ve ever chosen to “save money” instead of going on vacation, even though you have enough to do both — you fall into the safety and security category. You’re a conscious spender and you tend to have rigorous spending habits. You believe in separate checks at dinner, precise tipping of 15%, and saving instead of spending. You use money to provide bank for your future self and to buoy your options for the years to come.
So, what’s your true currency? How do you use money in the world? And which guilty forms of beating yourself up about spending can you let go of right now?
Those are the questions that only begin the conversation to have with your loved ones, your friends, and your colleagues. It’s time to talk true currency. And it’s time to stop feeling broken about money.
P.S. Money blocks are complicated — but they probably aren’t your problem.
Photo // my true currency in action, taking jubilant photos of kids I’ve loved in India, on film.