We can learn from our mistakes, and get into a brand new relationship with money.
“Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
Sometimes, when things are falling apart, they are actually falling into place. One of the great things about the life we are given, is that it will flex and bend without breaking us.
This posting is a reprint of an article I had written in 2009, and in the throes of the recession of that time. It was originally published on Say “Alaka‘i”, a column I wrote for The Honolulu Advertiser. I remembered it after publishing Where VBM falls short, VCM intercepts, improves, and reinvents business, and after reading a courageous cover story Neal Gabler has written for The Atlantic, The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans.
I know that many people still feel the way this reader had felt. Do you?
There is a new ending for this posting, where we focus on the value of ‘IMI OLA. At any given time, that is what I hope Managing with Aloha will do for you — be a resource, whether times are good or bad, where you can look at its list of Aloha-inspired values, and ask yourself— which of these can help me right now?
Goals will change. Values are forever.
From the Say “Alaka‘i” mailbox:
“I’m ready to put all my blog reading on hold: I know you try to keep us in the positives versus the negatives, but I get very frustrated when I read articles by you and other business coaches these days, for all I can focus on is making money and keeping it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared about being able to make a living than I am right now. The prospects are so terrible and my savings have run out. It all seems completely out of my control. Your advice about better management and leadership practices may be great when there’s money in the bank, but until then, I can’t be bothered with reading about what I cannot work on. That old saying that money is the root of all evil is so true, isn’t it.”
This wasn’t exactly a question, but it was a heartfelt frustration that I felt compelled to answer both privately and on this column, for I am fully aware that times are tough, and I suspect many people have similar feelings.
Believe me, I share your concern. I will openly admit to all of you that these recessionary years will be trying times during which I will struggle to keep my own business alive and well too. To do so, I must reinvent it a bit, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t, and replacing those discards with newly promising strategies. That’s exactly what I’m doing.
The Hawaiian value I call on most right now is Ho‘omau, that of persistence and perseverance, seeking to perpetuate the good in my life, and continually reminding myself that adversity can make me stronger, wiser, better. It’s an energy-creating self-talk I cannot allow to falter. Neither can you.
“I don’t care how hard this period is. You have to have the combination of believing that you will prevail, that you will get out of this, but also not be the Pollyanna who ignores the brutal facts. You have to say that we will be in this for a long time and we will turn this into a defining event, a big catalyst to make ourselves a much stronger enterprise. Our characters are being forged in a burning, searing crucible.”
—Jim Collins, in an interview with Jennifer Reingold
I agree, yet I understand the frustration… chances are Jim Collins has much more in his bank account and as revenue stream potential than we do!
As you Ho‘ohana, shift intention to where attention is.
We all must focus on the basics of “making a good living” before we work on things that are the greater pursuits of legacy-focused work that is ‘affordable’ when times are better for us. In the spirit of Managing with Aloha, we turn to the value of ‘Imi ola, and seeking one’s best possible life. Matching up your Ho‘ohana (intention with worthwhile work) to wherever your attentions doggedly must remain is usually a wise strategy. If you need more money, you need more money; that’s the fact of life your intentions must be set toward improving in your favor.
However, believing that “money is evil” isn’t going to be very harmonious with that intention to make more of it. That’s like trying to make a nightmare come true instead of a dream. You want every one of your pursuits to be a noble effort you believe in. Your need for more money (and our need for money as a more sustainable society), isn’t going away, so turn money into your dream enabler instead of your nightmare creator. Money by itself is neither evil nor saintly, but you are.
Money is simply currency. Any “evil” that may be associated with it has to do with bad behavior securing, or using money in an ill-conceived, uneducated or unfortunate way. When the behavior improves —with philanthropy for example, and with social entrepreneurship, so does the reputation of money as the tool which enables those more admirable behaviors. Then we give money a different name: donations, funding, or venture capital. We make the choice, whether money will be spent for good, noble causes, or otherwise.
What we are all being reminded of right now, both as individuals and as businesses, is that “times are better” when we have a substantial contingency fund that we have ready access to when a storm rages. That may be our first lesson in financial literacy.
Being ‘broke’ is a mistake, not a failure
I think the biggest mistake we make with money is failing to become better educated with using it. The good news is that correcting that mistake is not that difficult. We simply need to redirect our attentions (and intention) with doing so, i.e. with becoming more financially literate.
Money is our basic transactional currency. We all need it, and we all need to be sure we have enough of a contingency fund available (an emergency fund) when circumstances in our world spin out of our control. A contingency fund finances our basic living requirements when everything else goes haywire.
If your savings have run out, you simply made the mistake of not having a contingency fund in addition to your savings (or one which was large enough). And you are not alone: Many of us are getting quite a reality check with which of the two is ultimately more important (contingency or savings) and which must take first priority, and by how much of a margin. We are learning that non-liquid assets do not readily convert into cash flow. We are learning that some conditions we once thought of as ‘fixed’ can be very volatile, and actually are ‘variables.’ We are learning several financial lessons that the present recession has pulled from back burner to front.
All we did not know, before learning it the hard way, are fixable mistakes, and not outright failures.
Log your lessons learned in precise measurements that will give you the structure for a new personal financial game plan. Then, articulate them more positively, by turning them into the new goals of your intentions. Correct your past mistakes, and make your goals dreamy.
Learn with a good teacher
I encourage you to seek the help you may need with learning the lessons you must now learn. Great teachers and coaches hold you accountable and shorten learning curves. I am not implying you must hire someone: You aren’t alone in relearning a newly emerging financial literacy for these times; we’re all doing it. Team up with those who have similar learning goals, and seek those willing to teach you and help you learn what they know, as you do the same for them. Collaborate; barter your knowledge.
If my blog is not the one giving you the answers most relevant to your situation right now, I absolutely agree that you should read the ones which are instead: Match up your attentions to your new intention. Get offline for a little while so you can better focus: Redirect your monthly internet payment into your new contingency fund goal, and read the coaching of financial authors available at your library or local bookstore.
When you are ready to study and participate in Managing with Aloha again, we will be here to welcome you. Take a look at the tags in the footnote of this particular posting, i.e. abundance-thinking, business modeling, financial literacy, problem solving — perhaps there is more in the archives to help you. An example follows, from May, 2013.
From the Managing with Aloha Archives:
‘IMI OLA: To seek life and strengthen your faith ~
Personally, ‘IMI OLA is the value of self-created, purpose-full living.
Professionally, ‘IMI OLA is the value of mission and vision.
An individual mission statement is HO‘OHANA in writing; it’s the visionary work of livelihood aligned with personal purpose via the pathway of company mission. The stories I share with you in Managing with Aloha, are meant to help illustrate examples of how that happens.
Julia Cameron, play writer, director, and author of The Artist’s Way, points out that “any act of creativity is an act of faith” and there’s a virtuous circle there: “As you strengthen your faith, it strengthens your ability to create.”
Faith however, can’t be wholly satisfied if reduced to an intellectual exercise. You’ve got to make your answers come alive somehow — you’ve got to make them real through your own creative applications, and you’ve got to strengthen your faith so you’ll keep at it.
How do you strengthen your faith?
Figuring it out, would be a very worthwhile goal to work on!
I believe Cameron is right about this: “As you strengthen your faith, it strengthens your ability to create.” Your faith in your own abilities, will strengthen through ‘IMI OLA when you do create their possibilities for your own life; we each create our own potential — if you don’t do it, who will?