What does money mean to you? If one were to conduct a survey and ask 1,000 different people, they would receive countless numbers of answers.
Money manifests itself through metaphors.
For many, money equals survival. For others, it’s leverage. Some might say “freedom” or “success.” Others might equate it to status, respect, style, security, travel, excitement, the means to attract a quality mate, or a luxury lifestyle.
And we all have our own attitudes and emotional drivers lingering under the surface, where money is concerned. Some people consume money as quickly as they receive it. Some think they are not worthy of it. Some believe it flows freely. Some think it is the root of all evil. Most of us want more of it.
If you have some time to kill and are up for a laugh, spend some time on Instagram, search hashtags such as “#successquotes” and look at the imagery people use.
Each of us relate to money through certain metaphors to give it a meaning that we can understand. For instance, let’s assume you were to travel to Papua New Guinea and were told a bottle of water costs five Papuan New Guinea kina. To understand the value to that amount, you would have to translate the amount to whatever home currency that you’re used to.
But these money metaphors extend to far beyond just foreign exchanges and form the basis of our complex relationships with money. Metaphors come to characterize different mentalities of people with dramatically varying fortunes where finances are concerned. These attitudes form the basis of our money mindset.
I find it interesting that we have such a long, complicated relationship with money, yet it’s only a rare few who are able to “tame the beast” and ride it to real wealth.
In truth, though we interact with money constantly, very few of us are in control of the relationship. For many of us, money acts like a rechargeable battery not unlike the one on your iPhone. We pay rent and bills each month, and the balance goes down. A client puts down a deposit, and much like a phone recharges, the balance renews. But we never upgrade the battery.
The working class goes to work, and renews their financial battery. Many then spend it on the weekend to forget the workweek, and it depletes. The cycle see-saws back and forth and the majority of us never achieve any real freedom for ourselves.
“Go to the ocean to fill up a thimble or a bucket, the ocean doesn’t care”
– Dr. Wayne Dyer
A much more empowering money metaphor – that I prefer today – is to think of money like water. Water flows throughout the world and gives life to everything. When we are thirsty, we immediately look for water to drink. When we’re in the middle of the desert, dying of thirst, we become desperate for water. In other words, the more scarce it is, the more desperate we become for it.
Money works the same way. Like water, it is also vital to most of the things we do. When we lack money, it dominates our thoughts. We begin to look for a job, or seek other ways to earn some. Like water, when we don’t feel an urgent need for it, we often tend to forget about it. And thus its guided by our feelings and short-term survival-based decision making.
However, I believe the key to building real wealth is to work to uncover or create springs that sustain us over the long term, finally breaking the cycle of scarcity.
In this piece we aim to expose the different paradigms and viewpoints with regards to money and wealth creation, so that we can shine light on any mental blind spots and shift our focus and energy to more constructive habits.
Our goal is to leave behind the static working class and join the “new rich” – where true wealth becomes abundant to us.
The “new rich” are a new and dynamic class of people: digital nomads, remote workers, and lifestyle designers who have created a powerful paradigm of life with rules that they set. They forego certain aspects that characterize “old wealth” completely, such as owning a home, to become wealthy beyond belief in other areas, such as time and location freedom.
Regardless of the path we choose in life, it’s important to understand that many of us may handicapped in our financial conditioning, and don’t even realize it. We are pre-programmed to have a certain “money mindset” – based on our upbringing, social conditioning, and our own experiences surrounding money. Or perhaps we’ve adopted beliefs from peers that we associate with.
This conditioning is always with us, influencing the decisions we make. Truly, it affects us in ways that we don’t even realize. Because it’s so subjective, many of us are not able to zoom out and install a new financial mindset that can create real and lasting financial freedom for us.
For me personally, change was a long drawn-out journey that lasted several years across three continents.
“Here’s a fact from my 30+ years of doing marketing consulting with business owners: those making the most money know their numbers inside and out, thoroughly, completely.”
-Dan Kennedy, “No BS Price Strategy”
My Long Marriage with Money
Now, for a bold statement:
Many people will never be able to create real wealth, in their current frame of mind, and most will never no why.
I say this in confidence because I was one of these people for a very, very long time. It’s been a slow, evolving process to help me finally “turn the corner” and see the follies of my own thought process.
I don’t claim to have all of the answers; and I couldn’t, seeing as how I’m not a billionaire. But I have successfully transitioned into the emerging “New Rich” class which exists separately from the traditional classes of poor, middle, and rich as we have come to know them.
I’ve become wealthy in so many ways that I can’t believe or ever thought possible.
I’m the master of my own life; and my relationship with money has blossomed into a beautiful marriage after many years of forlorn and neglect.
In 2011 I booked my first one-way ticket, to Argentina, with no return plans. By default, I withdrew to a mindset of frugality and scarcity, mostly as a protection mechanism.
Here I was, in a far corner of the world, landing in a continent where I knew no one. I had no one else around who could look out for me.
I started a marketing agency in 2009 and it was stable by this point, but I was still overly cautious. I was operating from a position of abstract fear.
About one month after I arrived in Buenos Aires, I completed my first membership website, “The WordPress Design Institute.” Everyone I knew who was a seasoned internet marketer advised me to build a membership website – that’s where the action was, they said. I spent several months creating the course material.
I remember carrying around this “if only” narrative that repeated itself over and over in my head.
It went something like this: “If only I get this membership website up, then I could start earning real money, gain passive income, and experience true lifestyle freedom like the real superstars.”
But once it was finally live and out in the world, I all but gave up. I wrapped up too much of myself into the course and my ego caused me to resist efforts to market the website. Fear of failure, rejection, and embarrassment caused me to hide my head in the sand. These fears were abstract, imaginary, with no real foundation whatsoever.
I quit – purely because of my mindset. A voice of safety and security reassured me to comfort me, as if it were expecting this result: “I already have a secure business model that’s working and making money (working for clients), why bother taking a risk and investing in something else?”
That was my general feeling. And my membership site flopped. Not because I didn’t have the time or money. But because I defeated myself.
I had all these narratives running through my head, which were not my own, guiding my actions. I held on to too many inner beliefs about my own self worth and what I could accomplish that stopped me from truly taking flight.
My mindset, rooted in fear and doubt, killed that business venture.
This fear paralyzed me in many ways back then – both in terms of my business and personal life. It was a dead financial mindset that automatically circumvented the possibility to create real wealth for myself.
“Change, or we’re getting a divorce!”
About six months after I departed South America, I booked my next one way ticket, this time to Southeast Asia. And my relationship with money continued to evolve (in a good way).
I arrived fresh off the plane in Bangkok, again in another continent where I did not know a single soul. I forced myself into another scenario of discomfort and embracing the unknown. Entering in to this type of environment facilitates learning and rapid change, out of pure necessity.
Reflecting back on my experience in South America, I didn’t want to default back to becoming a hoarding miser again and miss out on all the cool things I could experience in Asia.
Immediately I began to take direct control over my finances. Marketing author Dan Kennedy, of whom I was an avid reader at the time, wrote in his book “No BS Price Strategy” that “successful people know the numbers.”
The biggest change I made upon my arrival in Thailand is I learned how to track my expenses and project a budget for myself. This took a hammer to my previously abstract mindset towards money and broke the puzzle down into small chunks that I could use more constructively as building blocks.
Each time I made a purchase, I would write down what I spent and the cost. I could create comfortable daily and monthly budgets for myself, which helped to set me at ease. It was the abstract nature of money that caused me anxiety, so breaking it down in to hard numbers helped immensely.
After returning from Asia, I decided to take a few weeks to ride my bicycle across Mexico. I calmly set a budget $300 to cover my lodgings and expenses for the entire trip, which was easily affordable. Boom. Simple.
Creating and Living Abundance
At some point a few years later I was traveling overland across Indonesia, where I was actively practicing abundance exercises that I found on YouTube.
It was during this time that I started to believe that money really could be much easier to acquire than I thought.
By this point, all my fears around money were gone. Vanished forever into the wind, never to return.
I was living life on a new and more liberating operating system. Small changes to my mindset, and simple exercises to practice was all it took (more on those in the next page).
The thing to realize is that we tend to withdraw into a scarcity mindset because we think it protects us. By withdrawing into a figurative “shell,” we believe that we retreat into safety.
However, this point of view is a huge handicap when it comes to making the right decisions that lead to wealth creation.
Poor decisions caused by “turtling” behavior lead to long periods of hemming and hawing, frustration, and delay. In short, ineptitude. This mindset paralyzes so that we act dead, as the saver becomes trapped in a non-generative retreat from living.
When we hold a scarcity mindset, we doubt geniune opportunities. In general, we lack confidence of overall success. And worse still, it causes us to sabotage ourselves.
Here’s the reality of the situation:
The most effective entrepreneurs have a huge “reality distortion field.” Richard Branson, who has undertaken numerous death-defying stunts throughout his lifetime, is an example. Elon Musk is another.
They aren’t so blindly optimistic that they don’t realize potential risks, but their mindset more than compensates for any potential stumbling blocks.
Musk, incredibly, is certain that what we experience as reality is nothing more than a sort of virtual simulation created by a more advanced life form. He recently insisted that our odds of living in “base reality” are less than 1 in 1,000,000,000.
Is it any wonder, then, that his goals (and the expectations he sets for himself and those around him) seem outlandish and far-fetched when compared to our own?
He literally believes he’s living in an altered reality than the one you or I take for granted. One where he can play by a different set of rules, one where things like failure and rejection are moot, one where he can dare to push the limit of reality.
I believe there’s enormous power in deliberately calibrating our subjective view of reality in a way that empowers us to the utmost. Through the lens of mindfulness and introspection, we can adjust our subjective reality and thus what we’re able to accomplish.
It starts with setting unrealistic goals. If your current goals don’t cause you to well up with excitement, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Embrace ideas and actions that challenge your preconceived notion of reality. Be flexible and fluid of thought. Question everything, including your own habits and beliefs. When presented a new way of looking or doing things, try it out immediately and test the results in an objective fashion.
Never become complacent in your routines or attitudes; when you do, it’s time to pause, take a step back, and reflect.
Upgrading to an Abundance OS
Changing your mindset from a position of scarcity is like removing your computer’s faulty operating system and replacing it with a new one.
One that’s faster, more powerful, and better in every way.
But it requires a complete overhaul, starting with acceptance of the problem and a firm commitment to changing our faulty programming.
For me, change was a painful process. For so long, money represented hard work and struggle. I guard my money with an iron grip. Taken to the extreme, it became a huge handicap that blinded me and severely limited me from earning more.
I started to realize more and more that I had a problem. Why were so many of my friends killing it, making $15,000 – $25,000 a month, while I was scraping by on a mere few thousand per month?
I began to search around for answers, and watched an excellent video by Marie Forleo (“Money Mindsets that Pay off Huge”) which helped me to upgrade my programming by first changing my attitude towards money.
The first technique that she suggested was to keep a gratitude journal. Rather than focusing on what you want, or what you don’t have, take time every day to appreciate the abundance that’s already in your life. Realize that to some extent you enjoy a life of abundance.
A human in 2016 lives a longer, healthier life than someone a hundred years ago. You have electricity, running water, security, food to eat, and live in a society where you own the freedom to pursue your dreams. And you have the will to carry them out (after all, you’re reading this).
The second technique that I took from that video was that every time you spend money on a purchase, tell yourself, “There’s plenty more where that came from.” This conditions you to truly believe that money is a renewable resource, not a fixed one, and it is not difficult to renew if you have the right atittude. By instilling and constantly reinforcing this belief, it conditions you to go out and find opportunities or create them of your own volition.
This is how you create an abundance mindset.
Of course, an abundance mindset does not mean that you are careless or frivolous with your money. It does not mean that you do not value it enough to hoard it.
It simply means that you have changed your relationship with money. Money becomes a source of pleasure and a building block rather than a source of angst. Best of all, when you run your life through an abundance filter, it gives you perspective to make better decisions.
For example, let’s assume that you had to decide upon a new laptop to purchase. One option might be a Macbook Pro, which costs several times more than many Windows-based options on the market.
Yet if you were to think long-term, the Macbook Pro would prove to be cheaper because it retains its resale value. Provided you kept it in great condition, you could use that Macbook for two years, resell it to another user for 70 – 80% of the initial purchase fee, and use the proceeds to upgrade to a newer model.
A cheaper laptop would not retain its resale value, so after two years it would either be an expensive paperweight or something you’d give away to your one of your parents.
Another example might be purchasing a car. When you buy a car new from the dealer, it loses more than half its value the moment you drive it off the lot. There is no practical rationale or benefit to buy a new car, except perhaps the short-lived immediate gratification it provides.
A person whose mindset is rooted in scarcity, such as a lottery winner, would make a very different decision about which car to purchase than someone who is self-made and trained to make smarter decisions based on future projections and long-term thinking. It is said that successful self-made people don’t buy luxury cars, it’s their children that do. Bill Gates, for instance, drives a very basic pickup truck.
A couple of years ago, I was at the height of my scarcity mentality. I quit my marketin agency to become a writer… and struggled through my first book. Money again became scarce; a commodity to be hoarded. I was back in the desert without a drop to spare.
Then I met an affiliate marketer – the type that exuded hubris – in Chiang Mai. Money is everywhere, he said, you just have to believe it is!
It sounded like a load of crock. No amount of manifesting or visualizing seemed to make a damn bit of difference.
I didn’t like to admit it, but he was right and I was wrong. There’s certainly nothing wrong with scarcity as a temporary condition. But when it consumes you and takes hold of your beliefs and manifests in your self-identity it becomes a chronic cancer.
Admitting this is hard. No one likes to admit that their own beliefs are what holds them back. I certainly didn’t – and I was all too happy to point to outside factors that inhibited my success, rather than take a hard look within.
But we have to look inside and change our scarcity mindset to one of abundance if we truly want to soar to new heights and reach real financial freedom.
What does an entrepreneur with a mindset of abundance accomplish? How might do they things differently?
• They create a startup in 7 days and acquire their first customer
• They challenge themselves to launch 12 startups within twelve months.
• They create their first niche website that earns $100 / month. Then they hire writers and create 200 more.
• They publish more than 30 books on Amazon and earn six-figures as an author.
Each of these examples are of real people whom I know personally.
A key to making this model work is that you don’t fall in love with any one idea or permanently commit to any single project or venture.
It’s about attacking the unknown, the chaotic nature of entrepreneurship; not by trusting in some “guru,” or some turn-key system “guaranteed” to earn you money. It’s an experimentalist approach where every idea is given merit, and implemented upon quickly.
You never know whether that new idea that suddenly struck while you were in the shower or swimming in the pool could potentially pay off until you put it in front of potential customers.
The classic mistake that many well-meaning aspiring entrepreneurs make is that they take too long to get their product out there. I’m often dismayed by the questions I see posed in startup forums:
“Which domain registrar should I pick?”
“What e-mail follow up service should I use?”
Look, there’s nothing wrong with educating yourself but these are trivial matters that we tend to play up to be more important than they are. Baby steps matter. But purchasing a bat and a helmet is not the same as the actual act of hitting a baseball.
Ultimately, trivial decisions need to be made in the shortest amount of time possible or outsourced somewhere else. In my book “Buy Your Own Island” I share the example of the productivity pyramid, which provides a great framework for managing business decisions. But in general, the simplest and easiest solution is best.
Two sides of a Telescope
It’s a hard reality, but without some serious mental rewiring many people are not cut out to be “true” entrepreneurs.
Take two entrepreneurs, Nancy and Jane, as an example.
Nancy, the first one, takes six months to set everything up for her business. She’s a perfectionist; everything needs to be just right. She’s taken her time to get the perfect name, brand, logo, website, etc. She’s sure that everyone will appreciate her attention to detail and love her.
The problem is, six months have passed and her business has still not made a single dollar. Worse, if she continues, the core ethos of the business is fundamentally flawed.
Businesses reflect the personality of the entrepreneur who starts them. Energetic entrepreneurs create energetic businesses. Meticulous entrepreneurs create meticulous businesses.
And an entrepreneur who starts a business slowly by because they’ve been methodical about trivial decisions is far less likely to ever enter into the fast lane. This is due to one dark, underlying secret: we become addicted to the struggle. Before long, we become so used to it that we lose sight of what our real goal was in the first place.
An entrepreneur who understands the abundance mindset and the importance of implementing quickly could test ten different ideas within the same six months.
Thanks to Facebook, you can share your idea with a targeted group in minutes. With a service like LeadPages, you can set up a landing page within an hour or two and start collecting orders.
And most importantly, this entrepreneur starts out in the fast lane. Jane realizes that all you need to have a business is a customer. Most importantly, she doesn’t become married to any idea or hold any firm convictions or absolute life truths. She experiments, and if something works well, she’ll invest more into the idea. If an idea doesn’t work out, she won’t have lost anything.
This is the opposite of Nancy, who could spend months or more than a year on something only to realize that it’s not working. I have worked with MANY aspiring entrepreneurs like this when I was in the web design business. A year or two after they registered their domain, they chose not to renew, because they’d given up, even though they invested so much to get it going.
The ultimate success of the second entrepreneur starts with her mindset and the philosophy that she operates from. Success does not come from the vehicle you pick, it comes from the driver.
An entrepreneur with an abundance mindset acknowledges that opportunities are everywhere; and she’s willing to give a chance to many of them. Because she comes from a place of optimism, she’s able to stick out potential challenges and overcome them, but also able to realize when an idea is a bad one or not aligned with her values.
I liken the two differing approaches between the entrepreneur in the first example and the one in the second to looking through a telescope. Someone who has never seen a telescope before (or started a business), would not know which side to gaze through. By taking six months to perfect her perfect idea, then finally put out an iteration, the first entrepreneur is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. The lens which she holds her eye up to may seem large, but it’s also the wrong end.
Of course, the telescope is figurative. The literal telescope is our mindset, which determines the approach we take. There are no shortage of business ideas out there. And there’s a thousand different ways to create wealth.
Even seasoned self-employed people make these mistakes. They’ve found success working with one model, such as consulting, then try to start a blog with no prior experience and no business model.
I have a friend exactly like this. From the outside, he is the definition of success. Several law firms in the US outsource their legal work to him while he travels around the world.
But whenever he shares new business ideas with me, I ask him, “How will you monetize?” He can’t answer. And because he lacks a business model, none of these ideas ever go anywhere. If acted upon these ideas become hobbies, not businesses.
Another classic mistake is that many business ideas lay grounded in the entrepreneur’s own ego. My friend, for instance, wants to create a travel blog where he models in the different traditional garbs of countries he visits. It sounds fun, but again, he doesn’t have a solid plan for making money.
And again, I’m only able to make light of these mistakes because I myself have made many. A few years ago I quit a profitable business to start work on a 323 page book, despite the fact that I wasn’t a writer.
Sheer force of will – and downgrading my lifestyle to that of a college student – carried me through until the end. But the entire process of writing and publishing that book, as a first-time self-published author was long and not very profitable.
It’s important to understand that the majority of us have flawed or incomplete programming where finances are concerned, which cause us to make harmful decisions in terms of where we invest time and money.
This is exacerbated by the fact that most of us have not had to manage a great deal of money personally, either by ignorance or choice. And when we do suddenly come into possession of significant wealth, we are often wholly unexperienced to make wise decisions. Middle class workers would rather trust in “experts” to manage mutual funds rather than make their own decisions about where to invest their money.
But entrepreneurs are a different breed. They can’t allow this mindset to seep in to their system. Rather than placing stock in something stable – something certain – an entrepreneur’s role is to create something that didn’t exist before.
For an entrepreneur, resources such as time, money, and relationships are assets to leverage and use as building blocks.
That’s why in order to create real above average success we need to take a hard look at our relationship with money and take an axe to any tendency towards scarcity, if that’s where we see ourselves coming from.
We also need to end the “battery” mindset of the labor class, where we view the numbers in our bank accounts like a rechargeable battery. It’s up to you to choose what metaphor you’d like to pick as far as money is concerned.
But if you find yourself stuck in one of these limiting financial mindsets then it’s time to install new, better, more enabling beliefs that empower you to create opportunities from nothing and turn your ideas into dollars.