Five Life Lessons on Money and Meaning
Money and Meaning. Yesterday I had coffee with an old friend here in Nice. We first met in 2010 at my first-ever public presentation about the Wheel of Creativity®. She is a master of Marketing knowledge, and we share common values for human beings and the planet. So we often talk about the intersection of money and meaningful work. In our professional practices, we both see so many of our clients – especially social entrepreneurs – struggle to bring the two together.
As we talked, I found myself recounting a bit of my own money story… through more than 30 years as a self-employed writer-turned-author/speaker/coach. I realized I’ve learned a few things through the years. And I’m thinking they might be useful to you.
I could promise you all kinds of things here, but promises are cheap. So instead, I’m offering you my honest life experience, without spin or angle, and what I know today.
Five Life Lessons on Money and Meaning
- Bloom where you’re planted. In my late ‘40s, I made my living writing and producing television in Hollywood. Late one night, surrounded by videotapes on the floor of my Studio City apartment, I wrote the script for another episode of Hollywood’s Greatest Stunts, furious that I was producing television about stunt men (and not doing what I was called to do, which clearly had more meaning for the world!). I realized that there lots of people who would kill for my job. So I tried to be grateful. And an idea came to me: The Lesson: Maybe you’re just here to be a light in this place at this time. Sometimes you just can’t see why you are where you are. Just show up. Trust the outcome. And be your best self anyway.
- It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. A few years later, a few major life choices (which some would say ‘didn’t work out’ but I will never regret) had taken me to a low point in my life. I was staying with a dear friend and going to Starbucks for an espresso was a treat. I did chores in exchange for rent and waited 10 months while negotiating an offer for my dream job. When that didn’t work out, I was just about to give up; only then and “out of the blue” a long-term freelance job came in from Nice France. And I took it. The Lesson: There may be many things you’ll have to do in your life to pay the bills that you would never do if you didn’t need the money. But I’m very clear that these very jobs can build your character, develop aspects of your personality (like discipline) you would never go looking for. And they very often lead to something better.
- Put your hands together. France not only offered me a fascinating project; it offered me a new perspective on life. I learned to see the world from “the other side.” Instead of living to work, I learned to work to live… and the power of balancing productivity with pleasure. The Lesson: Opposites, when linked, reveal the whole picture of life. Like this – one of the most consistent paradoxes of my life: “In one hand is the work I do for love; in the other is the work I do for money. ‘And never the ‘twain shall meet!’” I’ve spent decades searching for the perfect way to bring the two together. Maybe you relate. So what are our options?
- Most people spend a lifetime doing a job to pay the bills and relegating the things they love to hobbies they play at on the weekends and in retirement.
- Many people, inspired to change the world, spend years or so trying to monetize the work they love to do, but most of these people eventually admit it’s not working. Growing numbers of the “Do what you love, the money will follow” crowd are giving up on the idea. And they eventually go back to some version of (a).
- A small number of people take their work to the next level, take responsibility for their failure to “make meaning make money,” and take advice from the wealthy on how to success. The next two lessons come from them.
- Do what you love because you love to do it; do what makes money because it makes money. While in France, I met and English sea captain who asked me to marry him. We got married 10 years ago today (March 15, 2008). He retired a couple of years ago, and as he was looking for something else to do we got involved in property investing: We did some training, set a strategy, got some coaching, and made a start. It was a struggle for me to set aside the Wheel of Creativity for six months while we got the first property going; but that property supported us (and my work) more quickly than what I was doing then. The Lesson: Why spend your life trying to squeeze juice out of lemons Life gives you when you can plant the tree and pick your own? Let’s face it. Some professional activities make more money than others in this world. You can resist that fact, or you can use it to your advantage. Diversification is good business. And everything is temporary after all.
- The market always wins. In 2014, we bought a home in Boulder County, Colorado; and today I split my time between there, Nice and the UK. It’s a wonderful and challenging lifestyle; and I’ve learned so much about what people really need… all over the world. Even as we built the property business together, I felt more determined to never give up on my own life work… and to finally figure out what I was doing wrong. One of my most humbling discoveries was the difference between those who teach what they think people need to learn and those who teach what people know they need to learn. Believe me, I was the former for a very long time. I had my precious IP, and I knew the world needed it (still do), but I was not willing to make the effort (and it is sometimes very hard) to translate my work into the language of the market. The Lesson: Until you’re willing to do this (and it might take years), you will not become financially successful. People buy pain relief. They buy urgently that which removes what hurts them most. If you’re not selling your XYZ, the fault does not lie with them; it lies with you. Do the training. Get the coaching. Change your attitude.
When our time was up yesterday, and I rushed off to speak with one of my students, my friend and I hugged each other and agreed to get together again to continue a clearly unfinished conversation.
Let me just say, this is where I am today. I will not be surprised at all if next year another idea replaces these, and I have a new insight that gives me greater perspective. So, if this has made sense to you, hang around… I can promise you this: the best is yet to come.
If even one of these lessons resonates for you, then it’s time to make the change. BE the change. The world needs your contribution.
- State your vision.
- Feel your commitment to it.
- Build the bridge from wherever you are today to where you know you want to be.