How Does Your Money Flow?

Money, in and of itself, has no value. In order to mean anything it has to circulate. It must flow.

I had an interesting conversation the other day that I want to share with you. I was talking with a woman who is a professional writer and she was telling me about her early career where she was a single mom struggling with money. She described how she was forced to buy the most basic necessities, and how, as a side effect of that, her kids learned the value of money and of working hard.

But what was really interesting about the conversation was when she told me that during that challenging time in her life she was always volunteering to bring food in for food drives or for church functions, how she’d bake brownies for school or donate to local charities. All of that from someone who had nothing, yet somehow they always had enough.

In fact, she told me that the only time she literally couldn’t make ends meet was after she started questioning her generosity and when she had made a decision to stop giving so much.

It’s ironic, but I’ve experienced the exact same thing, as have countless other people, I am sure. I know that for myself, every time I give (even when I feel like I can’t afford to be doing so), I always end up receiving more wealth in some form or another. I might pick up a new client who I wasn’t expecting to approach me, or I might get a forgotten about tax credit in the mail. However the money come back it happens, in one way or another, without fail, and I really do find it very interesting.

In order for money to come to you it also has to flow out. In order to experience being abundant or wealthy you also have to give, spend and act generously. Of course, you don’t always have to do this with money – time, expertise and even sharing a kind word are certainly other ways to give – and they leave you feeling good.

When you hold too tightly to money (or anything else for that matter), you never get to truly experience its goodness or full potential. And guess what? The same principles apply to business, too. On a very base level the whole purpose behind any business is to serve, to help support the employees and others who benefit in some way from the existence of the business. It is not only about (or should not be, anyway) getting the highest number in the bank account.

In my opinion it is bigger than that. And of course money and profits are hugely important, but they’re not as important as the lives that are impacted by the business and by the positivity that it has the power to spread. At the end of the day we are all in this thing called life together, at least at some level.

So, let the money flow for good causes, for helping your employees, vendors and others achieve financial freedom. Become prosperous so you can fully enjoy life, but share in that prosperity too because that is where the real value, joy and meaning ultimately comes from.

 

Successful AND Purposeful? Why, Yes, You Can.

shutterstock_236191663.jpg

I’m writing this post in early February which means spring is less than six weeks away, and there are only 46 more weekends before you’ll be opening Christmas presents again (just 44 weeks until the first day of Hanukkah!)

That’s pretty shocking, isn’t it? But I hope that instead of causing you to have a mild anxiety attack I can convince you of the importance of living in the moment and enjoying today for the miracle that it is. I recently read something that said if we only had seven more days on earth that we would surely make the effort to see all seven of those sunrises AND sunsets. We’d take the time to sit with loved ones, holding hands, hugging, talking… We’d eat ice cream, laugh and cry. The moments would be meaningful and our senses intensified to notice every detail, every nuance and bit of beauty.

The “small stuff” (i.e. most of what takes our attention on a daily basis) would seem insignificant as we got back in tune with that which really matters. I like to think that we would be kinder, more loving, more intentional with our thoughts and actions. In our “normal” every-day life, however, we tend to live with the illusion that we have all the time in the world. So often you hear about someone who gets a terminal diagnosis only to go on to say that in fact, that news was the best thing that could have happened to them because of the way it changed their entire outlook and life experience.

Without getting too esoteric, I would like to suggest that we don’t need the knowledge of a diagnosis or the threat of having just a week left on earth to decide to be more conscientious, mindful, and committed to finding in our work a real alignment with our true purpose.  I believe that business and the higher sense of purpose/ spirituality/ mindfulness are all intertwined and actually lead to better business decisions and a stronger brand and culture overall.

If you’re of the same mindset or if you’re curious about this way of thinking, there are some things you might be interested in. I’ve got a weekly podcast where I’m interviewing thought leaders, authors, trainers and coaches on these topics. The episodes are each around a half hour long and you can find them (and the show notes) on my personal brand website, and you can also find links there to subscribe to the series in iTunes, Google Play and other platforms.

I’ve also got an active Facebook and Twitter page under that brand where an active community is forming and where your voice would be welcome. We provide daily inspiration, ask thought-provoking questions and run regular contests where you can win prizes (the next one starts Feb 13 – please join us!)

My book on this topic is coming out in October, so I’ll be posting more about that process in the coming months.  If you have stories about how you’ve embraced mindfulness in business please share them below or reach out to me directly. You could be the perfect guest for one of our podcasts!

Live Like a Lottery Winner

shutterstock_310127303.jpg

Who hasn’t dreamed of winning the lottery? Sure, we’ve all heard the statistics – the odds of winning are less than the odds of meeting your high school sweetheart while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at precisely 2:32 p.m. on September 26. You are more likely to be struck by lightening on separate occasions, be crushed by a meteorite or even become an astronaut than you are to win the jackpot.

And the stories of all of the people who either lose their entire winnings or who are ruined by the experience are not very encouraging, either. But still, there is something enticing about the dream of choosing the winning numbers. How different and exciting your life would be… how you’d have entirely new freedom, happiness – and probably a better car – than you do now.

With one of the big jackpots creeping up towards $400 million again, it got me thinking about a conversation I had with a former neighbor of mine. We were living out in Los Angeles at the time and my friend Beth lived across the street with her husband and young son.

One day she announced that they had decided to move to Santa Cruz, on California’s Central Coast. I was surprised by this revelation, as they both had good jobs and were well established in LA, but Beth’s logic went something like this:

“If we ever actually won the lottery we’d move to Santa Cruz. The lottery thing may never happen, but we can control where we live. Even if we have to go to a smaller house and cut corners for a couple of years we’ll still feel like winners.”

Many years after this conversation happened it still sticks with me very poignantly. Some people might call what they did foolish or risky, but I think it’s just the opposite. What are the implications of not taking control of your happiness? How many people do you know who feel trapped in jobs or situations they don’t like, and who stay because they feel they “should”?

Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of:

“I’ll be happy as soon as I get that promotion?”

“When our sales reach “X” dollars, then I’ll be happy?”

“When I meet Mr. – or Ms. – Right, that’s when everything will be good.”

Are you starting to see what is wrong with this picture? With a limited number of days, hours, and minutes to walk this earth, isn’t it time to make a positive change in your life, starting today?

I ask you, don’t we all have a responsibility to live like lottery winners, even if it’s just in some small way? If you won the lottery what would you want? Is it more time with your family? Would you become a philanthropist? Spend time at the beach? Go fishing?

Sure, some of these things would be easier or could be done on a different scale with millions in your pockets, but life is short and if there are things you have thought about doing it’s time to start figuring out how to turn those ideas into reality.

It’s easy to make excuses but you’re surely doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t start taking little steps towards your big goals. Here is a guide to get you started.

  1. Visualize – close your eyes and imagine that you suddenly have endless wealth. What are the top five things you’d like to do?
  2. Now look at each of those things and consider, what is the core reason you would enjoy each one? For example, you may envision yourself living in a luxurious mansion, but if you dig a little deeper you may discover that the core enjoyment is, perhaps, being surrounded by beautiful things.
  3. Once you understand where your core pleasure is rooted, take out a piece of paper and brainstorm ways that you might start achieving some of those feelings of joy right now, before you win the lottery. For example, if you’re craving being surrounded by beautiful things could you take one room in your house, or one corner of a room and start a conscientious transformation of the space?

Continue taking small steps towards all five of your top lottery winner goals and you will gradually begin to see real transformation in your life, whether or not your numbers are ever drawn. For isn’t it true that we all owe it to ourselves to live our best lives, without waiting for some external event to make everything change?

My husband and I always said we’d become patrons of the arts when our big money ship came in. Well, we’re still waiting for our millions, but we’re not waiting to live out our dream. I have joined a committee on our local arts council and now support multiple artists by donating my time and what we can financially to this organization.

And what about my friend in Santa Cruz? She still hasn’t won the actual lottery yet, but she is living in a lovely little house in a very beautiful part of the country. By living bravely and by making conscientious choices she isn’t waiting to live the life of her dreams, and neither should you.

 

 

Life’s Short – Choose Joy

shutterstock_299316299.jpg

Have you ever had days – or weeks – or months – where things feel overwhelming? Bills are piling up, people aren’t returning your calls, and it seems like you’ve done all that you can do, but still things aren’t happening the way you’d like them to?

Do you ever just want to call a time out and say, “This is not what I signed up for?!”

If only you could control other people things might be closer to perfect – if by some magic mind trick you could make the client call and green light their project, turn your kids into perfect angels, or suddenly manifest a spouse who remembered to pick up the laundry and take out the trash.

Unfortunately, that kind of power is really just a fantasy, or at best, an illusion. The only things we ever really get to control are our own thoughts and actions. But the good news is, we still have a lot of say in how we go through life and experience the world.

Most people have something going on that is causing them stress – a money issue, a health concern, a troublesome relationship or some other matter. What’s interesting is that sometimes the smallest shift in our own perception of the situation can actually make the biggest difference.

Everyone and everything is constantly emitting energy. Have you ever met someone and immediately liked them – or had the opposite reaction? The way that you feel about the person is, in those first moments, your instinctual reaction to their energy and non-verbal cues. When you start to realize that this is true, and learn to change your own energy, you quickly see how you can use this to your advantage.

And it goes beyond just being the popular kid in the room to something way more ethereal.

A few months ago in my small business I was experiencing what we affectionately call a cash flow crisis. It seemed like everything was blocked in the way that water from a garden hose gets stuck when there is a kink somewhere before the nozzle. Checks I was waiting for were nowhere to be seen, despite all of my follow up, and bills were piling up on my desk. Every day I’d come into the office, look at the bills, and immediately start to feel anxious and tense. Then, when I didn’t see an ACH deposit in my bank, or a check in the mailbox, the anxiety would increase.

I was so tense I was not in the right state of mind to talk to new clients or grow my business and the whole thing turned into a vicious cycle. Because I’d taken every action I could think of around this problem I decided it was time to try something different.

So one morning as I was lying in bed and thinking about the day ahead I made a conscious decision to just be full of joy and gratitude. I promised myself that for that one day I would forget about the invoices and the bills. I would just focus on being happy and curious and working on moving my business forward.

When I came into the office I announced it. “Today I choose to be joyful.”

I got some strange looks, but that one decision made all the difference, as the floodgates of energy flow burst right open. Not only was I more relaxed and nicer to be around, but I was noticing the world in a whole new way. I started to see the beauty again in the sun and the trees. I noticed details that had escaped me for weeks when I was focused only on my problems. And I was able to bring this energy to conclude several successful talks with both new and existing clients.

That particular day several unusual things happened. First, someone we had never worked with before walked in off the street and hired us to do a job. For us acquiring clients usually takes months and some serious relationship building. Because we don’t rely on walk-in customers we are also not on any main thoroughfare, so for him to just show up and hire us was definitely out of the ordinary.

That same “joyful” day, we also got “random” calls from three separate people, asking us to collaborate on new projects. Some might call all of this a coincidence, but I don’t buy that. I’ve experimented with this conscious shift of energy time and time again and consistently see positive results when I follow these steps:

  1. Think about your patterns and identify where you’re experiencing anxiety or stress. If you don’t know, try writing out a list or sit quietly and meditate on this topic until things become clearer. If there are multiple areas, choose one to focus on.
  2. It’s important to take a two-pronged approach. Take action if you can, to work on your problem (even small steps that you believe will move you towards resolution), then be ready to step back and allow the Universe to work its magic. Don’t worry about controlling every part of the process from problem to solution.
  3. Set a time frame for yourself where you promise to be conscientiously joyful and stick to it. Whether it’s a day or a week or even a few hours, do not allow anything to interfere with your priority, which is to simply be happy and grateful.
  4. Take stock of what you experienced during your vacation from stress. Did you have a more enjoyable day? Did you receive any blessings, whether in the form of a friendly smile from a stranger or an unexpected gift or money from a new source?
  5. Journal, reflect, and if you feel inclined to do so, repeat the process.

 

Once you experience this shift for yourself, and practice these steps a few times, you’ll quickly be able to identify when the negative thoughts come creeping back in. You’ll also be able to easily flip the switch that will help shift from blocked energy to harnessing the vast power of positivity. Letting more joy in your life is a win-win, so what are you waiting for? Today is a perfect time to choose joy.

 

Homesteading: 5 Steps to Making Your Dreams Come True

shutterstock_274184543

I was listening to a TED Talk the other day and the presenter was speaking about amazing things she was able to accomplish in her teens and early 20’s because she was, to paraphrase, “too young and naïve to know that failure was a possibility.”

That statement struck a chord with me, because it was very much the way I was at that age. After college I moved to Europe and just expected things to work out, and so they did – beautifully. Because I didn’t even think about being scared I expected – and got – good jobs in the fields of radio, television and film. I lived in Prague, right on Václavské náměstí, one of the city’s main squares. I’d equate it to living right in Times Square in New York – it’s famous but very few people actually live there. Well, I did, in Prague, in affordable and comfortable apartments, not once, but twice, for the duration of my three and a half years in the city.

Looking back on that time and countless other fortunate “accidents” in my 46 years on this planet, I’m starting to see a real pattern, and that is, when I’m aligned with my purpose and focused on my goals, things always fall into place. And even though when times are tough and it’s not immediately obvious that it’s all working out as it should be, looking back it’s easy to see that the lessons, the connections, the foundation blocks, are all part of the plan.

This is probably an easier concept to embrace when we’re young, perhaps because we tend to not over analyze things. But then as we get older there are more things to consider – mortgages, kids, tenure, retirement, and sometimes we get stuck in our own heads and our own lives. It’s easy to move out of the realm of possibility and into more of a fear and lack-based mentality, unless we actively fan the fires of faith and hope. Although I strongly believe in the Law of Attraction – the idea that the Universe is always conspiring for our higher good –I find that I have to constantly be corralling and taming my thoughts and emotions to maintain the youthful panache that took me on a most excellent adventure to Europe, Los Angeles and then on to New York.

I frequently hear from people, many of whom are well-established in successful careers, that they feel unfulfilled because they have let go of the part of themselves that is chasing a dream. Sometimes they find that the voice inside their head that’s telling them to seize the moment simply cannot be silenced any longer. Those few who listen to this voice and ultimately take steps towards living their dream are the ones I think of as homesteaders.

Just like the pioneers who built our country, these folks are drawing a line, making a stake in what they claim as their own. No one can see every step of the way when starting on a new journey, but there is the promise of adventure, crossing paths with new people, the self-satisfaction of knowing that you went for it, and the peace that comes from not having to wonder, “what if”.

If your own little voice has been trying to be heard lately, here are some steps you can follow to move closer to living the life of your dreams.

  1. Be aware of when you feel most passionate and alive. Is it when you’re talking about becoming an actor? Does woodworking fill you with excitement? Is it working with children, or with animals? Do you love to write or do crafts? Many times people are not sure what their passion is, or what direction to go in, but if you start to tune into the way you talk about certain things, you might start to get some clues. Writing your thoughts down in a journal or developing a regular meditation practice can also help guide you in the right direction.
  2. Once you have a sense of what your life’s passion is it’s time to exercise your imagination. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and imagine a perfect life where you’re fully living your dreams, and expressing yourself through your gifts and whatever it is that resonates most with you. Allow yourself to really let your imagination loose here, in a big way. Release any limiting beliefs you have about your abilities or the feasibility of whatever your passion is. Just imagine that your wildest dreams are coming to fruition. For many of us, getting comfortable with seeing this picture is one of the hardest parts of the process, but it’s also one of the most important.
  3. No one achieves their goals by snapping their fingers or waving a magic wand. Everyone who does great things does so by moving consistently in the direction of their dreams. You can turn baby steps into a daily ritual until it becomes a habit. I like to begin every day by writing down at least 5 things that I’m grateful for, 5 things that I’m excited about that are coming up in the near future, 5 goals I have for myself in different areas of my life, and for each goal at least one baby step that I intend to take that day to move me in the direction of my dreams.
  4. As you think about the steps to turn your goals into reality, there are going to be things that come up that are outside of your comfort zone. That is good. Go out of your way to identify what these things are, and then just do them, one by one. Stepping out of your comfort zone could include joining Toastmasters and regularly giving speeches to that group. It can also involve joining a gym, or picking up the phone and calling someone who you believe can help you move your new business forward. Try to push on the limits of what is comfortable every single day.
  5. Share your gifts. You may not be in a position to get paid with money right away when you start pursuing your dreams, but there still may be ways to share your gifts with others. Can you volunteer at a school or retirement home? What about becoming a non-traditional intern for someone you admire in the field that you’re trying to break into? There are more ways to get a return on your investment than just monetarily, and all of these actions will help move you towards living the life you’re dreaming about.