“Your life is worth much more than gold.”
–song lyric from Jamming, by Bob Marley
There’s a phenomenon taking place today in an isolated corner of northeastern Nevada that hearkens back to the glory days of the American Wild West: a gold rush. With the current economic uncertainty driving gold prices north of $1,800 an ounce, the town of Elko, Nev. is booming. Elko has had its ups and downs since its founding in the 1860s, but last year produced more than $6 billion of the yellow stuff–making it the center of Nevada’s mining production. How long the rush will last is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, newbies and old timers fight over the scarcity of housing, temporarily occupying RV camps and showering at truck stops, while city fathers contemplate investments in Elko’s infrastructure. It all depends on the price of gold.
Money is the most booby-trapped topic there is. Think how polarizing money is in the popular catch phrases of our culture. Money makes the world go around. Money can’t buy happiness (or love). Money is the root of all evil. Money changes everything. I can only imagine how many hours on therapists’ couches (@ $200 an hour) are spent on this topic each year. And I’m not saying I have an easy answer here. How you think and feel about money is the by-product of a lifetime of conditioning. But if you choose to play big, you’ll need to deconstruct that conditioning and really examine how you’re currently going for the gold–and ultimately what the ‘gold’ should be.
I’d also offer a reality check for anyone lured by the mantra “Do what you love and the money will come.” In reality, not all jobs pay the same wage. And someone with a sincere passion to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon is likely to have a fatter bank account at the end of the day than one who, with equal drive and sincerity, chooses a career educating inner-city middle schoolers. But, as so many of my clients are proving, when you fully invest yourself in doing what you love, the value of that activity increases exponentially. What I’m talking about here is establishing a new paradigm for yourself where money is not the solitary litmus of success. In fact, the key for many people is to get focused on doing what they love and believe in 100%. And what happens behind that strategy in terms of satisfaction and quality of life will completely transform your current ideas of compensation.
To begin the deconstruction process, I ask my clients to list some of the beliefs they have about money. Their lists vary, but usually include things like “I’d love to quit and do what I love, but I can’t afford the pay cut” or “You have to suffer to be financially successful.” In the second part of the exercise, I ask them to try and think of an example that refutes their belief—in other words, “Do you know someone who switched to doing what they really love and was able to go on paying their bills?” And when they name an example, they begin to see that much of what they’ve believed about money is really a misconception–an attitude owing more to their conditioning than to actual fact.
We perceive many limits on what we can do. And here’s the kicker: most of those limits are set by us. Know how they train elephants? They start when they’re babies by looping a chain around one ankle. The other end of the chain is fixed to a metal stake driven deep into the ground so the baby elephant can’t get away. Over time as the baby elephant grows, the chain is replaced with a rope; the metal stake is traded for a wooden stick. Ultimately, even the rope and stick are removed as unnecessary. By then the elephant is so accustomed to his tether that he doesn’t stray, even when the actual restraint no longer exists. He’s learned he cannot run, so he never tries.
Look carefully at your own beliefs about money. Have you unknowingly tethered yourself to misconceptions that aren’t valid, that are keeping you from playing big? Then look down at your ankle. There’s nothing there. It’s time to run.
1. List three beliefs that you have about money. Are they true or just misconceptions? Think of examples that could prove these beliefs are misconceptions.
2. Research other stories on people who have gone from ‘riches’ to ‘rags’ and ended up doing a whole lot better than before.
3. Appraisal–Write out an appraisal of the things you value in your life. Your list should include things both material and nonmaterial. Assign an actual dollar value to everything on your appraisal list. Are there any surprises?