Wednesday, January 13, 2021

On the Positive Side

We just closed out 2020, which many have semi-jokingly compared to a dumpster fire, and who can blame them?  We turn on the news and hear stories about increasing death tolls, positivity rates, people that can't hug their grandparents, election turmoil, looming eviction crisis, and the list goes on. It's hard not to be impacted by the flurry of negative information being pumped into our minds through our televisions, smartphones, computers, and even conversations with other people.  How can this not grate on the collective psyche?  Moreover, how does this not filter down to the individual on a micro-level?  These large doses of macro-level negative information could easily program our minds to look for more negative information.  The easiest place to turn is within our own life situations.

Where our attention goes, our energy flows.

I watch a bit of news in the morning because I like to know what's happening in the world; it helps me to be better informed in a variety of aspects of my life.  I want to be an informed consumer, voter, educator, writer, friend, and overall human being.  Now, the truth is that I only need to watch a little bit of the news in order to be satisfied that I've achieved this state.  Very quickly the news starts to loop, and the same stories get recycled.  At this point, I have a choice:  I can either remain on this train or get off.  I choose to exit.  I might change the channel to something that feels uplifting or inspirational, or maybe I'll indulge myself in an episode of Murder She Wrote or the Golden Girls (Hey, you have your pleasure, I'll have mine, right?).  I might exit the train to go meditate, walk, or read.  It all depends on my mood and need in the moment.  Regardless of which choice I make in that given moment, I recognize and honor the existence of the status quo, and then I reach for something that feels better.

This key mindset shift could serve to benefit us in many aspects of our lives, particularly where our finances are concerned.  As I scroll through social media, I see countless tales of individuals that are having some really negative experiences in their work-life.  I remember reading an Eckhart Tolle passage, where he describes the idea that at times, we don't need to change what we're doing, but rather how we are doing it.  This really resonates with me because it speaks to the power of positivity.  I understand that there are many work experiences that range in negative feelings anywhere from unsatisfied to toxic, and that might not change overnight. But what I ask is this:  Is it necessary to give it that much of our mental and emotional energy?  Clearly, we pride ourselves on performing our job functions to the best of our ability because we are people with integrity and pride.  But do we need to get tangled up in a mental and emotional, negative downward spiral?  Mentally and emotionally, can we turn toward something that feels really good to start a transition toward something more empowering?

Not so long ago, I started an experimental side-gig.  I knew that I had knowledge and expertise in this area, and was really excited to use it (making a little extra money was a bonus).  I very quickly started to emotionally spiral downwards, as I felt underpaid, and under-supported by a manager that was rarely there.  I was also irritated by what felt to me like a lack of organization within the company.  I almost immediately noticed the negative feelings coming into my experience. I had committed to this side-gig for a set duration of time.  So, it was important to me that I see it through.  I could have let myself stew in my own misery, but misery breeds more misery.  Why would I want to sit there for the duration feeling miserable?  So, I spent the next few months, focusing my energy on the couple of coworkers that I really enjoyed, how much fun it was to learn more about the subject matter, and the delicious fresh-baked bagels on the corner.  These were my wins; these were the things that made me feel good within that situation.  I tried to avoid focusing on the less-than-desirable parts and engaging in negative conversations.  That last one is difficult, isn't it?  I know it's a matter of semantics, but our words are powerful, and those negative conversations can really make their way into our mental and emotional lives.  Now, I want to cycle back to the idea that sometimes we don't need to change what we're doing, but rather how we're doing it.  I knew that I had a lot of promise in this particular area and that I was going to see my original commitment through; however, this company wasn't a great match for me.  Focusing my thoughts a bit more on more enjoyable avenues of utilizing my skillset felt really good.  Suddenly, my world felt like it was open to a myriad of possibilities.  That feels so much better than sinking in the quicksand of misery.  What ultimately came out of it was me starting my own business.  I'm absolutely excited about my new business.  I never felt that excited about working for the other organization.  That's a mental and emotional win!  Financially speaking, the long term growth potential is astronomically higher, though that may or may not be realized in the first year.  With the company, annual increases are limited; with my business, they're limitless.

Several years ago now, had a private student loan.  It was a manageable payment but at a variable interest rate.  Dangerous, right?  When the interest rate is variable, there's no way to guarantee it won't eventually make your payment skyrocket.  I've never been a fan of that kind of uncertainty.  So, after all of my credit cards were paid off, I turned to it next.  It was by far the largest, single debt I had tackled at that point in my life, and it was easy to allow my emotions to get entangled in the magnitude of the task at hand.  Many people that favor the "debt snowball" strategy (where you pay the smallest balance first, then the next smallest, and so on) cite the psychological momentum as the primary reason for the practice.  This strategy isn't the one that has the largest impact mathematically, but the "quick win" associated with satisfying one of the accounts in full makes people see immediate progress and feel really good.  That keeps momentum going in the right direction.  Now the truth is that I'm not necessarily on "team debt snowball" because I've personally combined strategies and had success.  What I do want to reinforce is the mindset shift.  When we shift our thinking away from the magnitude of debt and all of the negative emotions that go with it, we will absolutely start to build our own momentum.  When I was tackling this private student loan, I prided myself in the fact that I always did a really good job keeping up with my payments and making them on time.  I would also round my payments up to the nearest $5 or $10 mark.  I was really proud that I consistently did that.  I celebrated the small wins and positive habits.  Those small wins are what help build positive momentum in reaching goals.    When I started throwing larger sums of money at the loan to pay it off quickly, instead of lamenting about the balance that remained, I reframed it.  "I have paid this $1000 for the last time.  I am done with this $1000 forever.  How amazing is that?!"  And you know what?  It's true!  Every $1000 that is paid down on the principal of a loan is a thousand dollars that is gone forever!  Doesn't that feel amazing?!  We can reach goals and feel good in the process.

When you ask people what they really want in life, you get a lot of really fascinating responses. The funny thing is that they pretty much always boil down to "I want to be happy."  You see, I'm not sure that happiness is a destination.  Happiness is the journey.  So, perhaps one of our biggest goals going forward should involved training our minds to look at the glass and see it half full of something worth celebrating.  As I work on this in my own life, I notice that it keeps coming more easily all the time, and I'm happy. So, what is it in your life that has you constantly circling back to the negative place? Consider whether or not you can change the how if you either can't or don't care to change the what. Look for small wins or little moments that make you feel good.  Choose your words carefully.  Is there a way you might feed your mind hope?  Is there something that feels good that deserves more of your attention than the thing that doesn't feel so good?  Remember, it's okay to reach our goals and feel good in the process.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

4 Steps to Analyze and Release Resistance



Over the course of the past year, there have been some things coming together for me.  I am working on expanding my business, and really pleased about the direction it's going.  Just as teenagers have growing pains, we too experience discomfort as a result of our expansion.  This discomfort often comes in the form of resistance.  

Resistance:  Any thoughts, feelings, or beliefs that are inconsistent with or contrary to that which is desired. The state of resisting something that has a relationship to an overall goal or desired outcome. (In all practically, if you consider what it means to resist something, you get the picture.)

Resistance is a topic that is familiar in the Law of Attraction space but receives limited attention in the realm of personal finance.  This is unfortunate because resistance is a mental and emotional barrier that provides valuable insight as to what we really want.  The more people I work with, and the more work I do on myself, the more I realize that resistance is simply a part of my own expansion so long as I take care to analyze and release it.  

First, isolate the area of life in which you're experiencing resistance. There may be multiple areas but start with just one.  In my case, I'll begin with my work.  Since we spend so much of our time at work, and it is oftentimes the primary source of our financial lives, we'd like our work experience to be as wonderful as possible.  So if resistance pops up there, it's worth addressing.

1.  What is it you resist doing/thinking about/facing?

This is where you simply list the things you seem to resist doing.  Don't judge them, just get them down.  

Recently, a colleague recommended that I consider the implementation of a particular technological tool.  This particular piece of technology could streamline a few things for me, and make certain aspects of doing my workflow more easily.  I went to the website suggested by my colleague and immediately felt anxious.  My mind became flooded and I was completely overwhelmed.

As it turns out, I tend to resist executing certain kinds of technological tasks.  If someone else is able to implement the technological tool, I'm all for it.  But, I tend to resists being the one that needs to execute it.

2.  Why do you resist doing this?

Again, we're not judging ourselves, but we are taking the opportunity to have a little conversation with our inner self about its reasoning.  

With regards to my technology resistance, I've noticed that over the years I've always felt a little behind where such things are concerned.  It seems that people just a few years younger than me had access to technology in their schoolyears constantly.  That wasn't my situation.  We used very little technology when I was in high school, but just a few years after I graduated that seemed to change, and high school students' education became very technology-centered.  I literally didn't learn how to use the internet until college.  Now, I've learned a lot over the years, and I would say I'm pretty well competent at the most important things.  My relationship with technology doesn't in any way prevent me from being able to do my job. That being said, I completely shy away from things that appear to be "too advanced."

3.  What is this highlighting?

Often times when we're experiencing resistance, it's highlighting perceived barriers that shed light on that which we do want by way of that which we don't want.  

In my life, this is highlighting that I really want things to feel simple.  I want things to flow.  

3b.  Is there a Limiting Belief in play?

Sometimes, when we begin to consider what is being highlighted by the resistance, it will bring us to a limiting belief.  While that's not always the case, it certainly was with me and my technology "issue."  In fact, I have been literally saying (and reinforcing) my own limiting belief for YEARS.  Here it is:  "I'm not a very technological person."

There's a lot of work that I do around limiting beliefs and have written about it before.  I know there's plenty I can do to dispel this one because, in all actuality, I'm not entirely sure it's even true!  There are countless technological things I've done thus far in life, and I'm sure there will be countless more!  I have written down this limiting belief and am doing to do some work around it.  But for this moment, I want to stick with the items that's caused me the resistance in this situation.  So, that leads me to my last resistance analysis question.

4.  What can I do about it?

In an ideal world, this step leads you to some inspired action.  This is where you brainstorm some options that make sense for your particular scenario.

I could choose to ignore everything that appears to be above my technological skill level.  Quite frankly, if I didn't even touch this technological tool recommended by my colleague, my life would be fine.  It's really not essential at all.  But that option doesn't totally feel right.  

I could choose to approach it with curiosity.  I've actually been doing that.  I've gone back to this website several times and done some reading about this technological tool, and the truth is that it's not really making me feel anxious and overwhelmed anymore.  I'm not quite ready to go full-on in using it yet, but I'm choosing to be curious about it: What is it?  How does it work?  Could it actually be fun in some way?

I could also lean on my other two team members as I learn how to use it.  They are both more comfortable with certain types of technology than I am.  Maybe they could help me investigate it.  Quite frankly, maybe one of them will think it's simple and want to take it on entirely.  That would be fine too.

In my situation, what feels right is to continue some gentle poking around and investigating with this little technological item that's causing me resistance.  But in other cases, resistance might literally be highlighting something you absolutely don't want in life, and that's okay too!  The point is to stop and take stock by analyzing your resistance.  No matter what I choose to do, I am ready to simply let it go.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Year in Review: Key Learnings and Inspired Action

The world shut down this year. I never thought I'd experience such a thing.  As 2020 comes to a close, and my birthday has just passed, I find myself experiencing a year in review.  It's nothing I do officially, but I find that there is an outtake reel that plays in my mind that plays a "best of" sequence which might be better relabeled a "most notable of" sequence.  While this might play like a bit of an "event checklist" in my mind, I find it good for my spiritual and financial practice to connect events to key learnings and inspired actions.  So, here are some of the most notable events in my personal year, and the subsequent takeaways.


Rental Property in Perspective

The cold, hard fact of 2020 is that our tenants have spent roughly equal amounts of time paying their rent versus not.  There were a number of months in a row where they were unable to make payments.  During that time, there were maintenance things that popped up albeit small ones.  None of this is good.  Owning rental real estate can be a huge risk.  This is especially true when you have a mortgage on the property, which we do (granted it's a small one).  

Key Learnings:  There were some practicalities of our situation that make this situation turn out fine.  We have a savings account earmarked specifically for the rental property to cover any emergencies or repairs.  This savings is built 100% from funds brought in by the property.  As of March 2020, it was equal to 5 months of mortgage payments.  This move really provided a lot of peace of mind for us.  Interestingly, we didn't even touch that savings account because of the second practical strategy we implement in our lives.  We choose to live off of one income.  Currently, we have two full-time incomes. So, when the tenants couldn't pay, we simply made the payment out of our own income and didn't have to use the savings account.  From a Law of Attraction standpoint, mindset was tremendously important in this area.  Neither my partner nor I were ever worried about whether or not the tenants could pay.  We were obviously in communication with our management company, and keeping up on the status of things, but we always adopted the attitude that it'll be fine.  The Law of Resistance tells us that which we resist, we draw unto ourselves.  So, we didn't spend any of our time or energy worrying about worst-case scenarios.  Rather, we chose to do that which felt good, and positive, and responsible.  We made the payments, communicated with management, and elected to feel good about our ability to weather this challenge. 

Inspired Actions: The purpose of analyzing the key learnings is to identify that which we feel inspired to do going forward. All of the above-mentioned strategies worked for us, and we will continue with them.  We've built our rental property's emergency savings (because of course, it has it's own) to 6 months of mortgage payments at this point, and we are happy with that number.  Having a second full-time income was huge in terms of our ability to handle this situation in a relatively worry-free manner, but I've been feeling a pull away from conventional full-time work.  For that reason, among others,  I've been feeling the pull to turn our attention to paying off the mortgage associated with the property.  Of course, this will probably begin after we move, which we intend to do this summer.  

Working from Home:

I had always been curious about the prospect of working from home.  I had suspected that I would be good at organizing my time appropriately in order to be successful in doing so. Given my primary job is as a teacher, it didn't seem like there would be much opportunity to gain any real experience in working from home to test my hypothesis.  Then 2020 struck, and the entire country pivoted to remote learning.  Regardless of its challenges, this gave me an opportunity to discover my feelings about working from home.

Key Learnings:  My partner and I save about $250 per month in transportation costs by working from home.  Additionally, we save approximately 80 hours per month that had previously been absorbed by our commute.  While we both utilized that time to listen to podcasts and educate ourselves about topics of interest, I am finding that we are both reaping tremendous benefits from the added time at home.  We are both exercising in the morning; we read more; I am spending more time researching investments, cooking, and meditating.  Furthermore, I've invested some of that time into further developing this blog, and participating in a group coaching program in the lifestyle development space.  I have also found that I enjoy working from home quite a bit and am able to be both organized and productive in my own environment.

Inspired Action:  Inspiration is a funny thing.  Often times, it just hits me.  It may seem like something that's been percolating for some time, but it won't fully hit me that it's something I want to do.  Then all of a sudden it strikes me like a bolt of lightning, and I know 100% what my next action will be.  I've invested in a group coaching program and been working from home, and somehow the culmination in those experiences resulted in me having the realization that there is a business I really want to start.  It is something that I am passionate about and is completely in my wheelhouse.  I will also be able to operate this business from home.  In fact, most of it would provide me location independence.  I've spoken about The Law of Commitment before, which suggests that if you commit to a thing that aligns with your purpose things will seem to simply fall into place.  The key mindset shift is that it is important to have no indecisiveness whatsoever.  The truth of the matter is that I have absolutely no indecisiveness about my business. It will be open in 2021.

 Processing Loss:

This year, I lost two family members that I love very much.  The grieving process is difficult under the best of circumstances, but add in a year like the one we've experienced, and it can be an intensified and isolating experience.  One family member crossed over in December of 2019.  The other on Easter in 2020.

Key Learnings:  In December, when I knew there was likely only a few days left, I flew to be by my family member's side.  I was with her the day she passed.  A couple of weeks later, I learned that this other family member was ill and things were progressing rapidly.  In February, we were scheduled for a week off from work.  So, my partner and I took the opportunity to fly to visit this family member.  Little did we know that would be the last time we would see him in his physical form. Within a month of our return, New York City was on lockdown and the epicenter of the pandemic.  Even if we would have flown to be by him as he crossed over, the hospital wouldn't have admitted us due to enhanced Covid-related restrictions.  I'm incredibly thankful that I listened to myself on both occasions and went. It's really easy to second guess yourself in the moment, but what I can offer is this.  You'll never regret the fact that you went.  Don't wait.  Just go.  Follow the love.  You'll never regret that.  You might on the other hand regret deciding to stay away.

Inspired Action:  I'm incredibly fortunate that I have an emergency savings.  These experiences reinforce my desire to maintain that standard in my life.  I want to have the freedom to go if someone I love falls ill.  Both of my family members had their affairs in order.  This makes me feel that I need to do the same.  First off, I need to make sure that my partner is fully aware of the various places where there are assets in my name, and I need to be aware of hers.  We need to double-check our beneficiaries in all of the appropriate places and start the processes involved in setting up a living revocable trust, will, durable power of attorney, etc.  That sounds like a lot for sure, but it'll be achieved one step at a time.

Wanderlust:

As a couple, we really don't spend much money.  We rarely eat out or do takeout; consumer purchases are rare.  The one thing we spend money on is travel!  We visit our families across the country each year and add a couple of camping trips, and another bigger trip to a destination yet explored for ourselves.  At this point, we haven't flown since February (for me, the top of March for her).  Once the pandemic hit NYC, we became incredibly uncomfortable with the notion of navigating airports and airplanes.  Quite frankly, we only take the subway or bus when absolutely necessary.  

Key Learnings:  We recognize that this is only for a season.  This year, we only really traveled via rental car (which we could disinfect thoroughly) to go on camping and hiking trips.  We both realized that this saved us a lot of money and we love doing it.  Even with a few equipment upgrades, we spent very little.  The biggest expense was the use of a rental car with insurance. We're going to be cautious and wait until the pandemic dust settles a bit before embarking on any major trips, but we've both realized that travel is a high priority for us and we need to continue to plan for that going forward.  If anything, this past year has shed light on just how much we miss exploring the world and yearn for more of it, not less.

Inspired Action:  We need to work travel expenses back into our budget this Spring.  I'm imagining that we won't go too far this summer, but will probably want to start preparing for that hopeful moment when we feel that things are safe.  Spending a lot of time camping and hiking in New York State has given us the opportunity to find a few little places that we really quite like  In the distant future, we might like to get a little lake house or a country cottage of sorts just a few hours outside of the city to utilize part-time when school isn't in session.  I think that would greatly improve our long-term lives.  In the world of personal finance, we often discuss sacrifice, but don't always remember to discuss dreams.  We're making choices with our money so as to live our best lives.  For us, that might include a vacation home.  Remember, the Universal Law of Belief states that you can have whatsoever you want so long as you can give up the belief that you can't have it.

Really, there was so much that transpired this year that this is just a small amount of it, but I find great value in reviewing the year that just passed as it comes to a close.  I realize that I've learned a lot and I've used it to influence my roadmap going forward.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Opening Doors: Inheritance and Disability

This year has been incredibly difficult, even under the best of circumstances.  The sheer amount of loss experienced feels weighty.  I personally have lost two family members in the past year.  On the day I write this, we would have been celebrating my late uncle's birthday.  I can't help but feel as though he crossed over too soon, and that on this day, there should be cake.  But alas there won't be cake. There will be a social media reminder of the candles we won't be blowing out.

I suppose there should be no surprise that this somewhat heavy topic is on my mind.  Just ten days ago marked one year since the passing of my grandmother.  She led a very full life, and her passing seemed as though it was a peaceful experience for her.  I am thankful for that.  Nonetheless, I miss the experience of her physical presence. 

I expected to feel an extra sense of my connection to these two family members this month given the notable days December provides.  While there is a sense of longing, there is also a great deal of gratitude.  Both of these people I love have left a legacy that remains with my family in forms both tangible and not.

There is an aspect to the Law of Attraction that can seem both simple and complex all rolled into one.  It's the concept of openness.  We have to open our hearts and our lives to make space for the arrival of the blessings coming to us.  I've discussed this concept where time is concerned, referring to the idea of eliminating obligations so as to create an opening for opportunities to flow into our experience.  But this week, I'm thinking about this differently.  As a result of the passing of the above-mentioned family members, another member of my family will be in line for an inheritance.  The truth is that this isn't the kind of blessing that I spend much time thinking about because it is accompanied by the passing of someone I love.  Who really wants to think about that?  But, we must think about it at least a little.  You see, the family member that I referred to as being set to inherit some money is a person with a disability.  This person receives (Supplemental Security Income) SSI and Medicaid.

SSI and Medicaid are benefits that come with intense restriction in terms of the amount of assets a person can have.  These limits are very low: $2000 for individuals and $3000 for couples.  It seems as though these asset limits haven't been updated in 40 years.  This restriction is a huge barrier that stands between people with disabilities and financial security.  If someone on SSI has assets over the limit, their monthly SSI check can be reduced as a result.  This creates a cycle of poverty and the inability to save money.  This also makes inheriting money (or any other asset) an issue.

How does this relate to openness?  Just as I want to open my experience to allow abundance to flow in, I want to create this openness for others in my life.  Right now, this asset limitation set for individuals with disabilities feels like a closed door.  But what if I told you there was a way to open that door? Would that inspire you to take action on behalf of someone you love that could really use an open door?

In 2014, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was passed.  Now, eligible people with disabilities are allowed to open 529 ABLE accounts.  These accounts, also known simply as "ABLE accounts," allow people with disabilities to actually have money.  Money in ABLE accounts are not subject to the SSI/Medicaid asset limits, nor is the growth taxable federally.  Much like with other 529s typically used for college savings, or retirement savings accounts, there are IRS imposed limitations on ABLE accounts. If an ABLE account grows beyond $100,000, the individual will lose their SSI, but not Medicaid.  There is also an annual contribution limit (in 2018 it was $15,000/yr).  Funds from ABLE accounts can be withdrawn for eligible expenses such as job training, housing, transportation, etc.  While this isn't a perfect solution, it's considerably better than the $2000 limit previously discussed.

Another option is a Special Needs Trust.  Sometimes these are also known as "Supplemental Needs Trusts."  In general, these accounts allow a person with a disability to hold assets inside of the trust and still qualify for their government benefits.  A person with a disability might coordinate the use of both an ABLE account and a Special Needs trust, or use just one of these tools.

I really wanted to create awareness of these two financial tools because they can create that openness I discussed before.  In my family's situation, there has been an ABLE account established.  This ABLE account creates an opening in their life so that any financial abundance flowing to them can be received.  I'm so grateful for that. 

 Obviously, if someone you know might benefit from one of these account types, you should have them consult with someone in their state with legal and/or financial expertise on these specialty accounts so that any rules and restrictions are clear.  But I hope this mini-overview of ABLE accounts and Special Needs Trusts has provided you with a little knowledge and inspiration.  If someone you know and love could benefit from these options, you could help open a door for them that might otherwise be closed.



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Spending Time: Obligations and Intuition


I did something unusual this week.  I skipped a meeting.  In fact, I didn't even respond to the email that invited me to the meeting, requesting that I also help notify other people of the meeting.  I kept "meaning to" get to it, but I didn't.  The truth is that I just didn't feel like it.  On a weekly basis, I go to plenty of meetings that I don't really want to attend, ones required of me for my job.  But this one was different.  This one was purely elective, a self-imposed obligation. I have been participating on a committee that relates to Covid and education.  It is not at all required of me for my job.  I'm participating voluntarily.  I have been trying to do what I can to stay informed within an ever-changing situation, especially since this directly impacts my work, my partner's work, and many people we care about.  All week, I kept trying to rally the enthusiasm to respond to the email.  The enthusiasm never came.  So, I never responded.  Typically, this sort of behavior would have made me feel like a flake, but it isn't really striking me that way.  

I jokingly refer to myself as a person with an "over-inflated sense of duty."  I'm incredibly reliable, and pretty much always do what I perceive to be the right thing.  These are qualities that I truly love about myself.  I've also always said that our best qualities are oftentimes also our worst qualities.  The flip-side of this wonderful thing about me is that I allow myself to feel a sense of obligation to things unnecessarily.  This committee is the perfect example.  Since I joined it, I would obligate myself to attend every, single meeting, even the ones that were mostly social.  As soon as I received an email from one of them I would immediately respond.  If something was asked of me, I'd do it.  I would easily burn a couple of hours contacting people and attending meetings.  Some weeks, that's fine.  This week, I just didn't feel like it.  So, you know what I did instead?  I read a book and ate a cookie.  You know what's strange about that?  I didn't even finish a full chapter (but I did finish the cookie).  I'm so pleased with myself.  You know why?  I followed my intuition.  I did what I felt like doing, but only for as long as I felt like doing it. I've been doing that a lot lately.  The results have been remarkable.  

In the book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown writes "An editor is not merely someone who says no to things.  A three-year-old can do that.  Nor does an editor simply eliminate; in fact, in a way, an editor actually adds.  What I mean is that a good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and characters." I really enjoy framing this elimination of nonessential, undesired tasks as "editing." As a result of recent editing, I feel like my life has been more enjoyable; in a sense, more balanced.  I also feel like I've gotten a lot done, but on my terms rather than the constant strain of white-knuckling tasks for who knows what reason.  By editing my day, I actually add value.

Skipping a meeting isn't the only editing, I've been doing recently.  Teaching remotely has been a bit of an experiment for me (in a lot of ways).  One unintended result is a realization that my life is hugely impacted by my commute.  Working virtually has allowed me to eliminate my commute.  This has added approximately 8-10 hours of time back into my week.  What's truly amazing is that when we give ourselves the gift of time, we turn right back around and fill it up.  The manner in which we do so can be as deliberate or as random as we like.  I'm choosing to be very thoughtful about it with a preference for letting my intuition drive.  As previously stated, I am trying to fill my time doing that which I really feel like doing for as long as I feel inspired to do it.  Using this intuitive strategy I've re-evaluated my retirement accounts, researched some potential investments, read two books, exercised consistently, prepared my business to open in January, and spent more time connecting with people I care about.  These are all things I've done in the past month as a direct result of eliminating some things that I didn't care to do in favor of things I really felt like doing.  

Do you suffer from a case of the somedays?  Someday, I will research those companies I want to invest in.  Someday, I will deal with my retirement accounts, check up on my insurance coverage, start that business of my dreams.  Why are you putting it off?  Is it time-related?  Do you consistently feel like you don't have time to even get started on doing some of these things?  In the past, I have frequently found myself feeling that way.  I wanted to do all of these things but felt like there wasn't enough time to do them.  Meanwhile, I would fill my plate with obligations that I didn't even want.  Why am I spending two hours on a meeting that I don't even have to go to but not sitting down and fleshing out something for my future business?  I don't even want to go to the meeting (nor do I have to), but I do want to flesh out this little piece of my business.  I get excited and energized at the idea of sitting and working on the business, but feel tired and drained at the prospect of attending this meeting.  If I poke at this idea a little further to investigate the gains, I have to admit that not much would have come from the meeting.  This one wasn't very essential.  It was just about connecting, and I would have gotten that.  But how great would the quality of my connections be if I'm not really even that into it?  On the other hand, if I spend two hours working on something for my business that IS opening in January, the gains are tremendous.  The business will literally make me money and is a transition I am working on making for the long term.  It's work I'm really excited about.  So, working on this for two hours feels like a lot of fun to me.  

Maybe your "someday" is smaller than starting a business.  I have several books on my shelf that I promised myself I'd read someday.  Now, I tend to like reading books that you might loosely categorize as "self-improvement" books.  So, the gains of that kind of reading are obvious.  I'm also an actor and English teacher, and just enjoy reading novels, plays, the like.  If I decline this meeting and instead decide to sit and read one of them, the gain is in my quality of life, fueling my creativity.  What's the point of earning, saving, and investing all of this money if all I get in return is a life filled with obligations that I don't even want?  I suspect that there are plenty of members of the personal finance community that are like me in that some part of their motivation to gain financial independence is to buy their own freedom.  Many of us long for freedom of time.  It's one currency that we can't really get back once it's been spent.  So, I ask you: Are you obligating yourself to be in places you don't really want to be?  If you actually do have a choice, maybe you would be well served to do that which inspires you.  Maybe you should just do what I did: read a book and eat a cookie.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Loss, Compassion, and Giving


I was raised in a family that celebrates Christmas, a holiday that is surrounded by a myriad of family birthdays, including my own.  For some members of my family, this time of year holds a deeply spiritual significance. For others, it is a time to celebrate family, friends, our cultural heritage, and count our blessings.  This year, the lights went out in certain sections of my family, as not one, but two family members crossed over: my paternal grandmother, just one year ago, and my maternal uncle less than six mothers later.  When a light goes out somewhere, it's interesting the way our eyes adjust.  Despite the dark spots, our eyes seem more attuned to that which remains before us.  Hasn't this entire year been a little like that?  

Having experienced two subsequent losses, I feel hyper-aware of the family that I still have. I've tried to be a bit more deliberate with my contact this year, though I recognize my desire to do more.  When people experience the loss of family members, it is expected that they enter a process of grieving and reflection.  There's something powerful about allowing ourselves to live in that moment, and if we allow ourselves to be truly present in those moments, it seems that they can lead us to finding our more compassionate selves.  

When I look around me, I see so many lights going out in people's lives.  I have many friends experiencing extended unemployment, with no ending in sight.  People have lost loved ones.  Others have loved ones that they cannot safely see.  People are losing or near-losing their businesses.  Some are months behind on their mortgages and rent payments. This year looks incredibly different from previous ones, and it's okay to take a moment to recognize it.  We don't have to keep going along like we did before, because things aren't the same as they were before.  

A number of years ago, when I was in a much smaller income bracket, I released myself of the obligation of giving gifts that I couldn't afford (that people didn't really need or care for) because of a holiday tradition.  Generally speaking, I would usually elect to get something for my partner and parents; perhaps a friend here or there if I felt so inspired.  I felt a tremendous weight lifted, not realizing that this self-inflicted obligation was causing me injury.  No doubt, if you are reading this right now, you have experienced some level of loss in 2020; virtually everybody has.  If your loss has been largely financial, perhaps it is worth considering how giving might also look different this year.  Perhaps this is the year to relieve yourself of the obligation to buy, as I did years ago.  

Just as everything else in 2020 seems to look different, so do my intentions this year.  I feel a deep sense of compassion for the losses experienced by others.  In the past month, one of my students lost everything to a fire.  Another of my students just experienced the passing of her mother this month, and yet a third student of mine has a father on life-support.  Each time one of these situations arises, it really strikes me.  Not only is the emotional toll on these families absolutely devastating, but the financial burden is as well.  This is where some of my holiday dollars will go.  I recognize that my donations are a splash in the bucket compared to the need, but there is strength in the collective energies of our like-minds and hearts.  The Law of Fellowship suggests that when two or more people of a similar vibration come together for a shared purpose, their combined energy will be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled when directed at the attainment of that shared goal.

The question at hand is "Where should we be directing our energy?"  As we look around us, seeing so much devastation, can those of us that are doing well financially use some of our holiday dollars to do some real good?  It seems as though this can be accomplished through donating and gift-giving.  I am choosing to make some donations to these students' families, arts organizations (which have been obliterated during Covid), and some that relate to food, clothing, or medical needs.  As always, my gift-giving list is pretty small, but I am being very deliberate about what am purchasing, and where it comes from.  I am not going into stores because I do not want to expose or become exposed.  I have discovered that some of our favorite local "foodie" places ship all across the country.  There are deli's, restaurants, and local shops that I really want to see whether this storm.  So, I am ordering items from these places to be shipped directly to my family members.  I'm also using independent book stores, Etsy shops, and local artisans with direct shipping.  Lastly, I'm considering ways to slightly expand my giving list to include a few people that for a variety of reasons (some Covid-related) have experienced a greater level of isolation recently.  Is there someone in your family that is experiencing a first holiday alone?  Is there someone that is in a higher risk category and spent a significant time alone this year?  Could you bless a local flower shop with your business, and brighten their day with a freshly cut arrangement?  

We've been given an awful lot of time to think this year, and we still have the time to be deliberate with our selections.  Is this the year for you to alleviate yourself of some holiday obligations?  Do you feel moved to show some extra attention to someone that is experiencing isolation?  Can you shop local and ship direct to minimize risk and bless some business that you love?  Can you donate to some individuals and organizations that really need the help? If there are other inspirations you've had about giving this year, I look forward to hearing them.

 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

An Unconventional Life: Unwavering Belief


About 15 years ago, I completed a professional musical theatre training program and was just starting to establish my non-student life in NYC.  I was a woman with a mission.  I wanted flexible, part-time employment that would provide me with enough income to afford my new life and the ability to attend auditions simultaneously.  I was already employed a few hours a week working as a personal assistant for a retired actress in the Village.  It was probably the best gig I'd ever had, as I gained so much more from the experience than money.  The handful of hours per week I spent sitting at the table she'd had Burl Ives carry in from the street, drinking tea, and preparing my errand list for the day gave me the opportunity to gain wisdom and a deep friendship that would last the remainder of her life.  I earned enough money from this arrangement to keep me in groceries, and feed my desire to consistently consume art: my Lolita, as she used to call herself, used to offer me her second ticket in exchange that I assist her in getting to the theatre.  The joy earned from this experience far outweighed the money, and I needed to collect another job.  

My next-door neighbor had just gotten a job bussing at a restaurant in the neighborhood and told me that they were hiring wait and bussing staff, suggesting that I go down there with a resume and talk to the manager.  I had literally never worked in a restaurant but decided to give it a try.  I needed a job, and thought a free shift meal, in addition to nightly cash to work somewhere I could walk to would be a pretty good arrangement.  You see, I've always been the type to look for hidden benefits built into employment opportunities...  There were two managers, one of which I spoke to that day: a young woman with silky brown hair, very put together, and slightly intimidating to a girl who'd never worked in a restaurant before.  I can't imagine what she must have been thinking when we chatted, but she took a chance on me and gave me a job.  I was given a manual to memorize and immediately scheduled for their upcoming wine course, conducted by the other manager, a dapper, British gentleman who also happened to be a wine connoisseur.  Looking back I realize how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to learn from this gentleman.  Prior to his class, my only knowledge about wine was which kinds I liked, and he gave me the chance to learn so much more.  I met some truly wonderful people working at the cafĂ©, but truth be known, I didn't ever become truly good at waitressing.  My saving grace was that I had the "right personality" for it, and customers generally liked me.  I was competent (just barely), but was nowhere near the graceful ballerina that most professional waitresses appeared to be.  But, hey!  You're not really an artist in New York City if you haven't been a waitress, right?

Around the same time, a dear friend of mine, a teacher in the East Village, planted an idea into my mind.  She had helped me to secure a temporary gig at her school several months prior teaching a drama elective in the spring.  She told me that admin really liked me and that if I got set up with the DOE, they'd call me in as a sub when teachers were out.  I could make about $150 a day before taxes, and easily be called in a couple times a week; sometimes more.  I was thrilled at the opportunity and within a couple of months, I was on the payroll.

Nearly a year later, I had three friends getting married over the course of one summer, and I was to be involved in all three weddings.  I remember the first thought that entered my mind, "How am I supposed to try to get hired for a Summer Stock if I have to fly all over the place for these weddings?"  Well, when I'm committed to an idea, there's literally no stopping me.  As it turns out, this isn't unique to me, we're all like that.  The Universal Law of Commitment indicates that the key is in having no indecisiveness whatsoever.  If you commit to a thing that aligns with your overall purpose, things seem to simply fall into place.  Now, at the time, I didn't know anything about laws of the universe, but doesn't it seem like all throughout this story, I was doing exactly that?   

Well, the tale gets even more interesting.  I simply decided that it would be too difficult to attempt a Summer Stock somewhere, so I'd just produce a play in Portland where two of the weddings were going to be (and where I used to live).  I also decided that if I was going to produce a play myself, I "might as well just file with the IRS for nonprofit status," and I did.  It took me about three days, with help from a good friend (one that would be working with me).  Now let's just stop for a second.  Seriously, who does that?  Apparently, I do.  

I pressed pause on my three jobs, knowing they'd still be there willing to take me back when I returned several months later, and booked an airline ticket.  About a week before I was set to depart, I was chatting with a friend in Portland.  She's a kind and practical woman.  She asked me "So, where will you be staying?  Have you set that all up?  Do you have any part-time work lined up?"  I basically responded by telling her that I didn't know on either account but that I wasn't all that worried about it, and the truth is that I didn't know, and I wasn't worried about it.  I just believed that it would all be fine.  I had a few thousand dollars and a lot of friends.  That was plenty, right?

It turns out that it was plenty! I had two friends with spare rooms that gave me keys to their homes, and a couple of friends that were in positions to hire me on a part-time basis.  I almost immediately became employed in a local gift shop and for a friend that really just needed a personal assistant because he was working so many hours between his two programming jobs.  He really needed help getting things accomplished in his personal world.

The truth is that I bounced back and forth like this for about two years before I started producing so much theatre on the West Coast that I decided to stay put for a few years.  It was one of the happiest times in my life thus far.  But why was it successful?  

First, when I look back I see that I was operating from a place of unwavering confidence.  I was going to become employed in both cities in a manner that was flexible, and provided enough income.  I was also going to be granted nonprofit status.  I was going to successfully collect the people, venue, etc., required to produce theatre.  There was literally never any doubt!  Again, the Universal Law of Belief tells us that we can have whatsoever we want so long as we can give up the belief that we can't have it. "The belief that we can't have it" is a phrase that speaks directly to the limiting beliefs we seem to build over time. What's interesting to look back upon is the fact that it doesn't seem that I had any limiting beliefs in this arena.  So, this universal truth is speaking to the idea that in order to have anything we want, we must be willing to release our limiting beliefs.  Limiting beliefs come directly from the mind, not your inner being.  The mind's ultimate job is to protect us, and it does a tremendous job, however; in the process, it also adds the perception of limitations that aren't always there.  Thinking back to this snapshot of success from my past, it occurs to me that I didn't really give my mind a chance to develop these limiting beliefs.  It seems that I gave my mind better things to work on, in addition to ample evidence that there wasn't much to worry about.  I kept my mind very busy trying to work out the logistics of producing my first play.  It didn't have a lot of time to stew on unnecessary, self-inflicted drama.  I was also able to rationalize that I didn't really need much money.  I wasn't sure where I was staying, but I knew that I could cobble things together given the sheer volume of kind and generous friends I had in the area.  I had sublet my room in Brooklyn, so I didn't need to worry about bills there.  My student loans hadn't become due yet, so I wasn't in repayment for them.  I had one tiny little credit card, a cell phone bill, and needed to feed myself; I had a few thousand dollars and figured that I didn't have much to panic about financially speaking.  Even if things didn't work out the way I would have liked them to, I didn't have much to lose.  It was an adventure either way, and either way, I was going to be just fine.  There was nothing standing between me and taking the action I desired, primarily because I cut limiting beliefs off at the pass.

It seems as though limiting beliefs are the enemy of inspired action, and they're easy to have where money is concerned.  But we can't make progress if we're unwilling to take inspired action when it comes to us.  It isn't enough to merely want, you have to take a step toward something if you are to have it.  In this way Law of Attraction and The Law of Inspired Action are inseparable.  Had I told myself "I can't afford to do something like THAT" I would have missed out on the most incredible adventure of my life.  Because I was willing to take action, I started my nonprofit, produced more than 20 shows, met my beautiful partner, and ended up with our first rental property.  Some of this might sound unrelated, but the truth is none of them would have happened had I been too afraid to step on that airplane.  I can't imagine my life without that experience.  I am also realizing that I was able to utilize personal finance to protect myself from a limiting belief setting in.  The fact that I had very low expenses and a few thousand dollars in my account gave me confidence in my ability to spring into action.  Had I only $20 and a lot of bills, I might not have even bought the ticket, let alone gotten on the airplane.  On a mental, emotional, and spiritual front I can see that being 100% committed to my goal, and having unwavering belief in that goal was absolutely key.  

Now I'm 15 years older, and my mind likes to yell at me about things like health insurance, retirement, and a much larger savings target.  As we grow older, it's altogether too easy to find ourselves adhering to society's standards.  But society's standard doesn't have to be my standard, and the same wisdom still applies.  I can insulate myself financially, and maintain absolute certainty about that which I am pursuing.  In that respect, we can quite literally live the dream.