The Power of Money

I subscribe to Fr. Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations, from the Center for Action and Contemplation. This one was beautiful and so I want to share here, as exploring our relationship with money is the central theme of many of my blogs. "In her book The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist explains the power we’ve given our image of money and reminds us of our true longings and needs.

Money is not a product of nature. Money doesn’t grow on trees. . . . Money is an invention . . . a fabrication. . . . Money still facilitates the sharing and exchange of goods and services, but somewhere along the way the power we gave money outstripped its original utilitarian role. 

We have made money more important than we are, given it more meaning than human life. Humans have done and will do terrible things in the name of money. They have killed for it, enslaved other people for it, and enslaved themselves to joyless lives in pursuit of it. . 

For most of us, this relationship with money is a deeply conflicted one, and our behavior with and around money is often at odds with our most deeply held values, commitments, and ideals—what I call our soul. . . . I believe that under it all . . . what deeply matters to human beings, our most universal soulful commitments and core values, is the well-being of the people we love, ourselves, and the world in which we live.

We really do want a world that works for everyone. We don’t want children to go hungry. We don’t want violence and war to plague the planet. . . . We don’t want torture and revenge and retribution to be instruments of government and leadership. Everyone wants a safe, secure, loving, nourishing life for themselves and the ones they love and really for everyone. . . . I also believe that under their fears and upsets, even the deepest ones, everyone wants to love and be loved, and make a difference with their lives. . . . I believe people also want an experience of their own divinity, their own connectedness with all life and the mystery of something greater than we comprehend.

Each of us experiences a lifelong tug-of-war between our money interests and the calling of our soul. When we’re in the domain of soul, we act with integrity. We are thoughtful and generous, allowing, courageous, and committed. . . . We are open, vulnerable, and heartful. . . . We are trustworthy and trusting of others. . . . We feel at peace within ourselves and confident that we are an integral part of a larger, more universal experience, something greater than ourselves."

Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life (W. W. Norton & Company: 2017, ©2003), 8-9, 11-12, 17.

Source: The Power of Money by Fr. Richard Rohr

What Marshall Rosenberg (creator of NVC) taught Miki Kashtan about money

We organised an event in London titled ' Liberation in Three Chapters: Personal and Collective Practices for Embracing a Collaborative Future' with Miki Kashtan, an International trainer for Nonviolent Communication. The first section of the day focused on money, which is a system we use to allocate resources. We covered the below material (if it sounds ambitious for 2 hours, it was and it was so rich in terms of content & practical takeaways- no pun intended with rich) which was all filmed and released on YouTube, covering the below subjects:

  • From Exchange and Accumulation to a Flow of Giving and Receiving

  • Gift and exchange paradigms.

  • Money and interdependence.

  • Ownership and stewardship.

  • Putting needs at the center.

  • Inequality and language.

  • A world beyond coercion.

  • Four practices for a more liberated relationship with money.

Here it is. Hope you find it useful.

This is the first of a series of three talks that Miki Kashtan gave in August 2018 at 42 ACRES (London) in the framework of a work shop called "Social Change Series - Liberation in Three Chapters: Personal and Collective Practices for Embracing a Collaborative Future".

Money lessons from Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (creator of Nike).

"What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much it becomes essentially the same thing." - Phil Knight

Reading business memoir books can take a bit of work and I don’t mean the fun kind of work; with certain books, I have to give myself motivational speeches by page 15  and encourage myself to plod along. Do you know that feeling? Not this book. Not only a fun read, it also helped me connect with the author as a human being, flaws and all. A deep honesty shone through in the stories & anecdotes about Phil Knight’s own shortcomings, his mistakes, management style, accidental great decisions, business highs and a sometimes flawed relationship with his children - which was truly refreshing. It all started with a $50 loan from his father; today we all recognise the Nike swoosh- the whole story is such a gripping, fascinating & hilarious read.

Some of my favourite lines from the book, which speak to his relationship with money, work and business are below with my thoughts:

On business:

“It seems wrong to call it ‘business’. It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt like so much more. Each new day brought fifty new problems, fifty tough decisions that needed to be made, right now, and we were always acutely aware that one rash move, one wrong decision could be the end. The margin for error was forever getting narrower, while the stakes were forever creeping higher – and none of us wavered in the belief that ‘stakes’ didn’t mean ‘money’. For some, I realize, business is the all-out-pursuit of profits, period, full stop, but for us business was no more about making money than being human is about making blood. Yes, the human body needs blood. It needs to manufacture red and white cells and platelets and redistribute them evenly, smoothly, to all the right places, on time, or else. But that day-to-day business of the human body isn’t our mission as human beings. It’s a basic process that enables our higher aims, and life always strives to transcend the basic processes of living – and at some point in the late 1970’s, I did, too. I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is – you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me.”

It is striking how in touch Phil Knight is with his mission, vision and a ‘higher aim’ which included meaning, contribution and efficiency - needs that all humans share. Business can be life-alienating rather than life-enriching, with a focus merely on the bottom line, profits or ‘what’s in it for me?’. It can also be alive, full of meaning, play with a laser sharp focus on delivering value and improving the quality of life of the customers (or clients) you work with. Having empathy for what is important to a customer is so important in business & also doing business for more than just ‘money’.

On money:

“When it came rolling in, the money affected us all. Not much, and not for long, because none of us was ever driven by money. But that's the nature of money. Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.

I bought a Porsche. I tried to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, and wound up in a lawsuit with Donald Sterling. I wore sunglasses everywhere, indoors and out. There’s a photo of mine in a ten-gallon gray cowboy hat - I don’t know where or when or why. I had to get it all out of my system. Even Penny wasn’t immune. Overcompensating for the insecurity of her childhood, she walked around with thousands of dollars in her purse. She bought hundreds of staples, like rolls of toilet paper, at a time. It wasn’t long before we were back to normal. Now, to the extent that she and I ever think about money, we focus our efforts on a few specific causes. We give away $100 million each year, and when we’re gone we’ll give away most of what’s left.”

From my other blogs, you may notice that I spend quite a lot of time wondering about the unconscious drivers around our relationship with money. Some of us need to act out behaviours several times before we get to the bottom of it - and our childhood’s have a lot to do with our relationship with money too. As Phil refers to it ‘get it all out of my system’. Glad to note that his wife Penny and he did explore what they truly wants to do with money and they are now philanthropists.

An inspirational read, highly recommend!

Oh, and like me if you wonder what ‘Shoedog’ means, it is an industry slang name given to a veteran of the footwear industry. Someone who has dedicated their life to selling shoes is sometimes referred to as “an old shoedog”.

Further reading:

Shoe Dog - Gates Notes

Don't do anything that isn't play

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know my obsession with the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication. Another teaching related to money and work  landed in my news feed recently. I found it simple, beautiful, practical and inspiring. I hope you enjoy it too.

When I advise, “Don’t do anything that isn’t play!” some take me to be radical. Yet, I earnestly believe that an important form of self-compassion is to make choices motivated purely by our desire to contribute to life rather than out of fear, guilt, shame, duty or obligation. When we are conscious of the life-enriching purpose behind an action we take, then even hard work has an element of play in it. By contrast, an otherwise joyful activity performed out of obligation, duty, fear, guilt or shame will lose its joy and eventually engender resistance.

Many years ago I began to engage in an activity which significantly enlarged the pool of joy and happiness available to my life, while diminishing depression, guilt and shame. I offer it here as a possible way to deepen our compassion for ourselves, to help us live our lives out of joyous play by staying grounded in a clear awareness of the life-enriching need behind everything we do.

Translating Have to, to Choose to

  • Step 1

What do you do in your life that you don’t experience as playful? List on a piece of paper all those things that you tell yourself you have to do.

List any activity you dread but do anyway because you perceive yourself to have no choice. When I first reviewed my own list, just seeing how long it was gave me insight as to why so much of my time was spent not enjoying life. I noticed how many ordinary, daily things I was doing by tricking myself into believing that I had to do them.

The first item on my list was “write clinical reports.” I hated writing these reports, yet I was spending at least an hour of agony over them every day. My second item was “drive the children’s car pool to school.”

  • Step 2

After completing your list, clearly acknowledge to yourself that you are doing these things because you choose to do them, not because you have to. Insert the words “I choose to . . . ” in front of each item you listed. I recall my own resistance to this step. “Writing clinical reports,” I insisted to myself, “is not something I choose to do! I have to do it. I’m a clinical psychologist. I have to write these reports.”

  • Step 3

After having acknowledged that you choose to do a particular activity, get in touch with the intention behind your choice by completing the statement, I choose to . . . because I want . . . . At first I fumbled to identify what I wanted from writing clinical reports. I had already determined, several months earlier, that the reports did not serve my clients enough to justify the time they were taking, so why was I continuing to invest so much energy in their preparation?

Finally I realized that I was choosing to write the reports solely because I wanted the income they provided. As soon as I recognized this, I never wrote another clinical report.

I can’t tell you how joyful I feel just thinking of how many clinical reports I haven’t written since that moment thirty-five years ago! When I realized that money was my primary motivation, I immediately saw that I could find other ways to take care of myself financially, and that in fact, I’d rather scavenge in garbage cans for food than write another clinical report.

The next item on my list of unjoyful tasks was driving the children to school. When I examined the reason behind that chore, however, I felt appreciation for the benefits my children received from attending their school. They could easily walk to the neighborhood school, but their own school was far more in harmony with my educational values.

I continued to drive, but with a different energy; instead of “Oh, darn, I have to drive the car pool today,” I was conscious of my purpose, which was for my children to have a quality of education that was very dear to me. Of course I sometimes needed to remind myself two or three times during the drive to refocus my mind on what purpose my action was serving.

As you explore the statement, “I choose to . . . because I want . . . ,” you may discover — as I did with the children’s car pool — the important values behind the choices you’ve made. I am convinced that after we gain clarity regarding the need being served by our actions, we can experience those actions as play even when they involve hard work, challenge, or frustration.

We also cultivate self-compassion by consciously choosing in daily life to act only in service to our own needs and values rather than out of duty, for extrinsic rewards, or to avoid guilt, shame, and punishment. If we review the joyless acts to which we currently subject ourselves and make the translation from “have to” to “choose to,” we will discover more play and integrity in our lives.

International peacemaker, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., is the founder of the Centre for Nonviolent Communication, author of Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, the international bestseller, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, and several booklets.

Living rent-free in Belgravia

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I now live rent- free in Belgravia.

It is a temporary arrangement while we are buying a new home.

It is quite a wonderful life, living in Zone one – Central London. Also, living among upper middle-class took some getting used to – it’s just a little different.

Walking distance to Hyde Park, Soho, Battersea Park – it is quite an adventure just living in a different part of London. Eight years ago, we (my husband and I) did someone a good turn, and he is now returning the favour.

How we came about living here? We sold our flat in Deptford (London zone 2); we decided it would be a cleaner transaction to sell to be in a stronger position to buy. We found we weren’t being taken too seriously as buyers, with a flat on the market, even with a buyer for our flat in sight, so we took the plunge – put our stuff in storage and moved out. It worked, and we got bumped to the top of the list when we liked a flat on the basis that we were 'highly proceed-able' buyers.

We lived almost mortgage-free in our old flat. It was a modest two bedroom, ex-council flat; and I was very proud of it. We bought it in March 2009 when banks weren’t lending readily in the Uk, due to the housing crisis. We had to put down a 25% deposit, which back then was quite a stretch. As the deposit mainly came from my savings, my husband decided to pay off the mortgage, as his contribution with early repayments. Caveat: this isn't what I'd necessarily recommend as there are better places to stow your cash, especially when interest rates are so low.

Towards the end, our monthly mortgage was £86 per month & we owed less than £20,000 on it when we moved out. Having a small mortgage was quite thrilling! I will miss that little mortgage payment. Living in London means one spends an extraordinary amount of income through rent or mortgage payments; so, we were incredibly grateful, albeit we chose to live in humbler digs.

The flexibility with our disposable income meant that we could travel a lot. I could start my own business without worrying about a mortgage, we could invest quite a bit each month & give money to charity.

I thought I would miss my old home or all my stuff in storage like my Vitamix and books. Strangely I don’t. Human's are remarkably adaptable, I guess. It’s a better deal, living rent-free in Belgravia & feels like a mini-London vacation. Though they say, fish & friends smell after three days; we are looking to exchange on our new home soon, we are mindful of not overstaying our welcome. And then back to normalcy with a normal-ish sized mortgage again – sigh!

As Londoners (& this is true of other areas too), we spend a considerable portion of our earnings on mortgage payments or rent. However, is this at the expense of other lifetime plans such as funding a pension or for some, having greater freedom? It’s a tough balancing act.