On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid (part 3)

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In this part of the interview, you’ll find out how Alan maximises fulfilment & integrity in his relationship with money, also using the lens of Nonviolent Communication. Here is part 3 of the interview; for part 1, click here and for part 2, click here How does nonviolent communication affect how you view consume and spend money?

That’s a good question. My 'off the top of my head' answer is that I’ve installed NVC as part of my internal operating system that it’s running in the background unconsciously now so. How I view, earn and spend money- I think I’ve already answered this; I see money as a strategy that contributes to needs or not.

Sometimes after spending on a certain thing, I may say, oh Jeez, was that the most life-serving way of spending that money? I always look at it through the lens of needs. I’m able to feel my feelings, or my own life connected mourning around it and if needed beneficial regret. If I spend money on something that I later regret, I harvest the learning from it. For example, with my children, I’ve given in a couple of times when I’m with them in the car, and they’re just like (makes baby noises). Fine, I give in- we go to the drive through sandwich place. Afterwards, I think why did I get non-organic white bread,  overly packaged food that is polluting.  Then, I slow down, I give myself empathy, then I give them empathy,  and then we do something that I’m not going to regret. That’s also modelling something more life serving for them.

You know the other way that it’s affected me that’s important is about eight or nine years ago I became a business coach. People started approaching me for business advice which was mind blowing to me because I didn’t see myself in that way. I’ve transformed how I see marketing. I see that there is life-disconnected, life-alienated marketing and there is life-serving, life-connected marketing. One of the ways I define marketing is that it’s an attempt to describe to people how their needs are likely to be fulfilled when they interact with whatever it is we are offering.

So regarding earning money, also having an NVC lens helps me connect with my audience at the level of deeper needs so that I can contribute to them

Do you have a particular Aha moment from a money workshop that you’d like to share?

I’m thinking of a close friend; I remember sitting at her kitchen table, and she was sharing in a matter of fact way some very explicit and personal sexual fantasies. I think everyone around the table was like wow! And she was just matter of fact- like, you know, yeah, I prefer almond butter rather than peanut butter on my sandwiches. But then when she started to talk about money she could barely speak, she was quivering and broke down crying.

The Aha moment was realising, wow! Money is such a loaded topic. A lot of people have much more ease talking about sex than talking about money. So yeah I mean I’ve had a lot of people have Aha moments about how they use money - to manipulate their children’s behaviour or how money was used in their lives as a reward or punishment which created a lot of pain around money and so on.

Where do you mainly see the dysfunction of money in our society?

I see it everywhere on every level - individuals, couples, families, absolutely everywhere.  It goes back to this question of who are we as human beings? What constitutes the good life? What is our shared destiny on this planet?  When you look at it at a government level, there are so many things we can change -systems and structures. Taxation is a very simple one where we can be taxing things that pollute, create illness and destroy the environment. We can use taxes to create incentives for things that are more life serving. So, taxation could be a way of stimulating or curtailing different things I can't find anywhere in society where there isn't dysfunction around money.

What are your thoughts on common themes you come across, like scarcity thinking or lack of financial literacy?

Probably the most common theme I come across is 'money is bad'.  Also, its opposite, 'money is good' like 'money is my God.'  I see people spending decades chasing money because they think it will bring them happiness and they have a big house full of things but there's a spiritual emptiness,  a lack of meaning and purpose. I think those are our scarcest resources in this day and age -meaning and purpose.

In some ways, money tends to highlight who we are already. A kind person will probably use money to help others.

If I believe money is the best thing in the world, I end up chasing, chasing, chasing money and missing out on life. If money is bad or evil,  and then I struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle, struggle because money wants nothing to do with me, money stays far away from me because I treat it like it's evil. I have a very close friend who used to say to me,' money isn't important so I don't think about it.' And when we checked in with each other, he would share 'oh I'm so stressed out, because I don't know how I'm going to pay rent next month,  I'm thinking of moving to another city because there's more work,'  and he didn't notice that money was running his life.

Yes, because money is a great recipient of all our unconscious projections because it's so complex like you said and it is so deep that it is easy to put all the stuff that we don’t like on to money.

Yes.

This is the last question Alan, in terms of your money related courses, what would you like people to know?

In terms of my money related courses,  I would like people to know, I will be launching the very first version of a brand new program called 'The Compass' later this year.

It will be the most comprehensive program that is based on twenty-five plus years of research into best practices so it's really a form of cross training for change agents, for people who want to leave the world a better place than they found it, and who are also devoted to their personal growth and development. There are eight curriculum areas, the eight directions of the compass and one of those happen to be the South, which is focused on money. Best to also head over to my website and check out the free resources.

Well, thank you so much, Alan. Is there anything that you would have liked me to ask you that I missed?

No. One thing I will add is that people misquote the Christian scriptures when they when they say 'money is the root of all evil. ' It is 'the love of money is the root of all evil.' I'm pretty sure that what it's referring to is an obsession over money. I mean, when I'm infatuated with money, that's the root of all evil. So that's one of the things that I'm pondering these days.

Thank you so much, Alan. I really appreciate your time. Fifty-five minutes and very, very precious.

Yeah, it was a pleasure and an honour. I appreciate it.

PS: I have no arrangements for money in exchange for any recommendations I make on my blog; I really only want to recommend people whom I believe in.

 

On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid (part 2)

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In this part of the interview, you’ll find out how Alan maximises fulfilment & integrity in his relationship with money; also, using the lens of Nonviolent Communication. This is part 2 of the interview; for part 1, click here I was pretty blown away when I went on my first Vipassana course and there really wasn’t a ‘suggested donation.’

And everyone is a volunteer. The teachers, the centre managers, everybody is a volunteer and besides the technique, of course, the way that they run their finances just blew my mind.

Bill Mollison, who is one of the people who coined the term permaculture also inspired me with money. Bill Mollison says that money is to social systems what water is to natural systems. It is the transporter of goods, nutrients and information and the purpose is not more, more, more. Rather, the purpose is how do you maximise effective use between when this energy enters a system and when it leaves the system. If it is just more, more, more then you end up with a flood, where a flood is not natural.

That’s really a lovely analogy of nature actually; an apple tree doesn’t ever take more water than it needs. I read that the only really aggressive form of growth in nature is cancer.

How has nonviolent communication (NVC) influenced your work?

There's a beautiful overlap between the nine steps in the financial integrity program and NVC. Essentially what Joe Dominguez was getting at is, how do you develop a relationship with money that contributes to the deeper needs rather than simply to exteriors strategies or our story about what will be fulfilling?

So, what NVC has helped me to do is be a lot more connected to myself and to what's motivating me. As a result, when I look at money through that lens I realise that money is simply a tool. It's not a universal human need. It's a strategy that we use to fulfil lots of needs. But it's helped me get clear; what are the deeper needs or values that I'm trying to meet with this particular purchase or with this particular strategy around money.

For example, I might think that I need a Ferrari. I can look at why do I need a Ferrari or if I had a Ferrari then what would that give me.  Status and if I had that? Acceptance, and if I have acceptance then, what do I have? Well, then I have belonging, and if I have belonging and acceptance, then what does that give me? Well, then I feel OK about myself.

So, underneath acceptance and belonging is self-acceptance. I guarantee you that if we get clear on our motivation for a Ferrari, we can find a lot less expensive ways to meet our needs for self-acceptance, self-esteem and belonging than a Ferrari. So it's helped me separate the strategies from the deeper needs and find other strategies that meet my needs more effectively.

I love that, and you also demonstrated peeling the layers of the onion, to get to deeper needs. What are your thoughts on money as a request, do you think it is doable as a system in the world?

The short answer is yes. However, I'm not sure if our consciousness is there yet. When Marshall talks about jackal and giraffe, he defines jackal as life-disconnected or life-alienating thinking and language; giraffe or nonviolent communication is life-connected or life-serving thinking and language.

I think of jackal as pre-conscious or pre NVC. When you start to develop feelings and needs consciousness, you start to get more empowered and connected to your core motivators. You start to have clarity about what you want in particular situations and can make requests. You can get to a point where you transcend the form of NVC and we get to what people call informal NVC.

So, what Marshall talks about is that a life-connected, life-serving way of dealing with money would be expressing requests rather than demands. I find that very beautiful, but ultimately, my understanding is it didn't work for him. When he first did his workshops, he was travelling across the United States, and he offered his workshops on this mutual exchange model.

But first of all, people weren't used to that, it kind of fried their circuits and they didn't know what to do with it. Second of all, it brought up a lot of pain for them and so then he ended up having to give them empathy for how much pain they were in about their anxiousness or their fear of giving out of guilt or issues like this.  It ended up taking so much time and energy for him to do his workshops on this request model that he simply just started putting a price. However, even if his intention was to put a price on there as a request rather than a demand, people would still hear demands.

So, I think our consciousness is not quite there yet to trust that a request is truly a request. If you go to an event and it says 'suggested donation ten pounds', people still hear this is the price and believe ' if I don't pay, I can't enter'. We still interpret a demand even if the person says:' it's a request,  your needs matter, let's have a dialogue, let's see what works for you,'  people will still interpret a demand; money has an incredible depth and complexity at the psychological level.

Also, people may value things less if they experience that they're not paying for them. There is the psychological aspect that if somebody is paying a lot for something, somehow they experience themselves as more invested, more committed, so it is tricky. So I love it in theory that we could make financial requests and be able to find a win-win with money. In practice, I find it's relatively hard, and I think it has to do with where human consciousness is right now.  We are just simply unable to trust that it's truly a request and not a demand.

 I feel people that work in caring professions; even some NVC trainers struggle with asking for enough money. I'm wondering if you have anything to say about that.

Yes, I think that's quite common. I have a lot of compassion for that.  It's probably different for different people in different circumstances; we need to look at the stories we're telling ourselves. One of my favourite methodologies is Byron Katie’s enquiry process which consists of four questions, and there's something she calls a turnaround.

So, we examine those stories because whether it's out of guilt, shame, consideration for the other person, it's just a minefield filled with all kinds of psychological landmines. I have a lot of thoughts on it and part of transforming our relationship with money involves realising that money is not evil, money is just a tool. Like fire - I can light many candles & read an excellent book, or I can use fire to burn somebody's home down. And the same money can be utilised for very positive purposes or very destructive purposes.

As a professional who depends on a flow of money to put food on the table for my children, I need to realise a few things.  I need the revenue to sustain the message., to continue sharing NVC. That is an important axiom to keep in mind. Again, asking for money doesn't mean I'm greedy. We have many associations we need to look at and question. It will be different for different people; it's another level of valuing ourselves and standing up for our needs is to ask for enough money.

For part 3, click here

 

On fulfilment, integrity & money: An interview with Alan Seid

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Alan Seid

Alan Seid works as a breakthrough coach with people who struggle with how to manifest or create their vision. He helps them break their vision down into a step by step process so that they can actually get there. Alan is also a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent Communication. He coached me, gave me a lot of clarity and support with my own vision, in the early months of starting my business. Alan & I chatted for an hour on Zoom, I have transcribed the interview for you to read and edited only for conciseness. You can check out his Blackbelt Money Skills course, get on the waiting list for it if you want to feel more empowered around personal finances.

What got you interested in teaching with the money focus?

Initially what I was interested in was not being stuck in a 9 to 5 till you die reality, not being caught up in what we call the rat race and work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work in order to buy stuff I didn't need with money I didn't necessarily have in order to impress people I didn't necessarily like.

I did not want to fall into that trap of work, spend, consume, work, spend, consume. A few years after this realisation, I ran into the precursor to Your Money or Your Life which was an audio course called ‘Transforming Your relationship with money.’

As I started applying the program to my own life, my life started to transform and blossom in many ways. It turns out that one of the things that come easily to me is to stand up in front of groups and articulate other people's information. So, as I was doing the nine steps in Your Money or Your Life, eventually I moved to the Seattle area and began teaching workshops on Your Money or Your Life because I was invited to do so.

I'd simply just had these opportunities show up to share the material and I was very excited about it so I kind of stumbled into the workshop and seminar business and it happens to be something that I do very well. So, initially, it was a personal interest that then just became enthusiastic sharing.

So, what is the Financial Integrity program all about?

I think what people need to understand about the financial integrity program is that it is not about making money. It is not about how to create a livelihood. It is really about how to have clarity and awareness and have money play a role in your life that is of integrity and in alignment with your values and your life purpose and so that you're maximising your fulfilment in relationship with money.

So you said the nine step program of Your Money or Your Life, led you towards financial integrity, would you share a couple of things that changed in your life?

Well, it happened as a result of just doing the steps in the program because the program is essentially a methodology for investing cautiousness into our relationship with money and when we're defining money in a particular way. When money is a representation of the hours that I spent in order to earn it, then money acquires an intrinsic value rather than simply an extrinsic value. So that twenty on a piece of paper now actually has real meaning because it took so many hours of my time or so many minutes of my time to earn that twenty. So, when I'm spending money, I'm spending my finite life energy, it's no longer this external paper or metal that comes and goes for my life.

Also, there are certain questions that you're asking yourself as part of the program: did this expenditure of my life energy bring me fulfilment in proportion to how much I had to work for it and was it in alignment with my values and life purpose.

I'll give you a specific example in the 1990’s; I was working as a Spanish interpreter in downtown Seattle. Back then I was a serious music collector and had been since about twelve years old; I love all kinds of music and I’m a musician myself. So back then I was buying one CD every week and when I was asking myself the questions 'am I getting proportionate fulfillment and is this in alignment with my values and life purpose', I noticed that automatically I started to spend less on music and this is before the internet, this is before everything was downloadable, this is when people were buying CD's. So my spending more or less organically just naturally started to shift so that I was buying one CD per month instead of one CD per week.

And so my fulfilment per CD was a lot higher. And it was more in alignment with my values to lower my demand on plastic, cream plastic in the world, and I enjoyed I enjoyed what I was buying that much more so that's an example of my fulfilment and my integrity going up my spending going down. And as a result, I was saving the other three C.D.’s a month that I would have been buying and that money was going into my savings.

Wow, that’s quite a tangible benefit.

So, it's not about cutting back, reducing, depriving yourself, it's about maximising your fulfilment and your integrity and as a result spending tends to level off. Which by the way is very good news for the planet.

True. If someone wanted to have a better relationship with money, where would you suggest they start?

I think by being truthful with them. Just acknowledge & notice what your patterns are with money. One of the toughest things about money is that the tendency to go unconscious with money is so strong; we would much rather just not think about it.

It becomes a very painful place in our lives and then and that tends to reinforce our not wanting to look at it because it's painful. A lot of what I think we don't know how to do very well in our society is grieving and mourning; allowing ourselves to feel the pain, the disappointment, the heartbreak, the stress, the frustration, whatever it is in relation to money and allowing ourselves to go through that process. By doing that, we can come out the other side a little bit more refreshed. Now, certainly, I could recommend Your Money or Your Life or my course Black-Belt money skills which is my articulation of the nine steps.

But that step would probably make sense after being honest, like really being able to look at yourself in the mirror and say ‘wow, my patterns with money are not working for me, I need to do something about this.’

I agree - so being truthful, and then examining unconscious patterns for what you might need help and mourning and grieving.

Yes. I think there are three stories that we really need to question in our society, they are stories about who we are as human beings, what is the ‘good life’, and then what is our shared future together on this little blue ball hurtling through space that we call Planet Earth. We are not just consumers. And the good life is not about more toys or more, more, more, more, more and lying in a pool on a rubber floaty thing with a drink in your hand; I get bored with that in about ten minutes. I think that a lot of the unconscious patterns that happen around money have to do with these stories about who we are and what constitutes the good life and I think we really need to question those.

Say more about who inspired you in your relationship with money

Joe Dominguez, Vicky Robin, Monica Wood, who was sort of like the godmother of the nine-step financial integrity program. Also, Peace Pilgrim; she is a genuine American saint of the twentieth century. In 1953, she abandoned all her material possessions and decided to go on a pilgrimage for peace. Her message was, ‘We are not going to reach peace between nations or between groups of people or between individuals if we don't first attend to our own inner peace.’ She carried only the clothes she had with her, a comb & a tooth brush. She carried no money, accepted no money and she walked until offered shelter and fasted until offered food. There is a video you can find of her teaching to a college class on spiritual growth and at the time of this talk, she had been walking twenty-six years.

I also found the generosity model of S.N Goenka’s ten-day silent meditation courses and the way they run their finances inspiring; when you do one of these ten-day silent meditation courses, everything about the Course is already paid for because previous participants made a donation for somebodies future course.

For part 2, click here

10 Things I Learned About ‘The Art of Facilitation’ from Miki Kashtan

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I have been offering workshops for 2-3 years on being ‘Conscious with Money’ with no formal training in facilitation. Feedback from the first few workshops affirmed that my contribution was appreciated and that kept me going. Seeing Miki Kashtan,  facilitate for a few years, via her audio courses, YouTube and live, I knew her style worked for me; it took me a few seconds to decide I wanted to attend when I saw she was due to be in Poland, June 2017 for a whole week on facilitation. Miki Kashtan is an international teacher, creator of Convergent Facilitation, and author of three books, my favourite being Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness: Transcending the Legacy of Separation in Our Individual LivesWhat particularly appeals to me is her conceptual clarity, speaking with maximum meaning to the ratio of words (I like conciseness), authenticity, her inspiring journey into shamelessness described in her book, and an unflinching integrity and commitment to a vision for a world that works for all.

I did not imagine I would learn so much; she is a generous teacher- with knowledge, time and feedback. I observed her offering nurturing, honest and useful feedback as much as possible to as many participants as she could during the week. I had not accounted for the amount of ‘love’ I would need to be an excellent facilitator. Of course, love, courage & truth are the three pillars of Nonviolence.

10 Things I Learned About ‘The Art of Facilitation’ from Miki Kashtan

I have a significant passion for teaching; more and more, I sense this powerful calling to offer workshops (or rather playshops as it feels like play to me) around money. Like most people, culturally conditioned in the world we live in, my high motivation is whipsawed by a shameful inner voice, de-motivating me, questioning am I ‘good enough?’, 'who do I think I am?'. I want to empathise with this voice's needs (competence, to contribute something worthwhile) and I choose to operate from my committment to my work & personal vision around it.

And, here are the ten things I learned about facilitation I learned from Miki Kashtan:

1. Design how you start

Knowing how you want to start and having a clear plan of what you want to invite the group into next is important. As much as possible, the focus is on inviting people. Also, infusing values such as inclusion. For example, on day one; the threshold was held high for those who had already spoken to speak again leaving space for others to participate; this invited people to care for the whole.

2. Energy Uppers & Downers

There is often physical discomfort in the room when group energy is down - could be due to the discussion at crossroads with the purpose or other reasons. Being aware of this group energy is important. Agreeing on a simple way to make a request, when energy has fallen or asking for one minute of silence to integrate is important; as is having a plan to do something about this. We practiced many strategies to shift energy in the room & learned in real time via these experiments.

3. Tracking

There are so many aspects of tracking – time, needs, purpose, our inner states, etc. Open loops also frazzle the group so remembering to close them is important - noting who has unanswered questions/requests or had raised hands. The tracking I enjoyed seeing most was around people & noticing the unconscious structures of domination & patriarchy we bring and rarely talk about because it can be awkward. Miki said, “No system of domination survives unless individuals cooperate with it and believe in it.”  Noticing power differences & having concrete ways to deal with it is something I enjoyed as I work in a male-dominated world (financial advice). In general, it is easier & faster for men to speak in a group than women.

Eventually, the group became very good at noticing things like:

  • Men talking/ interrupting more often.

  • Participants asking for permission from the facilitator for decisions we could make ourselves

  • Noticing if we were not in free choice when making decisions or we were operating out of conditioning & habits. For ex-choosing always to agree, appease or go with a strategy for harmony when there are potential conflicts.

  • Going with first come, first served rather than what was most important

4. Know Thyself

There are no shortcuts to this one although making time to discover strengths & weaknesses in the group was a very, very useful use of time. Miki shared how she uses her strengths, works on areas to improve or let go as well as ways to compensate for weaknesses; this gave us great context and food for thought. We then split into small groups to discuss this; it was useful to use the ‘group mind’  to harvest strategies to compensate for weaknesses.  Some of my strengths I noted in my diary are my authenticity, tracking requests, sense of humor, playfulness & fearlessness around conflict. Some of my weaknesses are time keeping, offering too much content than can be handled & process. There was much fun doing this in small groups, and some of the fun of going to workshops is learning with others. For more insights on this, please read ‘What I take with me from my retreat’ by a fellow participant, Florian.

5. Feedback

Another fun thing I enjoyed was the amount of feedback I gave & received. I learned that feedback is a sacred gift, most of us do not know how to offer. When we offer feedback, we need to be clean about emotional charge; it is useful to point towards a particular observation, why it matters and to provide concrete suggestions. We were careful when offering feedback to check willingness to hear; some of us preferred only appreciation & this was okay. I noticed I had difficulty receiving appreciation and my automatic response was to offer something back. Once at breakfast, Miki said something nourishing and my immediate response was to say, “Thank you, I learned that from you by listening to your audio tapes” and quick came the response, “Just take it”. So, now I am working on stopping at “Thank you.”

6. Neutrality

On day one, I noticed the group was not really working towards a firm decision and Miki reminded us that she would make the decision, like a dictator, if we could not. I also felt comfortable when I facilitated to advocate for one proposal versus another by clearly stating why. I learned that transparency when doing this is important, so the group understands. So, those books I have that suggest a facilitator must remain neutral; I will be donating shortly. I now see this does not work for a group.

7. Nonviolence

Facilitating with radical love includes advocating for the needs of everyone, interrupting with care and refusing to accept compartmentalisation. I saw in Miki a fierce resolve to keep her commitment to nonviolence in every moment including not using words like ‘deserve’ or ‘should’ in her vocabulary. I am already socialised in a system that values domination structures, and a part of me still believes a doctor ‘deserves’ more than a cleaner. When I shared this, Miki encouraged me to choose differently, when I facilitate. To notice this conditioning and to make a choice from a place of commitment, rather than habit.

I also saw when repair work was needed between participants; this was encouraged. Talking about and resolving conflicts is necessary for healthy community and my mourning is I do not see enough of this in the world we live in.

8. Framing questions

I cannot wait for Miki’s book on ‘Convergent Facilitation’ which will have all of the beautiful aspects of this unique decision-making process she created.  Around questions, how to invite dissent, how to ask with a simple yes or no, when & how to raise or lower the threshold to hear less or more concerns/questions. Also, asking what you want the answers for rather than what you do not want and asking about ‘willingness’ even when participants are not all terribly enthusiastic.  We practised this skill a lot, experimenting with questions that worked & didn’t work both in small groups and in the larger group – this is one skill that I found not so easy to learn, and it is on my list of  ‘ to improve.’

9. Planning ahead

Having a plan for what do next or what information is need decide the next part is vital. One evening, we had loud thunder and couldn’t hear Miki; if that happens, do you play a group game or disperse into small groups – what happens next? The facilitator does not need to have all the answers; the group has great ideas too; the facilitator just needs to carry the focus of what happens next so as not to leave the group dangling.

10. Handling triggers – in yourself & others

Being ‘reactive’ isn’t helpful to the group. So, how to function, even when triggered? What I observed in Miki’s style, was she was always relaxed when facilitating; a useful reminder was that emotional charge is just information and not an alarm bell to do something right then and there. We talked about useful strategies of what do when triggered, how also to include outliers who may trigger the group when not included and so much more.

To summarise, there are many skills useful when facilitating groups and I hope this blog gives you some reflection points.

I have a small request of you – if you enjoyed this piece, please subscribe to my Conscious Money Newsletter if you have not already. Also, you may wish to subscribe to Miki Kashtan’s blogs at ‘The Fearless Heart.”

Other reading material:

Facilitating with Heart - by Martha Lasley