As I tour through the Midwest speaking at book events and presenting four sessions at a conference and spending time with family and friends for the holidays, I am very proud that my experience and words can make a difference for others. I am conscious of the victory that is over circumstances that are often challenging. And even as I savor that triumph, I am experiencing another challenge. It is not new. It has been a near constant one for at least the past 20 years.
Even as I conquer other challenges left and right, deal with three cancer diagnoses, whatever comes up around being single, managing a busy life and lots of travel and starting a new business, this struggle is always waiting for me, always persistent and always shameful. It makes me feel incompetent more consistently than any other challenge I have ever faced in my life. Whenever it shows up, and that is frequently, I feel like a helpless little girl again. Even though I have triumphed over a deadly disease, this common everyday issue is like a nemesis I cannot conquer.
This challenge is around money. Earning it, keeping it, managing it, saving it, having it, budgeting it are all difficult for me. Sometimes it feels impossible! Giving it away and spending it don’t seem to be too hard. Maybe you can relate? I have spent more time and frustration, energy and focus on this than any other topic in my life. Not so much on my money itself - if that had been the case, I may actually have made more progress by now - mostly on beating myself up for my seeming lack of ability in this area.
I never feel like enough when it comes to money. I don’t feel smart enough, disciplined enough, abundant enough, competent enough, aware enough or focused enough. I mostly feel helpless and hopeless and unable to make progress for more than a short period of time. Starting a new business has certainly been a challenge as there have been many expenses and not yet much income, but the truth is, this has been a persistent problem even when I had full-time jobs with regular incomes.
I have made many excuses over the years for not looking more closely at my financial situation, mostly because it is so painful for me to do so. In recent years, I have begun asking for help, admitting to some close friends and family what a struggle this is for me, getting coaching, exploring the emotional root issues involved and reading lots and lots of books. All of these practices have produced insights galore and even some better practices for a time, but I always end up in a feast or famine situation again and the stress of that is taking its toll.
In this area, as in others, I still tend to give more than I receive. I am not a crazy spender, but I do donate quite a bit to charity and buy gifts for those I love, even when I may not have quite enough money to do so. And I make a nice living by most standards – especially in comparison to how many people around the world live – so saving and planning better are really the biggest issues. An intuitive once told me I was like a dolphin (I like the comparison), who always believed there would be more fish. Perhaps I need to be more like a squirrel putting nuts away for the winter.
As people congratulate me on my success after publishing a book or appearing on television or taking a trip to Hawaii, I say thank you, but I don’t always feel successful. I often feel the need to explain that authors don’t make much money, being on the Katie Couric Show doesn’t come with a paycheck and my trip to Hawaii was for a volunteer gig, and I used miles to pay for my ticket.
Recognizing that subconsciously, I didn’t feel successful because I never have any money was a shock. I had thought I didn’t equate my success with money. I know the value I provide to people, and have often wondered why I can’t seem to allow myself to be compensated accordingly, but didn’t think that impacted my view of myself as successful. I think it has. Today I consciously redefined success for myself. Even though I have loved the following quotes for years, I really took them in today.
The man who is successful is the man who is useful.
- Bourke Cockran
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been on a book tour for the past week, making three stops in the Midwest where I have a lot of friends and family. Because I have been worried about money, and focused on paying my bills, I allowed myself to be disappointed that turn out wasn’t better at my events. Many people who RSVP’d didn’t make it, and I didn’t sell nearly as many books as I had hoped. As I shifted my perspective of success though, I recognized that my book and this tour were a huge success!
I reconnected with so many friends, some that I hadn’t seen in years. Numerous cancer survivors discovered my book, and some of my friends bought copies for people they know who have been diagnosed. I was reminded once again of how supported and loved I am that so many friends and family organized events or helped make them possible by providing food or inviting people or securing the space. And over and over again, people let me know that my message was inspiring to them, and asked great questions about all the lessons I have learned along the way. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is!