When you look at the personal finance community, there are two stories that sell and scale.
My personal finance topic wasn’t one of them.
I wasn’t a self-made millionaire teaching others how to do the same. Nor was I the person teaching people how to get out of debt. These are considered the “sexy, scalable” topics.
My message was around your relationship with money and the significance of your choices. In other words: Not so sexy and scalable.
My mission was (and still is) to get people to think, behave, and talk about money differently. And by differently, I mean challenging the traditional approach to money that focuses solely on the numbers, and championing a new approach that integrates the psychology and emotions of money with the math of money. Especially for smart, driven, and curious high-earners who, sometimes, become financially distracted and anxious about their financial roles, responsibilities and choices.
Back in the late 90s/early aughts this definitely wasn’t sexy. Today, it is only slightly so 🙂
Yet, from the beginning, even before I had the words I do today to adequately describe my work, this has been my message and focus.
So, for years, I didn’t think I had a dramatic story to tell about money.
Then I started working with Mike Ganino and Chloe DiVita (of the Mike Drop Method) on upleveling my presentations. And lo-and-behold, I discovered I actually DO have a dramatic story! 🙂
I had, unfortunately, muted it.
Some of this was due to not recognizing the pieces of my story that made it dramatic.
Some of this was due to how the speaking industry is designed (and to some extent the coaching industry, too).
Some of this was due to my industry (personal & business finances) and the industries in which most of my speaking and coaching clients operate (law, finance, leadership, marketing, medicine, beauty, the arts).
The signal I got from a variety of sources was clear: You must be financially perfect in order to provide guidance to others about their money.
In fact, someone once told me, to my face, they wouldn’t work with me because I didn’t own my apartment. This statement stunned me.
It also stung. Not because I didn’t own my apartment, but because it was said at a time when I was feeling horrible about the condition of my finances.
When I started my career, working at a major investment firm, getting paid monthly, consistently, maxing out my 401k, regularly saving, with normal predictable expenses and my only debt being my student loan, I was the picture of financial perfection.
Then I became an entrepreneur and after a few years my financial picture changed. But not for the better, and I was no longer the picture of financial perfection.
Therefore, when the person made their apartment comment, beyond their spoken words, what I heard was that the value of my expertise, perspective, experience, gifts and track record were diminished. So, my confidence took a hit, too.
Turning Point Conversations
That conversation shaped what I felt in the moment and how I feel now. It also shaped the subsequent choices I made that I’m still experiencing the ripple effects of. As did other conversations from the past that I now describe as “turning point” conversations.
And as you might imagine, there have been quite a few given that I started my career in financial services in 1986; started my business in 1995; had my first speaking engagement in 1996; and my first financial coaching client in 2001.
One such conversation was with one of the first coaches with whom I worked, Mark Monchek. He asked me a piercing question:
He was referring to my effort to grow my investment management business (which was floundering) when it was my financial education practice that was thriving with little effort. With his question, he was debunking a myth that I had subscribed to hook, line, and sinker: the delusion of hard work.
Even though I LOVED speaking, creating amazing and non-conventional live experiences, and traveling the country to do so, I didn’t initially take what I did in this realm seriously because it was “easy” for me. Plus, my ego was really digging being able to say, “I’m a money manager.” (I was one of a few Black women to start an investment firm in the mid-90s, but I stopped managing money in 2011.)
What in your business and/or life are you trying to force?
Another “turning point” conversation was a bit more sobering.
It was about 15 years after the stock market crash of 1987 (this is what sparked my interest in behavioral finance and economics) and about 8 years after starting my own firm. I’m in my CPA’s office. It was tax season and he looked at me and stopped me in my tracks as he said,
That was my deer in the headlights moment, because I didn’t have an answer.
It was when I had to confront my reality and admit my CPA was right – my business wasn’t doing well financially.
I wasn’t doing well financially.
If I didn’t get the message before, it became quite clear then that I needed to make some changes to my business and how I ran it.
That was also when I realized I had lost sight of prioritizing the health of my personal finances. My mother taught me to save and not to carry consumer debt. Yet to keep my business going, there I was dipping into my savings, selling investments, and (gasp!) borrowing money.
THIS was not the picture of financial perfection…at all!
My reality back then didn’t match what was expected of me, what I expected of myself, or what I had been trained to do – personally, academically or professionally.
Thankfully, today, my business is thriving and doing well, and I’m doing likewise.
Getting here has been quite the journey. So, it is really funny that I once thought I didn’t have a dramatic story…LOL!
As you read my story, what comes to mind for you about your own?
What conversations from your past are coming to the surface? What are they reminding you of?
Is there a reality you are scared to confront?
For example, are you ignoring the signs that indicate you need to fire a team member? Or, maybe hire one. Or, maybe delegate more? (You might think the first is the hardest of these three, but none of them are easy!)
Are you giving your business everything – including your financial future? (I did for many years, and I don’t advise it!)
If, like me, you muted your story because it didn’t seem dramatic enough, let my story remind you of Webster’s definition of drama:
“…a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces.”
So, reclaim the power of the drama in your story.
That’s what I am in the process of doing and it feels both scary…and AMAZING! 🙂