Written by Morgan Smith
For a long time (and, I am embarrassed to admit, until fairly recently) I held the false belief that money and passion were mutually exclusive. My slightly younger self, rationalized that if I spent my time ‘chasing the almighty,’ I would be left with no time to pursue my heart. Service and kindness, are not profitable ventures. And any true achievement requires suffering – not the ease and freedom of wealth. That is not to say I had to live on the streets, I have always believed working would sustain you. But ‘doing good’ and ‘being wealthy’ were definitely two distinct bubbles in a vein diagram. As a poet once put it, “capitalism raises you, but you have to step on someone else to get there.” “Not me!” I naively (and maybe I little boastfully) preached to whoever would listen, but mostly to myself: “I will choose passion and purpose over money - every time.” It is also possible that I may have looked down my nose a little at those around me who chose more practical careers. I may have even used the term ‘sell-out.” I created an over-simplified mythology for myself where, one by one, my peers were slowly giving way; abandoning their talents and interests for good jobs, so they could afford trivial comforts. Not me though, arrogant me, would definitely not succumb to these primal urges, I would resist, and in so doing, I would hold on to my dreams and do something that mattered. At the time, I was not entirely sure what I was pursuing… but I knew with absolutely certainty that it was the opposite of money.
To my credit, I did actually dig this trench and live in it. I didn’t just talk about it. Eventually I did find something to pursue and for ten years, I chased a far off dream. Something I loved. Something I thought meant something; something that, in my mind, contributed a small, but important good. But strangely, it never quite worked. I could never take it to the level I wanted, because something always got in the way. Get this – I never made enough money I worked really, really hard. I learned things. I got measurably better. By my own definition I was living the dream. I was doing something I loved, I was getting paid to do it and darn it, I was good at it. I did always have another job and a few extra projects on the side but I was doing it. I always had enough money. But just enough, because that is how the story went. In truth, I just pushed my finances under the rug. I managed to almost completely ignore them except for the brief moments when the ATM would scribe sad balance sheets, which I would then immediately deposit into the trash with the stealth of a ninja; as if the truth would soon self-destruct and I could continue ignoring the problem. Life was good, but not good enough. I was not moving forward. Although my work brought meaning and passion, my path was not sustainable. This hurt. Money is how worth is ascribed to work, and although I was very proud of my work, my paycheck was a constant reminder that those around me did not seem to value my contributions as much as I did. I was struggling to hold it all together. My financial instability made me feel ashamed, but I felt unable to let go of my ideology of doing what I loved. I was exhausted and depleted but I kept soldiering on, as if I had no choice. This was the story. The story I had told myself for so long. I would pursue my heart’s path, but it would bring me neither wealth nor ease. This was my sacrifice. This was how I wanted my story to go because that way, my ultimate contribution would be righteous. I would have done good for the sake of good, and not for my own personal gain.
“So…. how’s that working for you?” I remember my dad asking me so many times as a child and then so many more when I was a teenager. And when I finally got around to asking myself that question about my finances, I couldn’t help but answer, “not so good.” Right before my eyes, my false beliefs began to crack. So I started asking myself questions. Lots of questions. Mostly dumb questions, but eventually I arrived on, “what if you were wrong. What if there is an intersection between passion and money. What if it is possible to make good money doing what you love? What if it doesn’t have to be such a struggle.” It sounds stupid, as I read that sentence again now. Childish. But I somehow vilified money in order to craft story where I was a hero forgoing wealth for some greater good. To be fair, it is actually kind of a good story – a parable of sacrifice. There is something in the mythology of martyrdom that has a certain pull with me. But after wearing those heavy clothes for years, I found them to be a heavy burden. I was weighed down by my beliefs and my abilities were constricted by the size of my convictions. But the moment I realized that it was possible that, just this one time, I was wrong, things started to change. I started to notice people around me who were doing good work, work they loved, and making descent money. Then I looked harder and found others doing good work and making lots of money. Moreover, others’ wealth did not diminish my view of them – if anything, it enhanced their ability to more good work. Not only is it possible to do good and earn good – but if you can make it happen, you are rewarded with an amplified ability to do more. All at once I started to see money as more like a useful tool rather than evil villain. Just like food, shelter, wellness and community if I looked after money – it would look after me.
So now what…
After having figured this out. I again feel like a child. I pushed these things aside for so long, I am behind the curve now. I look around and see some of those people I had once judged for abandoning their dreams for good jobs, and I find myself now envious of the secure lives that they created for themselves; solid platforms for good things. I, on the other hand, I am just beginning. I have almost nothing to my name. I have invested everything in two fledgling ideas that may or may not go anywhere. But now, at least, I am working on it. Although I am still striving to make decision that follow passion, I am no longer willing to blindly follow passion anywhere. Instead I will choose to follow only those passions that lead to places where there is the income and opportunity required to contribute at the next level. I want to be inside the intersection of passion and abundance. I am playing the game. I have always aspired to be a game changer, but until recently I hadn’t really grasped how deeply you need to play a game in order to change it. To be honest, sometimes I miss my childish ignorance, because it was easier. However I would not go back for anything. Seeking a profitable passion may prove a steeper path and there are undoubtedly many people who are way ahead of me. But I don’t care; this path is taking me where I want to go and I can’t do anything but follow my heart. Moreover the journey from my old path to this new one, has been an interesting process for me. Through this experience, I was really able to see how my beliefs impact my experiences and life outcomes in profound ways. It also makes me curious about what other limiting beliefs I may have, and how they are impacting me. But for now, at least, I have been given a gift: a new outlook and a new prayer: may I be wealthy so that I might have more to give. And, I am genuinely excited to see where this new awareness guides my life.
To anyone out there reading this, I pose two questions, “what do you fundamentally believe about money?” and “how is that working for you?” I invite you to take a ten minutes and just think about money. Write down anything and everything that you think. Don’t judge yourself or hold anything back. Just write it down and let it go. After the ten minutes stop. Take five minutes and just look at this list. Don’t do anything. Feel the words. Live in that reality. Then immediately take five minutes and write down the core beliefs that you want to have about money, using only positive statements. Look at that list everyday for a week. See what happens. I sincerely hope that opening this can may bring you as great of a gift as it brought me.