Chapter 5 – If You Had a Million Rats, Would You be Successful?
You achieve true financial success when your internal prosperity expresses itself in your having enough money to meet obligations and to spend. You will be happier with the money you have and make if you can lead a more balanced life. What is financial success? If you can’t identify what it is for you, you’ll never know when it arrives. If you only attempt to seek happiness and inner peace from the accumulation of money alone,
you will still feel empty.
Focusing on just the accumulation of money to achieve financial success without developing the inner you is like waiting for good friends to pick you up for dinner. If you get distracted, then delayed, and aren’t home when they arrive, you’ll miss out on more than just another dinner out. You’ll miss out on the fun and experiences you would have shared with good friends.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE FINANCIAL SUCCESS?
Financial success for many is the number of trailing zeros on the account statement.
Look into your crystal ball for a moment and imagine that you had 10 million dollars in the bank. (A lonely one million dollars just isn’t what it used to be so we have to dream bigger.) Take a few moments and daydream about the following for a few minutes. Close your eyes as you visualize your answers. Picture your new life as if you had those 10 million dollars. Hey, if you are reading this book on the bus, kick in that blank soft focused stare instead of closing your eyes. People will think you are being contemplative.
If I had ten million dollars in the bank…
- Where do I live?
- What do I do for a living?
- Am I married to the same person I was before my new wealth?
- What is my family like? How many kids, if any?
- What kind of vehicles do I have?
- Do I own a boat or a plane? What kind?
- Where do I vacation?
- Do I work? Where do I work?
- Do I have support help at home? Landscaper? Housekeeper? Nanny?
- What are my new friends like?
- What happened to my old friends?
- Are my old friends jealous of my new wealth?
- Do my old friends behave differently around me?
- Do we drift apart?
- Where do I hang out?
- What do I do for fun?
- What kind of clothes do I wear?
- What does my home look like inside?
- Am I happy?
- Am I in love?
- Do people love me for my money or for me? Can I tell the difference?
- Who do I trust?
- Do I give to charity?
- Am I grateful for my success?
- What kind of little stuff will I buy with my fortune?
- What kind of big stuff will I buy with my fortune?
- Do people with 100 million dollars look down on me since I don’t have as much stuff as they do?
- If the 100 million dollar crowd asks me about my summer estate, which I can’t afford on only ten million dollars, what will I say?
- How will I feel when I can’t keep up with the100 million dollar crowd?
- The 100 million dollar crowd asks me to go to the estate for the month. I don’t really know any of them well. None of my current family and friends can go with me. Do I go? Will I fit in? Will I feel uncomfortable?
- Is ten million dollars enough?
So what do you think? Would your life be better in some ways? Probably. Would it be worse in some ways if you had 10 million dollars in the bank? Probably. Would you still feel excluded by some groups because you only had 10 million dollars? Probably.
I recently saw an advertisement in a magazine targeted to high-income earners that said the service was priced for people who, “…range from the comfortable to the extremely wealthy.” Who knew there was wealth discrimination? See, many think money alone will make them part of a ”happier” class of people, but there obviously is a difference in perceived levels of wealth. I guess ”comfortable” is wealth with training wheels.
One person’s mansion is another’s shack. One person’s ceiling is another’s floor.
Money in the bank alone will not bring you happiness. What it will bring you, if you are not careful, is the ability to medicate yourself with money. It will allow you to regularly acquire stuff that will help distract you from life at hand. Before you know it your fortune will begin to shrink and could even disappear.
The reality is that financial success is knocking at your door right now. Financial success is measured more by your state of mind and internal prosperity than money in the bank. Unless you can find peace with the money you have right now, more trailing zeros in the bank will not help. The reality is that no matter how much you have, someone else will have more.
“Wealth is a blessing – when you are ready for it.”
Life is a one shot deal. There are no do-overs. There is no rewind. If you don’t reach out and find internal prosperity right now, tomorrow is just another day that you won’t be happy. The quality of your life is based upon the totality of happy moments. Unless you take action to find your path to internal prosperity and external wealth, you will look back years from now with regret and declare that your life was miserable and unhappy. You will be crotchety, bitter and not someone that people will want to associate with. You will be old, alone and afraid. Your life will suck.
Financial success is like a magnet. There are two ends. You either repel financial success or you attract it. You repel financial success by always knocking it out of the way in your pursuit for more.
You can attract wealth by developing internal prosperity and being grateful for the blessings you currently have. As bad as you feel life might be for you right now, it can always be worse.
IF YOU MEASURED YOUR SELF-ESTEEM IN DOLLARS, WOULD YOU BE RICH?
Having more money does not make you happier, prettier, sexier or give you fresher breath. Money is just a thing. Money is intangible. It’s only valuable because you believe it is.
THINGS THAT ARE OR HAVE BEEN USED AS MONEY
- Iron bars
Can you imagine people pursuing a dream of having butter? Would a room full of stones or iron bars make you happier? How about rats?
“When you allow the trailing zeros in the bank to define you, that is what is inside of you.”
Here it comes. At this moment, right now, you are wealthier than billions of other people on this planet.
Cast aside your illusions of “how much better your life will be when…” and focus on this moment. How much worse would your life be if you did not have what you currently have? There are many people who are envious of what you have. You just don’t know them. They want your stuff and think your stuff will make them happy and successful. If your stuff doesn’t work for you, how will it work for them? What if they appreciated your stuff more, were thankful and it met their inner needs? With your stuff they could stop searching. It would make them fulfilled and satisfied. And to think you’ve got it right now.
The constant pursuit of something else means that you are always chasing and never catching. As long as you only focus on the money, you lose.
One of the most difficult things to do as you move toward achieving internal prosperity is being honest with yourself about the status of your past and present life. It takes great courage and confidence to face who you really are. Sometimes the mirror is the hardest image to view alone.
Have you heard that old play on words, “Denial is a river in Egypt?” Well, denial really is an unconscious defense mechanism that protects us by cushioning us against painful realities, thoughts or feelings. Unfortunately, our protective mechanism can’t tell the difference between information that can help us and stuff we don’t need to deal with.
It’s kind of like wearing a suit of armor. Are you with me here? A suit of armor can protect you and save your life, it can also kill you. Imagine wearing a suit of armor and falling off your horse into a raging river? That armor may weigh you down until you drown.
So why is it important to be brave and try to see through denial? It’s important because denial steals your future. You have to muster your courage to face who you are only for yourself, so that you can find your path to happier days. If you feel like you have self-esteem issues, they are all repairable, you just have to take off your suit of armor — a little at a time — so your future can be better than your past.
OUR PERCEPTION OF OURSELVES IN THE MIRROR IS HYPERCRITICAL
- “I look fat.”
- “I’m not pretty enough.”
- “I’m too tall.”
- “I’m too short.”
- “I’m not smart enough.”
- “Nobody likes me.”
- “I don’t have enough hair.”
- “I’m too hairy.”
- “I don’t make enough money.”
- “I’m a fraud.”
- “I’m not rich enough.”
- “My car isn’t new enough.”
- “My home isn’t big enough.”
If the mirror is the hardest image to view alone, why view it alone? Ask a friend, advisor or therapist to help you see the image. Work with someone you feel comfortable with, can be honest with and someone you trust.
You will find it beneficial to create an atmosphere where you will be comfortable. Sit in a comfortable location and make sure you won’t be disturbed. Have a glass of wine if you drink, have a glass of water if you don’t, play some relaxing music softly in the background, don’t answer the phone, turn down the volume on the answering machine, and ignore every outside intrusion that you can. You want to make sure the surroundings allow you to focus on the matter at hand.
Once you are comfortable and prepared, discover the answers to the following questions and begin to uncover your relationship with money. Either ask them of yourself or ask your helper to read them to you. As you answer the questions, ask your helper to help you clarify your answers so they are as honest as possible.
MONEY WHO AM I?
- Am I satisfied with the amount of money that I make? If not, why not?
- What material possessions do I desperately want to have? Why? What do they represent to me?
- Do I sometimes spend money to impress others or boost my self-esteem?
- Have I ever borrowed money from friends or creditors and not repaid it?
- Do I sometimes spend money on others so they keep me in their lives?
- When I look around my home, do I see stuff that made me feel happy when I bought it but no longer does? If yes, why?
- Do I buy things on credit because I want them now?
- Am I using credit to finance a life I can’t afford on cash?
- Do I buy things to help change the way I’m feeling at the time?
That’s enough honesty for now.
POPEYE, THE PHILOSOPHER, SAYS, “I AM WHAT I AM AND THAT’S ALL THAT I AM.”
The first stage of money troubles, or money deception, is denial. Money denial exists in many people and actually holds them back from achieving both internal prosperity and external wealth. If you can’t be honest with yourself about money, do you really know who you are?
- They wouldn’t think much of me if they really knew I am juggling the bills.
- If they knew how much I really had in the bank, they’d laugh (or want it).
- If they know how much I make they will judge me.
- If the saleswoman really knew how much money I had she wouldn’t spend as much time with me.
Internal prosperity requires that you are honest with yourself about your money. You have to confess to at least yourself, about how you use or misuse your money. Once you see who you truly are with money, you can do three things.
THREE THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR MONEY TRUTH
- Accept who you are today. If you are a no-good, lying, deceitful, sack of dung when it comes to your money, so what? You won’t know how long your journey to internal prosperity and external wealth is unless you know the distance you have to travel. The length of the journey is not an indication of the amount of time it will take. Some people fly, others walk. You are today who you are. Don’t beat yourself up about the truth if it feels uncomfortable. Don’t run out and overeat, over drink or hurt yourself in some other compulsive or abusive way. You are what you are and that’s all that you are — nothing more, nothing less.
- Develop a mental picture of how you would like to be with your money. Keeping your income and wealth an honest secret as it grows is fine, as long as you are not using a false façade to lie to others. Don’t project an illusion of money you don’t have. You can have money and not flaunt it and you can also buy material goods at a level that is easy for you to afford. You should feel very comfortable buying what you can afford. Continue to be honest with yourself as you move through the days to your destination of internal prosperity and the accumulation of external wealth. Along your journey, continue to be honest with yourself about your money habits. If you aren’t, you’ll find yourself slipping back into those old, self-defeating ways.
- Become confident that what you are currently making will satisfy you. No matter how much you make, it will never be enough if you don’t allow it to be. Once you develop the confidence that the money you are making now will satisfy your thirst, you will find that you could live well with 20 percent less income. Becoming and staying comfortable with your current income is in many ways like getting an instant 20-percent raise. Why 20 percent? Because you waste about 20 percent of your income on stuff you don’t need when you are unhappy with your life.
This formula has been proven true time after time. All you have to do is watch people track their spending and watch as they voluntarily cut back on things they no longer find necessary. The more aware you are about where your money is going, the easier it is to give yourself an instant raise. It’s money spent trying to distract yourself from the way you are feeling in the pursuit of increasingly elusive happiness.
ATONE FOR YOUR FINANCIAL SINS
If you find during your money confession that you have hurt others with your past financial behavior, you need to consider making amends. Atoning for your financial errors is an important step along your journey toward internal prosperity. Make an effort to repair the damage your past financial mistakes have caused, think about the pain and good relationships that went bad because of your past behavior. If you borrowed $100 from a friend in college and never paid it back, hunt him down and pay him back. A good friend of mine lent $600 to a friend of hers when she was in college. That was years and years ago and every time she sees that friend, what do you think is first on her mind? Do you think the loan creates distance and dissolves the friendship? You bet it does. Aren’t friends more valuable than money? Pay your friends and loved ones what you owe them.
A minister called me and said that he had been volunteering his time helping a local couple. He had even given them money to help with safety expenses, like shelter and food. They never made an effort to repay him and stopped coming to their counseling sessions. Later, he saw them at the local football game and they were buying all sorts of stuff. He was upset because he believed he had been taken advantage of. They had money in their hand right now but never made an effort to repay him one dollar. Don’t let your past mistakes hurt others.
Get as straight with your financial past as you can. If you are unable to find the person or company to repay past debts, make your best effort. You will know you tried and that’s much better than never trying at all.
Chapter 6 – The 10 Attributes of Internal Prosperity
Chapter 1 – I Got Hit in the Head With a Baseball and I Saw it Coming
Chapter 2 – What Your Money is Trying to Tell You
Chapter 3 – Take a Lap on the Gerbil Wheel of Debt
Chapter 4 – Why Money Doesn’t Make You Happy
Chapter 5 – If You Had a Million Rats, Would You be Successful?
Chapter 6 – The 10 Attributes of Internal Prosperity
Chapter 7 – The Attributes of Internal Prosperity in Action
Chapter 8 – Your Money is Your Friend
Conclusion – Listen to Your Heart