Let’s look at a scenario together.
Girl goes to school so that she can become whoever she wants to be. Girl gets degree. Girl has to get a job where priority #1 is how much she gets paid, thus implicitly letting go of the “whoever she wants to be” part for now.
Girl is talented and smart. She becomes successful at said job, and gets compliments from her peers and family. She can’t stop not being “whoever she wants to be” now. She’s too invested in being someone else.
Girl creates financial stability. Girl begins to hate herself.
She starts to feel the insincerity of her days. She shows the hurt to others as anger and impatience. She’s accidentally put her own life on hold.
Girl is the story of everyone’s financial life. What girl does at this point determines whether she creates a financial future that’s filled with happiness, or one that’s about covering shame. She will think it’s easier to keep going down her current path, becoming more and more exhausted from the pressure.
At some point, she will disconnect to survive. From herself and the people around her.
All financial stability is not built the same. One is built around who you really are. The other a mis-fit, and ironically in the end, harder to sustain.
The reality is that there is a universal hierarchy (or “path”) to how we build our relationship with money.
1st level — Financial stability. We must know with certainty that we will be able to pay our rent, pay our bills and our debt obligations, and put food on the table. This is our first goal.
2nd level — Financial uncertainty. We must know that after having created financial certainty, we can have some fun!
You can take an unplanned vacation if you want to. Or buy something nice for yourself without financial calamity. This second level is about financial surprise and joy.
3rd level — Growth. After becoming worthy of the confidence that comes from having achieved the first two levels, like a butterfly in a chrysalis, you feel the need to expand your financial capacities. You want to learn how to grow your money, which means investing. With financial stability and fun now firmly established, you can emotionally and financially afford to take risks.
You cannot skip Level 1 and Level 2 to get here. You’ll crash if you try.
4th level — Fulfillment. The first three levels of financial hierarchy can be reached with just financial knowledge alone. But you can’t reach the stage of fulfillment without having learned who you are and begun to financially support doing what you love (your purpose) so that your time, money, and talents are all aligned to make the greatest impact on the world. It’s the “damn, I’m happy” stage.
How do you get to Level 4? You start by getting to Level 1 — financial stability.
Level 1 requires learning skills that most people don’t have. Thus, most people never get to Level 1. It’s a shame, because learning new skills surrounding money isn’t hard once people get over their fears.
People try to cram to Level 3 (Growth), but they find their lives filled with financial booms and busts. No upward direction.
Even people who manage to create financial stability often spend many “productive” years getting to Level 3 (Growth) in ways that aren’t true to themselves. They become unhappy. They don’t know what else to do, so they just keep swimming, like Dory in Finding Nemo.
Their focus slowly shifts to protecting themselves rather than giving to others. Their personal relationships suffer.
Like a Catch-22, the career that was meant to help them maintain financial stability ironically begins to show cracks, but they hold on to the bitter end.
You see it all the time. The people who approach me with the deepest financial challenges are those who have walked this very path. They truly feel that they can’t get out.
The only alternative that works
From the beginning, create your financial stability in a way that is true to who you want to be. Hold that goal and never lose sight of it.
Learn the basic financial skills you don’t have now, and use the skill set as a competitive advantage for everything in your life. Dreams become realities this way.
End up doing what you love all the time. Get to Level 4.
Make it happen
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You can find me at janehwangbo.com.