Why Having $0 Is Much Better Than Having $1
(or $5, or $100)
Why are we so fond of having it?
Is it to survive? To thrive? or just a way to feel alive?
The main issue I have with money is how it can rob our clarity.
It creates a false picture of how life should look like. It has become a universal assumption that we should have as much of it as we can.
But does money actually affect our growth?
I was born to a typical middle-class family. Both my parents worked a 9–5 job and we never faced any major financial issues as a family.
My parents were conservatives in their approach to money. I often watched them sort bills and add figures to a P&L sheet.
When I was a teenager my mother decided to quit her job. My parents realized that my dad’s salary would be enough to provide for the whole family.
I remember how my mom and dad told my siblings and I that we’ll be spending less money than we used to. From that point on, we bought fewer possessions and went on fewer vacations.
To teenager-me, it first seemed terrible. It took me several months of adapting to this new situation to understand that I’ve earned time with my mom.
It was an important lesson of how to avoid paying for things you don’t need.
My mother set an example for us all by quitting her job. Why? because she didn’t enjoy it anymore and wanted to make a career change.
We had an open discussion in which she told us that she can only afford to quit if we spend more rationally. To this day, it is one of the most valuable lessons I learned about choices and doing what’s right for yourself.
In a previous post, I mentioned that as middle-class people we have to acknowledge that our survival is secured.
I know that if I ever find myself lacking money for my survival then I’ll find a way to create it. And that’s why my survival is secured — I am confident of it.
With a secured survival, we have an opportunity to live a life of fulfillment. It is our obligation to never let this incredible opportunity drift away.
The best way to invest $5
A few years ago I read Tina Seelig’s wonderful book ‘What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20’ (Great to know you’re on Medium, Tina! ).
Seelig is, to name a few, a Professor at Stanford University, an author, and an entrepreneur.
In her book, she mentions a fascinating assignment she once gave her class.
Her students were split into several groups. Each group received an envelope with $5 as an initial investment. The goal was to make as much money as they can within a 2-hour time frame. They were told that later on, each group will have 3 minutes to present what they chose to do.
According to Seelig, most people often think in a common way and thus suggest similar ideas. Some say they would spend $5 in a casino. Others say they will set up a lemonade stand and use their $5 investment to buy ingredients.
But Seelig encouraged her students to stretch their thinking.
What they chose to do was rather brilliant.
For example, one group addressed a local need. There were always long waiting lines at the local restaurants and it took a while for people to get a table. The students decided to queue for several different restaurants simultaneously. As soon as they were first in line they sold their place to others who were waiting.
Since they traded spots with others, they always ended up with another spot.
The top group, who earned $650, did not even use their whole 2-hour limit.
How did they do it, you might wonder?
The students in that group had a breakthrough idea. They used a resource which was, in fact, the most valuable of all: their 3-minute presentation.
The group sold their 3-minute presentation time to a company who wanted to recruit students. They created a short commercial and showed it in class.
There was one similarity between all the innovative groups:
They completely ignored the $5 investment given to them.
They realized their $5 were worthless and found an effective way to create money regardless of their initial investment.
Money = a tool
There were many occasions in my life when my overview of an issue was too narrow and I quickly reached a dead-end.
This happens when we only use common thinking patterns. Those same mainstream ways we all use.
Our minds are clouded by patterns we live by. Money, for example, often makes us lose sight of our meaning, values, and creativity.
Money plays an important part of our lives. Perhaps the most important of all.
But money is over-rated.
I used to think of money almost every hour of the day.
I would check my bank account balance several times a day, calculate my income, compare prices…
Don’t get me wrong. It is vital to keep an eye on our spending. It makes us in control of our finances.
But there’s a thin line between importance and an obsession.
I was obsessed. I didn’t spend much. In fact, the opposite is true.
I was so concerned with living a minimalist life that I wasted too much energy trying to perfect it. My clarity gradually started to fade away.
When money becomes our ideal, we think how to best invest the $5 given to us, instead of thinking outside the box.
That’s why it is crucial to appreciate that money is just a tool.
The best investment isn’t in money. The best investment is in yourself.
Your values, passions, and goals are all worthless until YOU make them worth something.
What would you do with an extra $1,000 now?
How about $10,000 or maybe $100,000?
Would you pursue your passions and goals differently, or would it cost you your creativity? Can you achieve your goals regardless of money?
It’s easy to use money as an excuse.
“I can’t afford to pay for PR, so my business is stuck”
“I need more money, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to record another album”
This second quote is my own. I repeatedly said it to myself for a while.
I was limiting myself and using money as an excuse. Instead, I should have used my own creativity to figure it out.
The truth is — many businesses rarely need any money to get them going.
As a musician, I admire those who first used Youtube as a platform to promote their music. Back then, Youtube was merely a website full of funny videos of cats. Those musicians were innovative and found exposure in a place where they had no competition. Instead of using the mainstream ways (playing gigs, paying for PR), they found a way to stand out.
It was such a great idea and today Youtube has become yet another mainstream way for musicians to promote themselves.
You might be thinking that this innovative thinking cannot be applied to your line of work, but that’s not true. Maybe you’re thinking: hey, I can’t lift my business off the ground since I need money to develop my product.
Well, what would you say to the first entrepreneurs who used Kickstarter? They found an incredible way to fund their project and get people hyped about it. Even more so, they got people to pay for the product before it was even ready and limited their risk.
The world told them they won’t make it, but they replied — YES WE WILL!
I eventually found out that there were many ways I could record my album.
I could exchange my skills (instead of money) for studio time. I could even get funding from my fans, using Kickstarter. Today, I am working on new material from a small home studio I built for myself. It might not be a luxury studio, but it provides me with the right environment for my work.
Unlock your special skills
Creative people understand money is a tool and not always the most important one.
Your business isn’t special because of the amount of money you invested or could invest in it. Whether you run a blog, a start-up, a comedy show or write a book, your entrepreneurship is special thanks to you.
We can (easily) define what’s unique about our business only once we understand what is unique about us.
-What is unique about what I do?
-What are my most important skills?
-How do these things define my work?
-Am I using my creativity or do I only use mainstream ways of thinking?
-Am I obsessed with money or do I see it as just another tool?
If you keep thinking clearly — things will happen.
Whatever your goals might be, the only way forward is your unique thinking. This is the only way you differ from others.
It will take time, but you have to stay confident and patient.
Do you remember that story your friend told you? How his grandfather came to America with nothing but $1 in his wallet and fulfilled all his goals? Maybe that story is not a fairytale after all. Maybe it is true.
But that was only possible if his grandfather ignored his $1 bill.