In 2003, I was introduced to the world of personal development.
While I have learned many valuable lessons since then, and I have grown (i.e. “developed” I guess you could say), looking back I also believe that some of what was being shared was not what it appeared to be.
Much of my personal development journey centered on something referred to as a “money mindset.” I was taught that if I wasn’t as wealthy as I wanted to be, it was because I did not possess a wealth mindset. I was taught wealth affirmations. I went through experiential exercises that were supposed to transform my mindset. I was taught to live and spend “as if I were wealthy.”
The result of all of this mindset reprogramming was supposed to be financial freedom.
I would begin attracting great wealth. It would not be difficult. It would not require hard work. In fact, I still have a board that I broke with my hand (think karate chop) in an exercise at one of those wealth weekends on which I wrote on one side, “Being rich takes too much hard work” (my “poor” mindset) and on the other, “Earning passive income doesn’t take hard work” (the wealth mindset I was eager to adopt). Breaking the board was supposed to represent breaking the limiting belief… the mindset that had kept me working hard for my money all my life, and usher in an era of easy passive income and financial freedom.
It was a fun exercise. It did feel empowering. And, it did shift my mindset.
Just not in the ways I expected. Instead, over the next seven years and countless seminars and wealth mindset exercises, I went from being very comfortable financially, having a profitable business, a few solid investments, and a decent nest egg, to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and going into debt chasing financial freedom. I wanted it so badly I was willing to do whatever it took to get there. By the way, that’s another tact used in many of these trainings… telling you if you’re not willing to do whatever it takes, then you don’t really want it. I disagree but that’s another blog post.
Turns out I wasn’t being taught a wealth mindset.
I may not be a wealth expert, but I’m pretty sure the way to financial freedom isn’t spending all you’re making or going into debt. I look back now and realize that I wasn’t being taught a wealth mindset… I was being taught a spending mindset. You see, a spending mindset that believes making millions is easy and available to anyone will keep investing more and more money to reach that goal (particularly when they’re being encouraged to do so by those who appear to have the wealth they’re seeking). They planted the seed—continuously—that if I wasn’t financially free and wanted to be, there was still something I needed to learn… more inner work to do… more steps to take. And, not surprisingly, they could teach me, for a price. I think what they were really doing was teaching me how to make them rich.
I do believe making a lot of money or becoming financially free does require a certain mindset.
There may be things you need to learn. And, yes, there will be times you need to invest. But I strongly disagree with the philosophy that you must spend as if you are wealthy (i.e. spend money you don’t have) in order to become wealthy. I believe that is irresponsible and extremely dangerous. It drove my successful business into the ground and put me in debt. And, I’ve watched it drive others out of business and into severe financial straits, and even bankruptcy.
I’m not against making money or striving for financial freedom.
But I believe too many people have been led astray. While the principles being taught may have begun with a seed of truth or good intentions, I believe somewhere along the way that shifted.
The bottom-line is this: If someone is advising you to pay them money in order for you to make money, you have to step back and recognize that it’s a business transaction. You owe it to yourself to do your homework and make sure—before you invest a dime—that what they’re recommending actually works. And, that they’re qualified to teach you.
You must also realize that no matter what you do, or what you think, there are no guarantees that any of us will become financially free.
Some of us may. Others may not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. But try responsibly. Don’t spend money you don’t have on some pipe dream of financial freedom. Create a carefully researched plan. Invest only what you can afford to lose. And thoroughly check out those you are taking advice from.
The silver lining.
After seven years of chasing financial freedom and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve it, I am happy to report I finally woke up. We are back on top of our financial situation. We are living within our means. I most certainly haven’t given up on financial freedom but I have a much clearer perspective on it now. And I am much more careful about who I listen to and what I invest in. And, maybe most important, I am happy where I am financially and with what I have. If I strike it rich, that will be awesome. But I’m certainly not waiting for that day to be happy, nor am I spending all my time, money and energy chasing it.