Money Can’t Oppress You

The Art of Accomplishment Podcast
The Art of Accomplishment Podcast
Money Can't Oppress You
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In the second episode of this two-part series on money, we are going to address another common misconception that people have, which is that money is bad and the root of all evil. What if we did not have to see money as a game or a means to an end? What if we understood that we could transform our relationship to it by simply recognizing that money is not personal? By seeing ourselves as human beyond the money, money can start flowing very differently into our lives. 

“All that’s required is to not have the money be personal, so you don’t actually have to see it as a game. You don’t actually have to see it as a means to an end. All that’s really required is the money isn’t personal. You just have to see yourself as human beyond the money, and then money has a way of flowing very differently in people’s lives.”

Brett: Welcome back, everybody, to our topic on money. Now we are going to get the second half of this discussion on the belief that money is bad. Joe, what makes it that people develop this belief that money is bad or evil?

Joe: What I typically notice is that money is bad comes because somebody felt that money hurt them. Maybe they had a parent who cared more about money. It felt like the parent cared more about money than they did about time with the kid, or that somebody with money did something bad or that somebody with wealth did something that made them feel less than. 

Also, there are certain people that have internal perspectives that when something makes them feel bad, they attack. That’s the way their personality system works. Just observing great wealth and the way that great wealth moves can make people feel like, if they have that moment of insecurity or I’m not good enough, then their natural response might be to attack, the way their personality works. I think for all of those reasons people think money is bad. 

I mean you can see it all over our society. If you just start saying how people with a lot of money are bad, you will start getting a following. It’s a fascinating thing. But it’s often not just people with a lot of money. It’s just money. The system sucks. What an asshole! He drives a $120,000 car. It’s just like there’s this whole set of judgment that comes along with money. I think they are usually some reflection or some sort of projection of our own relationship with money and/or ourselves or like I said earlier with our parents or authority figures or something like that. 

Brett: What you were saying there with the $120,000 car, money can point at glaring inequalities in all of the things money can be a surrogate for. You might see somebody with a lot of money, and they are getting a lot of affection from people and a lot of attention because they have money. Then that makes you feel your lack of affection and attention, and maybe in the opposite framing of what we were talking about in the first half, instead of buying into it and being like I need more money and then people will love me, you instead just say fuck that, I don’t want to play that game. Then money becomes this lava that you don’t want to touch. 

Joe: Let’s take a look at a person in the $250,000 car. There’s a person driving around in a $250,000 car. Some group of people are going to be like that guy is just a good person, cool. They’ve accomplished that. I like that. I like him or her. Some people are going to be like what a douchebag, a whole bunch of greedy, selfish. What happens to our system if we just see the person as a person? 

They are neither good nor bad. They are neither more insecure, less insecure than all of the rest of us. They are just a human being flawed like all of us, healthy like all of us. Do we know if the person has that car because that’s what that job requires of them because they need to exude status? Are they doing it because they are trying to get their mom’s love? Are they doing it because their passion is sports cars? Or their passion is just really well-made machinery or really complex machinery? We don’t know. We don’t even know what’s happened for that person. It takes the humanity. 

Whatever perspective you have around money that takes the humanity out of the person, that’s a prejudice, including that they are good or they are happy. I think that’s the really interesting view to look at your own views around money. What are the daily judgments that you walk through the work with? How is it separating you from connection with yourself and other people?

Brett: I’m curious about some of the things that money stands in for that we can have issues with, like authority and with power. How does that happen?

Joe: I can’t say neurologically exactly how it happens. I can point to some of it, but I can say how I’ve seen it work in me. What I’ve noticed is you get emotional patterns that happen. What I mean by that is when I had a green mohawk as a teenager, my parents worried 15% of the time. They worried over things like me, my haircut, if I was going to grow up right. Now my parents´ kids are fine, and they still worry about 15% of the time but now it is over if they are going to burn the chuck roast. 

We seem to get into these emotional patterns, and as kids, we get into very specific emotional patterns and we are in theta brain wave, which is like where you go in the subconscious. It is how we program ourselves or unprogram ourselves often is most effective in theta. Kids are mostly in theta from zero to seven or zero to eight years old. They get into certain kind of emotional patterns, and as they grow up, they are going to place those patterns on something and probably some of equivalent importance in their life. 

When dad leaves or mom leaves or they leave mom and dad, then that pattern needs to hit something else. Money is a great place for it to hit. It is a great place because you can project anything you want onto money. We were talking about it. You can project it is great. You can project it is bad. You can project it is neutral. There’s evidence to show all of it. You can show how money created a society in which more people are able to thrive than any other society, and you can also look at how money creates all of the disenfranchisement in our society. You can just project anything you want onto money. 

Since it is such an important part of our lives, it determines so much for most people, how they spend their time, what they can do and what they can’t do in their mind. That, of course, Mom and dad used to be that. Mom and dad used to be the thing that said what I could and couldn’t do, and now money is. Now money is the thing that says what I could and couldn’t do. It’s just natural for the emotional process to lay itself on top of money. 

Brett: That emotional pattern could be about anything, and like what you were saying earlier, it’s often about love. In society, money is just something that is so present that it’s really easy for it to become about money. 

Joe: Yeah, it’s easy for it to become about money just like it is easy for it to become about your boss. You see that all the time. People think it’s their boss, and it’s not. They are treating their boss like their dad or their mom or a teacher that had an impact on them. 

Brett: How does this show up in business? I have sort of examples here in my life with not asking for what I needed, feeling shame about asking to be paid more money for something and then finding myself in the position of not having my needs met enough to actually do great work or not having the needs of the project met enough for the project to work out really, really well because I was afraid to ask for money. This has happened over the course of my life in fractal ways, and so what’s some other way you see this showing up commonly in business when people have this squeamish discomfort around money?

Joe: I see it happen in business in many ways not even if they have squeamish discomfort. I see people who think money is the way you determine if you win and lose in business, and to some degree, that’s true. If you don’t have enough revenue, you can’t stay in business so you lose if you think of it that way. But there are some people who think that the most money wins and that that’s the currency for a good business is who made the most money rather than who had the best impact or who has the happiest employees. 

You see people who create fights and lose profit because they care about how the deal came out in a way of winning and losing instead of a way in winning and winning. You see that happen all the time. You see people avoid marketing and sales, whether they are CEOs avoiding it or employees avoiding it because sales and marketing is dirty because you are trying to convince somebody to do something for money. Then you see other companies say marketing is just education. We are just telling people we have a product we think is important, and we want to give them an opportunity to experience how important this product can be in their lives. That’s a different way of looking at it. 

Some people get off on convincing people to do things that aren’t good for them, and they feel powerful over it. Some people just can’t do that with their lives. It doesn’t feel good in their system, or they realize that the short-term power is not worth the long-term disconnection with themselves. I think there are all sorts of ways I see CEOs who feel bad for asking for money or they feel like they deserve money. Both of them are going to not get enough money probably for the needs of the company. There are all sorts of ways of looking at it. 

It seems like the people in the venture capital business who seem to do the best with money comparatively are people who see it as a game, as a means to an end or a game, a game meaning I don’t take it personally, and a means to an end meaning my vision is to plant $10,000 trees. The money is the thing I have to do to get there. I think both of those two things depersonalize the money, and people who have depersonalized the money are more successful with it typically. 

Brett: There could also be a danger in that because depending on what the game is, the game might just be a game to maximize money for a particular milestone, like let’s just bring a company public, dump it on the public and then walk away with the bags. That could be a game that can have really negative consequences. 

Joe: Correct, as is the other thing, having the money just be a means to an end and then to what. I think it all has a particular danger, and the good news is that all that’s required is to not have the money be personal. You don’t actually have to see it as a game. You don’t actually have to see it as a means to an end. All that’s really required is the money is impersonal. It’s not a reflection of me. It’s not a reflection of who I am. It’s not a reflection of who other people are. You just have to see yourself as human beyond the money. Then money has a way of flowing very differently in people’s lives. 

Brett: There’s a way that it can be helpful that is impersonal, but also there’s a way that it always is personal. I think something that happens often is that people insist the impersonality of it and then separate themselves from the connection of the people they are working with. 

Joe: The classic “it’s just business”. That basically is what you are saying, right?

Brett: It’s just business. Kind of avoiding it. 

Joe: That’s totally personal. That’s not taking it non-personally. That’s taking it incredibly personally at least in the semantics in my head, so maybe I haven’t explained it right. In fact, I can be confident that I haven’t. Saying it’s just business means that you have taken it personally. You have taken something personally. You have some level of shame or something to that effect, and you want to push that down. You want to push that emotional experience down. 

Just think of it this way. You are about to get fired, and you have a choice. The person who is about to fire you can say it in many different ways. One way they can say it is, “It’s just business. We had to let you go. It’s just business. It’s nothing personal.”

Brett: Which is really personal because it’s like I don’t trust you to be able handle my telling you the real reason I am firing you. 

Joe: Correct. Perfectly said. Just feel how that would land, and then you can have, “I feel really sorry that we couldn’t do it. We wanted to and we tried, and we weren’t able to keep you here.” There’s that way of getting fired. Then there’s the way of getting fired, which is like, “This was our expectation of what you were to do here. We made that really clear to you. Those expectations aren’t being met. My experience is that you are either capable of doing that, the stuff we have asked you to do, in which case you are choosing not to do it, which means you know on some level this isn’t the right job for you and you are making sure it doesn’t last in your world. Or secondly, you are not capable of doing it, and therefore, you must always be feeling like I am not doing a good enough job, which also isn’t a really great thing for your world. It’s clearly not a match.” How do we move forward if this job doesn’t match? How do we help you? What do you need so that you can get to where you want to go in your life next? How can we be of service in that that’s mutually beneficial? That’s another way to fire somebody. 

To me, that’s the least personal of those things. It’s like this is the situation that we find ourselves in. 

Brett: It’s taking it the least personally. It’s the least care taking, the least avoiding. 

Joe: The thing we are avoiding is we actually feel bad for firing them, so we harden ourselves down and become assholes to fire somebody. If you have to harden yourself in any way, if you have to become defensive and build a wall between you and other people, you are taking it personally. That is a clear sign you are taking it personally. 

We somehow get it in our heads that if we take it personally, we are scared or we feel guilty or we are sad. But the clearer sign of taking something personally is that you have shut yourself off to your own emotional experience. 

Brett: Bringing this back to the money experience, the way we show up in the world with one another with all of our concepts and projections about money, there are many ways to take that personally and there are many ways not to. There are ways we can be successful, and then that will make other people feel shame. Then there are ways we can be unsuccessful by money standards, and people will still feel their shame somehow or something else. 

Joe: That’s right. Your relationship with shame, exactly. Money is a projection. At some level, money is a projection. What if that were true for a moment? What if it were true that the money in your life, specifically to you, the money in your life is a projection? Maybe it’s a projection of your value. Maybe it’s a projection of your lack of value. Maybe it’s a projection of your needs, of your lack of love. What if it was only that? 

At the beginning of the conversation, I said I don’t really know what money is. I think the thing that I am pointing to is when I take all the projections of money away, it becomes something I can’t name. 

Brett: When I do that exercise, letting go of money as a projection. Then there’s this thing that immediately comes where it is like no, it is not just that. There are also environmental factors. There’s the privilege that I was born or not born in. There was the luck I did or didn’t have in my career and my business, or even just in my family relationship that patterned my relationship that’s underneath money. My question is how you hold this concept where money is entirely a projection so that we can let that projection in, follow it and find out what’s underneath it and love ourselves more, and also hold the truth that our entire relationship with money and our experience with money has also been influenced by external factors. 

Joe: I mean this is the question of life. How do we recognize the unity that we are and the self-interest that moves every one of our actions? That’s really the question you are asking. Even that is a projection, meaning on some level if I really look at the essence of what I am, it’s also very empty, very massive and very empty. At the same time, who I am is the person who is driving the car and polluting the atmosphere. The person who I am is the person who is hurting somebody with the hamburger I just bought. 

It’s like this unbelievable concept. On one level, this unbelievable concept of both like the human side and this illusionary side coming together. This material side and the illusionary side of money coming together. How do you handle it? The answer that I found that creates the most freedom in me is with integrity. When I say integrity, I mean when I listen to my deep truth, when I am spending money or when I am receiving money, what does that require of me. 

What do I have to do to feel most aligned around my behavior with money? That’s the question that I ask. It doesn’t feel aligned to have no money, and it doesn’t feel aligned to accumulate wealth for the sake of accumulating wealth. It doesn’t feel aligned to try to use my money to save people, just like it doesn’t feel aligned for me to use my money or my non-money, my anything to try to save somebody. But it feels really important for me to use my money to work with people for our mutual freedom, our mutual saving. 

There’s this really interesting thing where it’s like this moment to moment learning for me around money, where it is like how it feels right now, what this transaction feels like, how having a transaction feels compared to being in connection and having the money sort itself. This is the way I think that I want to live with money at this point. 

Brett: Thanks a lot for that. 

Joe: I notice I am nervous that people won’t get to it because I realize as we are talking about money, there is so many. Really, it’s like religion. There’s no conversation about religion where you are probably not going to offend somebody. I think it’s the same way around money. I don’t think there’s really a way for us to talk about money where somebody isn’t going to feel like either we have poverty mentality or that we are part of the oppressive class. I think this is why people don’t talk about money. This is why we don’t talk about our credit card debt. 

It’s why any conversation that’s happening in the world around money is how to make it or what’s wrong with it. There’s no conversation of what it is. There’s no conversation of what the relationship is that we want with it. There’s a little bit of a conversation right now with electronic currencies of what the rules are to it, but I mean this is the perfect example. If you create a currency out there that has rules of money that don’t have shortage of supply as a part of that rule, nobody has faith in the currency. Is it the money’s problem? Is it what we put our faith into that’s the problem? 

Humans naturally put their faith into things that have short supply, that they can hold on to, that have power, immediate power. That’s where humans naturally put their faith, for a good reason. A spear is a good thing to put your faith in if you are a hunter, and it fulfills all those requirements. 

Brett: You are hunting a limited supply of game. 

Joe: Exactly. If you are making your own spears, there’s somewhat of a limited supply. It requires effort because there’s a limited supply. There’s not just spears growing off trees. There’s effort involved. This is what we put our faith in. If it’s not money and we put our faith in something else, if it’s not the US dollar, if it is not the Euro, and we put our faith in something else like Bitcoin, the question is what we are putting our faith in. 

If we ask ourselves deeply if we are willing to our faith into something that has abundance, that isn’t limited, that anybody can have at all, and that doesn’t have short term power, and I am going to rest my entire family’s security on the faith in this thing, the way we do with money, how does that feel? Money isn’t the issue at the core. The core issue is that. If every human being on the planet put their faith in something that was in utter abundance and it was clear that we have enough for everybody, and I can give freely, I can have faith in long term investment. If we all had that, what would happen to the problems of our world? That’s a really difficult thing to ask. 

Brett: What would that be?

Joe: I have no idea. But it’s a difficult thing to even ask. You and I in this moment. 

Brett: It sounds like one thing that could be is investing in relationships, investing in trust. 

Joe: Which is what communities without money have. It’s what they do. I remember when I was young, I was in my 20s and I worked in the Hayes Valley Project in Head Start. I went from that into international stock lending. I remember saying one has money, one has community. One relies on money for survival, and one relies on community for survival. One generally relies on money for happiness. One generally relies on community for happiness. 

Brett: Which were more successful?

Joe: It depends on how you measure success. What I noticed is the people with the community wanted the money, and the people with the money didn’t always want the community. Sometimes the community was heavy for them because whatever they were taught. But both of them had poverty in one way or another. 

Brett: Speaking of poverty, I have heard you say this a couple of times in some of the courses as well, using the term “poverty mentality”. You were just saying earlier about feeling a little bit of fear in your system about how talking about money is like talking about religion, and everybody is going to be offended about something. 

I have something about this word, the poverty mentality, that. 

Joe: That offends you. 

Brett: It’s not even so much that it offends me personally, but I think it might offend a lot of people because they maybe associate poverty mentality is a thing that keeps you from having money, so then poverty mentality is this thing that’s holding you back. That’s associated with poverty, which is something that people are born into and don’t have a choice of starting there. I am curious if it’s poverty or if it is like a scarcity mindset. 

Joe: That’s a great question. For me, poverty mentality doesn’t mean anything about money. I was born with a poverty mentality, but the poverty wasn’t around cash though there was some of that as well. The poverty was around love, and the poverty was around attention. I wasn’t getting enough attention. I wasn’t getting enough love. I grew up into a life where I created a world where I didn’t get enough love and I didn’t get enough attention. It took a lot of work to switch that autopilot off in my life and in my system. That’s what I am speaking to about poverty mentality. It’s the false belief that we can’t get what we need and what we want, generally, not specifically. We are not ever going to get everything we want, but that we can’t have our needs met. 

Brett: Living and recreating that in whatever way, whether it is about money or anything else. 

Joe: Correct. That’s what I am speaking to. I can see your point that just the word poverty could trigger, and it could speak to a class of people that didn’t have a choice or a group of people who didn’t have a choice around their financial situation. The term you used, I don’t like using it for a different reason, which is scarcity mindset, because it feels ungrounded. It doesn’t feel like it is as pertinent or real to me as the word “poverty”, but I can see how that also is a bias. 

Brett: Maybe we will find a better word someday. 

Joe: Yeah, there’s a flip side to every coin. 

Brett: Thank you, Joe. This has been a really great episode. I think we could do a couple more on money-related topics, but for now, this is great. 

Joe: Thank you so much for your time. 

Brett: Thank you. Take care. 

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