Article: Who wants their net worth on their tombstone?

I’ve always been frustrated at how difficult it seems to be for me to make money.

This is a common complaint, I believe, particularly for any of us who have spent even a micro-moment of time in the online entrepreneurial world. Boasts of six figures salaries, five figure months and passive income generating MACHINES (always in caps) lead me into this spiral of doubt.

I doubt that what I make, financially, is ‘good enough’. Then I doubt that doubt, because actually I’m now earning £23,491 - a few thousand below the UK’s median household income which is not to be sniffed at. But still I feel sure my income is not ‘good enough’.

Which leads me to believe it’s ‘difficult’ for me to make money. But the evidence suggests otherwise; the aforementioned salary, a five-year-old business that’s been in the black since day one. I’ve written funding applications that have netted £5k, £10k and I’ve never done mates rates.

So what’s the problem?

Why do I feel sure my income, and my ability to generate income, is not good enough?

Unfortunately I don’t think I can just say “Capitalism, duh”, although that does tend to be my go-to answer for a range of irritating, depressing or destructive issues.

The answer is more than part of my brain has been co-opted by capitalism, to believe that my ability to generate income has a direct correlation with my worth as a human being.

And the second answer is that the rest of my brain, and my soul, has been quietly rebelling against this concept since I had my first job.

I realise: I do not find it difficult to make money. I find it difficult to do things I don’t want to do.

I am a terrible business person, not because I can’t organise or strategise or hypothesise but because I do not care about making money. I don’t want to spend time thinking about ways to make money, just as I don’t want to spend time thinking about the washing up, or flossing, because it’s hard and it’s boring and I don’t wanna do it.

Over the life of my business, I did a great job of convincing myself that I did care about making money, mainly because that desire was a necessity. When you need that income to pay rent or buy food, you try to give even the tiniest of shits because otherwise it’s exhausting to even go to work in the morning.

And now I am in the astonishingly privileged position of being paid a fair wage for a job I enjoy, and my necessity/desire to make money has … evaporated. For months, that bit of my brain co-opted by capitalism has clamoured while the rest of me has shrugged and stared out the window. I have felt a distinct lack of something, and that something has been the drive to make money.

But now, after that initial void-ness feeling, the space has been made for other, more meaningful things to flow in. If I’m not using my time to try and make money, what else can I do?

I can paint.

I can draw.

I can read all those books I’ve been meaning to read and telling people I’ve read (because reading the blurb counts).

I can study topics I’m excited by.

I can make flapjacks.

I can just sit and do nothing.

If you’re reading this thinking “Well la-di-da, good for you and no need to go on about it”, then aha! I beat you to it. We are all so tied up in knots about talking about money and salary and earning and what we want and what we need (“Capitalism, duh”) that any mention of money is seen as vulgar or boastful - at least in the white British culture I was raised in.

But not talking about it doesn’t make it not true, nor does it make it go away. I gave the exact salary figure I receive up there at the start of this article. I’ve worked in places where it was written into your contract you couldn’t discuss your wage with other workers (illegal, by the way). That behaviour is a way to prevent collaboration and unionisation, and if we replicate it in our daily lives then it stops those some important things from happening - just in a different place.

So we can talk about it and we can have Feelings about it, and I can still try to share what I believe is going on. Because I think it might mean something to you, and perhaps be something that you, too, feel and wish to act on.

If you took the energy you expend on thinking about making more money,
And you put it elsewhere,
What magic do you think you could create?

This is why we need Universal Basic Income. This is why we need fundamental and non-negotiable standards of living provided for everyone. Because when we remove the imprinted necessity of thinking about money, our minds are freed to do more interesting, exciting, meaningful and revolutionary things.

We also need to change the conversation on ‘what to do with something you love doing’. Any artist or creator will know the conversation:

You: *shows someone a piece of work you’ve made* “I’m really pleased with this, and I loved doing it.”

Them: “That’s great - you should sell those!”

Why should you sell the thing you loved creating?
More importantly, why do we think that the ‘sell-ability’ of a creative outcome is high praise?

Human beings sell all kinds of rubbish. Why is that our measure of excellence?

If you love doing something, you don’t have to do anything else with it. You don’t have to make money from it, you don’t have to show it to everyone, you don’t have to do anything other than keep doing it.

You can simply do great, creative, magical things, and invite whoever you want into that experience with you. Those are the things people remember and celebrate you for, not how much money you bank.

In the words of Ken Blanchard: “Who wants their net worth on their tombstone?”