Welcome back to Money Talks. One of the things I especially appreciate about Patti Digh’s responses in today’s column is that she asks a lot of questions. We toss the usual ones at her, of course. But she lobs her own thought-provoking questions right back at us — which means, we’re all encouraged to think hard about what this money stuff means to us. This isn’t just entertainment or idle navel-gazing; this is an honest exploration and Patti’s responses invite us to go a little deeper. (You ready?!)
One of the questions Patti asks is “what are we using to measure our worth?” What I saw for myself is that I often revert to society’s measurements of success — money, accolades, fame, media attention — which actually have no connection to what I value and deem worthy in life — kindness, connection, generosity, joy, helpfulness. What about you? What measurements do you use?
I happen to know Patti, having been fortunate enough to be a speaker at her Life is a Verb (LIAV) Camp last November and lucky enough to get to be a workshop leader at her upcoming Camp in September. I want to share something important I’ve learned from Patti about valuing what we do. Patti encourages people to make what she calls “strong offers.” Strong offers are a way of putting ourselves and our work out into the world and asking for what we want. However, the result is not what’s important. What’s most valuable about making a strong offer is getting grounded in who we are and what we have to offer. It’s coming from a place of truth and trust in order to, well, in order to offer our offer! Because it is the process, not the result, we get to feel the worthiness of our strong offer simply by expressing it.
(BTW, if you want to be surrounded by 150 amazing people who care about creativity and community, you should join us at Life is a Verb Camp! There is worthiness everywhere you turn at Camp!)
Patti Digh is the author of 8 books on global leadership, global diversity, and mindful and intentional living and working. Her Life is a Verb Camp gathers people from around the globe to step into their own creative power and voice. The next camp is Sept 24-27, 2015, at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California. lifeisaverbcamp.com
1. Are you earning what you’re worth?
Worthiness is a big word, isn’t it? What does “earning what I am worth” even mean, I wonder?
Perhaps this phrase is really only meaningful if we believe our worthiness is measurable. And “measurement” is another big word, and a loaded one.
In this culture, we focus on measurement of tangible things: How much, how many, how many more than someone else. Businesses build whole profit and loss statements around those tangible assets—what do we own and how many of them do we own? This is true of desks, buildings, and people (human resources). All are measured in this way.
As individual human beings, we sometimes do the same: What do I own, and how many of them do I own? Homes, cars, Bose noise-canceling headphones, heated bathroom floors. The list is endless.
Do either of those measurements (business or personal) add up to what we are worth? No.
When you look at a profit and loss statement, it gives you information about what was, what happened in that last quarter, in tangible terms. But the magic of a company and of a community and of a family and of a person? That’s intangible, and future-focused. Those intangible assets aren’t measured by many people, but they are measured by some: social capital, reputation capital, innovation capital, relationship capital—those are the things that create value, for a company and a community and each of us, individually. That’s where the bulk of any company’s worth is, but it doesn’t show up on many spreadsheets and sometimes, sadly, not even our own, hence the striving.
That was the long answer.
The short answer is that I am earning what I am asking for. If there is a gap between that amount and what I am “worth,” it is because I am not valuing myself enough, not because people are not paying me enough.
2. What does the expression starving artist bring up for you?
First of all, hot button alert. Sirens blaring.
It brings up a story that limits rather than expands, that reduces rather than generates, that shuts down rather than opens up, that is mired in drama rather than entering into choice and opportunity.
We live into stories in ways we do not recognize, and this is a story so well known to so many creative people. Is “starving artist” a badge of honor? Is it an expression of victimhood? Is it a way to “rage against the machine?”
Wearing that badge, lingering in that victimhood, raging against that machine—these take us away from our creative acts. What I know for sure is this: The thing that has taken the place of my work (choose one of those three stances) has become my work.
The thing that has taken the place of my work has become my work.
So if we spend our time perpetuating the story that to be a true artist, one must be starving, then we are not making art any longer: we have become storytellers fully invested in the obstacles, and not the yearnings of our creative spirits.
3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love?
I grew up in my father’s barbershop, walking there from school every afternoon. The smells of the disinfectant in which the combs stood, the glory of the hot lather machine, the steam from the hot towels, the sound of six barbers’ scissors at once, the talk of the men on the pews — it was all heaven to me, a little skinny orange-haired girl in love with Freddy, the barber at Chair #6.
My job was to sweep hair, glorious piles of brown and blond and red and white hair. Swirls of hair, merged, pushed around a checkered floor.
I was paid in peanuts from the large round glass jar near the antique cash register. It remains one of my most beloved jobs ever.
4. What’s your biggest money story currently?
A story in four index cards:
Recently I wrote on a few index cards and stuck them on the wall above my desk, at eye level.
One of them says, “This is a business.”
The second says, “You can always find people to give things away to,” something my friend Maia said to me recently.
The third says, “Boundaries.”
The fourth says, “People who are ready, willing, and able to pay.”
There is more to that story, but that will have to do for now.
5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?)
Not a fan of it. And not because it is often a lie, but because it sets up a pernicious dualism: If I do what I love, and the money doesn’t follow, then what? Do I stop doing what I love?
I prefer “do what you love because you love it.” And I prefer “love what you do, no matter what it is you do.”
Do not settle for either your creativity or your money being conditional in this way. Both are energies. Both need flow.