I read Jen Sincero’s ‘Badass’ book thinking it was going to be like all other self-help books: momentarily inspiring, then forgotten. Instead, she described every single professional insecurity I had with mind-reader accuracy and offered practical suggestions on how to get over myself and move forward. Jen Sincero is a coach, best selling author and general expert on helping people transform their lives for the better (particularly if you’re in the creative world, trying to make money from your craft.) She uses her own life as proof of her philosophy: prior to such impressive introductions, Jen was in a band called Crotch and sealed her car windows with duct tape. I wanted to hear first-hand how you go from struggling to make rent to traveling the world, making money from doing what you love, and helping others do the same. This is what she told me.
“I was broke well into my 40s. I was doing a lot of creative things that I loved—I was in a rock band, I was writing books—but I was always scraping by. A lot of the time, we toil away doing the same things and expect different results. I kept writing, kept playing music, kept sort-of-trying new things but not really taking any grand leaps, and was stuck in the same place financially. It wasn’t until I said to myself: I’m creatively fulfilled, now I need to make money my focus. Just making that decision shifted so much, because there was so much judgment around it; that if I wanted to make money I was going to compromise my artistic self, that I was greedy, that people would think I was gross. But as soon as I made that decision, things started to shift and open up for me. I didn’t have everything mapped out, I just kept doing what felt right and what was lucrative.
A lot of the time it’s not about being stuck or lost, it’s about making a choice.
When people find themselves in that place of: I’ve got so much more to offer but I don’t know exactly what it is—often it’s not that you don’t know, it’s that you’re not giving yourself permission to do what you know in your gut because it’s too scary.
I think everyone has their own particular judgement, fear and ‘truths’ around money, which have been passed on by parents and society. We need to be able to recognize what our own limiting beliefs are, which is something that we don’t spend time doing. There is so much bullshit around money in the creative field, where ‘selling out’ makes you a shitty artist. There’s a romance to being the starving artist, or that being broke gives you more street cred. For example, if you’re a musician and your music is used for a commercial, then you’re no longer viable or cool. But why wouldn’t you want your favorite artists to be wealthy enough to create more art? The arts also have major extremes as far as finances go. You’re either U2 and making gazillions of dollars or a struggling singer. There’s not a lot of grey area. It’s the same with writers: I had a best selling book which made me no money, whereas Badass went through the roof and earned me great money—there wasn’t much in-between. When I’m coaching my writer and musician clients, it’s about going for it 100% and stripping away those limiting beliefs—but also being smart about putting pieces in place so you can make money while you’re getting your creative stuff off the ground.
The first step to unhooking yourself from money issues is to become aware of how you think and speak about money, and be really be diligent about catching yourself. For example, if you find yourself acting ashamed in wanting to earn money, then questioning that reaction, as in: ‘How can I expect to make money if I’m apologizing for it? Do I deserve to be compensated for my time and effort?’ Once you start to question the belief, you open up your eyes to how ridiculous it is—and then you put into place your new mantra or belief. There’s a really interesting exercise you can do, where you write a letter to money so you can see where you’re at with it. It might be like: ‘I wish I had more of you but I don’t trust you. I feel dirty when I admit that I want you, yet you’re really fun.’ If you take that letter and substitute money for something like a man or a woman you’re trying to attract, the beliefs are usually 100% the same. I don’t trust you, I don’t know what I’d do with you even if I had you—it’s really sobering. On the flip side, this is also why when you commit to making changes in one area of your life, you’ll often see shifts in all areas because you’re changing your core foundation and belief system.
When coaching people who want to make changes in their lives, the excuses I hear range from: I can’t afford it; I don’t have the time; I don’t know what I’m doing; I don’t know where to start; I’ve tried before and it hasn’t worked; I’m overwhelmed; I’m lazy. But it really comes down to the mentality of: it’s so easy once you figure out it isn’t hard. We run in circles and create drama and participate willingly in the avoidance of awesomeness.
When in reality, all you need to do is make the damn decision that you are unavailable for the drama and that you are only available for positive change.
When you make that decision, you will notice opportunities pop up—and no matter how risky, expensive or petrifying they are—because you’ve made that decision, you will run toward them instead of away from them. And that’s really all it is. It’s going from wanting to change your life to deciding to change your life. You know what you need to do, you just haven’t made the decision to do it. A lot of the time we fake decide, then the second something difficult comes along—like it’s too expensive, or you have to invest the time or you might look like an idiot—you talk yourself out of it. That’s not a decision. A decision is when you’re scared shitless and you do it anyway. Fear can be a great blocker to all that we desire, but it can also let you know that you’re headed in the right direction.
The balance of driving things forward and letting things happen is life mastery as far as I’m concerned. When I was starting my online business, my big money maker was a course on how to write a non-fiction book proposal. I was working around the clock, bleary eyed, figuring out how to work out the technicalities and programming while trying to get clients—I was spread pretty thin. Striving for balance is good, but we also need to be in touch with reality. I was giving my life such a major overhaul that I needed to be that way. There’s a period of hauling ass in the beginning—they say that a plane uses 70% of its fuel during take off. However, in that space, I was still meditating, breathing and pausing and making sure I was getting out of my head and staying centered. I would stop, take my face out of the computer and look at the sky, lean back and reconnect with my joy,sense of purpose the excitement of making money—as opposed to the exhaustion and the overwhelming ‘holy fuck is this even going to work?’
Those small moments of surrender are also where course-correcting messages come through, if they need to. And if we can’t connect to the excitement at all, maybe we’re on the wrong path. It’s about being present while you have your nose to the grindstone. Then when the business is up and running and it’s not so intense, always checking in, always leaning back and always remembering that your brain is awesome but the universe is smarter. Pushing against something can sometimes break you through it, but never go against your intuition. How many times in hindsight have we said, I knew in my gut this wasn’t going to work—but you did it anyway? It’s a delicate dance and sometimes you really don’t know, but the best way to learn is to stay in the game.
Sometimes you’ll screw up and sometimes you’ll knock it out of the park, but keep showing up.
If you remain a victim you can’t change anything, which is why taking responsibility is so liberating. You get to choose what you focus on. You can choose to focus on the crappy economy, that your parents treated you like crap, that you don’t know what you’re doing—and that will become your reality. So decide: what are you available for?”
Image provided by Jen Sincero
As told to Amy Woodside, December 2015