The root of all evil? A good servant but a bad master? Comparable to time? Regardless of the way we view money, it – like everything else – is neutral. We assign that meaning.
When I leapt from a sales career in the media industry to search for something more purposeful, it was commonly expected I would happily accept a downward shift in income as recompense for my new found purpose in life. Although a preliminary financial post-mortem revealed 70% of my old-life spending was directly aimed at numbing the pain of being uninspired, micro-managed and chronically bored, I did not agree I should stop requesting ample payment for my skills, experience and service.
I teach yoga. Even if I erased the 32 years of work and life experience accumulated before yoga became a professional endeavour, I have invested several thousand pounds into training and professional development. I have devoted thousands of hours to bring my business from idea to action: planning, researching, testing, marketing – not just the sit-at-your-desk kind but covering miles on foot talking to local businesses, delivering flyers and devising novel partnerships. There is extensive administration required to develop strong relationships with clients, prospective clients and venue owners. I haven’t even arrived on the yoga mat yet! Now add hundreds of hours of teaching. All of this, to be clear, is a joy. I LOVE what I do, I love who I serve and I plan to continue on this path for the rest of my life. All of this ‘work’ is crucial to create an environment that is challenging, inspiring and accessible; the opposite of what would naturally materialise if I felt burnt-out, unappreciated and underpaid.
Yet there are some who believe that because I am inspired by what I do and am genuinely energised and uplifted each time I walk out of a class, there is something vulgar about expecting to be well-paid. It’s not always a conscious belief. That so many of us struggle to request fair payment for our services while spending thousands on personal development to continually increase our value to clients is testament to this deeply held belief: desiring to earn a good living when we love what we do is indecent.
We use expressions like ‘filthy rich’ to describe people we believe have ‘too much’ money. This, my friends, is a judgment and we’d do well to understand its root. We can all bring to mind someone with a fierce personal cause, believing they have willingly sacrificed their income in the name of their ideals. I wonder if the financial martyrdom prevalent amongst those of us who love what we do is perpetuating the myth that we can either have money or meaning in our life. Not both.
When we are told, directly or indirectly, that something is low price we tend to score it correspondingly low on quality and importance. We are naturally driven to seek balance and when we receive something for less than it is worth, we feel indebted and uncomfortable. When I fail to place fair value on my product or service, I encourage others to do the same which breeds a downward spiral that jeopardises my entire mission. If I fear having to take a second job or work thrice as hard to generate a fair income, it is certain the service I deliver will suffer. This natural drive for balance means service to others must match service to ourselves. It works both ways.
I needn’t travel far for a prime example. Andrew Carnegie, hailing from my home town of Dunfermline in Scotland, was the 2nd wealthiest man of all time. After selling his steel company at the age of 65, he dedicated the rest of his life to philanthropic acts. He sought to restore that balance. More recently, Richard Branson declared a similar agenda.
Some might be thinking ‘what about those truly altruistic souls who sacrificed themselves in the service of others, shunning pecuniary reward?’ Who? Mother Teresa, for example? Search: ‘Mother Teresa finances’ and see what you discover.
My aim is not to defame humanity and declare that we are all, ultimately money-grabbers. This conclusion will only be drawn by those who still see money as a negative object. I maintain that it is completely impartial. Whose soul-driven mission would not be bigger, more impactful and more powerful with a few extra quid behind it? And who isn’t drawn to those who obviously feel valued for serving others? Of course value does not just come from money and my lifestyle has changed immeasurably since I left my previous life. The things I value and divert my income towards are now infinitely more fulfilling but my aim is simply to question a commonly held belief that we can either have money or meaning and that one is categorically more noble than the other. If you dream of causing a shift in the collective consciousness, inspiring a movement or shaking up an industry, don’t rob potential customers of the need for fair exchange – have the courage to request fair compensation and continue to fuel that fire.