Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Beating Financial Cancer

Last week, as I was assessing my finances (with one eye closed and the other one squinting in the hope the numbers would morph into millions), it became glaringly obvious that I have been lying to myself about where I'm at financially. Worse than that, I have been doing this For A Very Long Time.

These cold hard facts caused me to fall into a spin so I did what any self respecting woman would do. I went into my bank's website and clicked on the button that says 'Increase credit limit'. But as I started to enter my details I stopped. Something else clicked (in my head) that said step away and think about what you are doing.

I grabbed my keys and decided I needed to go for a walk. But, just as I was leaving the door something made me turn around. Out of the corner of my eye I had spied the words Financial Assistance, on the same web page where I could apply for more credit. Something told me that was the avenue I should travel down so, I reopened my computer and searched for that button.

In one short click I was through to a preset email where I could enter my basic details and note why I needed help. There wasn't a button that said 'I'm Doomed' so I clicked on 'Unexpected Reduction of Income'. Yep, that was pretty much where I'm at so I flicked off the email and thought again about going for my walk.

But again, as I was leaving, something told me I needed to do more. My inner voice recounted some words I'd read in Jacqueline Harrison's book How To Create A Business From Nothing. I recalled a chapter that talked about learning to have conversations about money. Even the awkward ones. Hmm, could that apply to conversations outside the business arena? I figured it must be applicable anywhere and as far as awkward conversations go it doesn't get much more uncomfortable than telling the bank you can't pay them what you owe them.

So, I plucked up some courage and picked up the phone. I was pretty emotional by this stage because the enormity of my situation was really dawning on me. I wasn't on the phone to my mum or a friend asking to borrow money, I was actually calling The Bank to tell them I was in strife. I've never done that before and it felt BIG.

I didn't have to wait long before being put through to Raj, a very gentle chap who kindly acknowledged that he could tell I was feeling emotional and that he would do whatever he could to help me.

He asked me to explain my situation. I told him it started around 12 months ago when I was made redundant, then another situation caused me to go into therapy and from there on I have struggled to rebuild my financial status even though I am working really, really hard.

Raj was great. He understood. We worked through a couple of scenarios and because Raj could see I am earning some money, albeit in dribs and drabs, and because I explained to him that what I'm doing now will reap future rewards, he helped me work something out that has bought me a few months to find my money feet. More crying ensued but I felt like a massive weight had been lifted.

I was finally making myself accountable for my debt.

The conversation with the bank was the first step to me lifting my money game, but there is a far, deeper version to this story and it's one that I've been hiding from since I don't know when. After speaking with Raj and explaining myself to him, I felt relief that I was finally willing to learn something new about money. All my life I have twirled around in a circle of earning money, spending money, getting into debt, paying off debt, earning more money, spending more money, getting into more debt, paying it off and so on. I'm like one of those dogs who chases their own tail. Only instead of it being funny and cute it's actually highly detrimental to my financial health and in many respects is more like a sickness.

In truth, I have financial cancer.

Suddenly it had become clear: my unhealthy financial beliefs have been eating away at my earnings and savings all my life. They prey on any healthy behaviours I have (which are few and far between), and ravage them greedily. I'm then left clearing up the blood, guts and slobber of these cancerous beliefs and just as I think I'm healed, they metastasise and strike again!

But Not Any More. I'm saying hi-ho silver to that deadly disease because I am finally riding the road to recovery.

That very same day I made a pact with my self that I would turn my finances around once and for all. My situation hasn't arisen because I was made redundant nor because I'm building a business from scratch. These behaviours are inherent within me and I'm not alone. Friends of mine who I've mentioned this to have realised they share the same unhealthy behaviours. And I know I had them even when my bank account was overflowing with cash.

Lack of funds is not the problem. The problem is Me and I'm ready to change.

I don't think I need to recite all the changes I'm making but I will say they include taking a good hard look at what is coming into my account and what is going out. Anything that is a luxury is being cancelled and I'm letting friends and family know that I'm not available for lunches, dinners or anything that involves money until I've sorted myself out. I can meet for a walk or a swim and that's it. I'm going into financial chemo and I need everyone around me to know about it so they can support my road to recovery.

It's worth mentioning that this approach may seem extreme, and although I agree that it is, it's actually the kindest thing I've ever done for myself in terms of making my money work for me. A friend of mine was so shocked to hear that I had cancelled my yoga membership, he immediately offered to lend me a a yoga DVD that he has. How kind! Yoga is an enormous part of my life and has been for almost 15 years, but if spending money on a studio membership is beyond my current means, then it has to go. I can do yoga anywhere and I need to be ruthless in order to change my ways.

I'm also selling my car. Again, drastic measures but I need to do these things in order to get real. Until I am sitting in the space of reality, I will continue chasing my tail and tricking myself into thinking that $100 – $85 = $3,500 credit. Seriously. That's where I'm at. I'm like a fat woman who is stuffing her face with candy bars and can't understand why she's not losing weight.

Not only do I have financial cancer but I've been treating it by financially comfort eating.

This realisation has made me feel there is great change in the air. I feel like a new person. Because I am. I spent all morning yesterday ringing round my old magazine contacts and asking for work. I really need to increase my earnings pronto, and I have plenty of skills to offer, so stage one is increasing my income. Stage two will be clearing my debt.

And stage three?

Well, I don't know what stage three looks like because I've never been there. I'm pretty sure it's going to be amazing and feel a lot more secure and financially stable than I've ever known. But for now, I'm not looking at the future. I'm simply focusing on the here and now. I'm focusing on filling myself with healthy and realistic financial advice and turning my money beliefs around while simultaneously working hard on increasing my income and changing any behaviours that no longer serve me.

As for becoming a millionaire blogger? I still think it's possible and am certain that lasting wealth is the birthright of us all.

For now though, I'm going to insert a money drip into my account by sourcing some regular and stable work that supplements my business dreams. I'm also going to take away the tubes that are draining my account and cauterise them. And most important of all, I'm going to feed myself with regular doses of financial wisdom and focus on getting myself well.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Stress, Money and Making Better Decisions

Well helloooo Sydney (and anyone else who's reading this),

You'll notice it's been a while since I posted a blog and that's simply because I've been super-fly busy. What a turnaround the last 8 weeks have been.

Grab a cup of tea and let me fill you in…

So, at the end of last year I began editing and blogging about Jacqueline Harrison's book How To Create A Business From Nothing. So far the experience has taken me on a journey that could only have been invented by Roald Dahl or Einstein. It's utterly magic, albeit fantastical and occasionally involves things I don't understand. Like how the Universe works.

To say life is good would be like saying Mount Fuji is a small lump in the ground.

The most recent amazing turn happened when I began writing my 2013/2014 marketing plan. I recently acquired a mentor (actually I have three), but Colin Grainger who is a successful engineering consultant (and a damn fine poet), asked me to do some homework as part of my mentorship. He requested that I compile a document showing how much money I was going to earn in the coming year and who I intended to get the money from.

Ooh, sounds scary but fun.

It's interesting stuff this mentoring business because it's got me thinking differently. It's helping me realise how important it is to understand where my next deal is coming from. Creating a clear idea about who and what types of business I will target and putting a dollar value next to their name has stretched my mind (and how I do business) in a big way.

Here's the lowdown: Basic maths tells me that in order to double what I earned last year I need to bring in at least $2k per week. Every week. Right, that's easier than thinking I have to bring in $100k in 12 months. Good start. I wrote down the jobs I currently have in progress and added the ones that are in the pipeline. OK, not bad, I'm about a third of the way there but I can clearly see that I am also using up a third of my time on these jobs, and they are only from my publishing work. Remember, I have three streams I'm tending to: publishing, blogging and workshops.


The rest of my week is already chock full with researching and writing company procedures and marketing papers, so I made a decision. I decided that it will be in my best interest to plan a couple of big deals that will bring in greater income, over a longer time frame. This will allow me to subcontract some of my work which will free me up to do more prospecting and big-deal making.

Hmm, so big deals must be how this big-money stuff works.

[clunk] Penny drops…

Wow! I have never thought like this before! I've only ever reacted to work coming in, but now I am becoming a real business woman and thinking about who I will pitch to in order to bring in maximum cash-flow with the least amount of time and effort (by me). The workload can be large and probably will, but it can't all me done by me. That's no different to me doing reflexology for someone for an hour.

Higgins, I think we just struck Gold!

Looking at my workload in this way got me excited but I'll admit I also felt a bit stressed. Oh dear, how am I going to do this? My ideas are bigger than my bank account and I'm already time poor. A common issue for entrepreneurs is not having a team to call on when you are in start up phase. So, I called a friend. I filled her in on my dilemma: Basically I've got three jobs, one is full time and kinda two jobs in one (publishing consultant and setting up publishing company). One is part time (running workshops) and one is currently more like a hobby (this blog).

Main problem: I only have two hands and one brain.

"Get one of those desk planner things," she said. "That way you'll be able to see whether you've got any gaps coming up which will help you feel more relaxed when you're busy." Yes! This immediately felt like a great idea. Sure, I keep a diary and write to-do lists and plan my day at the beginning and recap at the end. But I've never looked for gaps before. I've always just filled them.

I know, it's so easy when you've just read it, right…

As I mapped out my week I saw something that could be wiped clear: Toastmasters. I joined Toastmasters two weeks ago as part of my 'running inspirational workshops' plan. I thought it would be excellent practice for public speaking and I'd be making great business connections without trying. And of course I loved it! I dived straight in on day one, skipping to the front to give an impromptu speech with only 12 seconds notice. I was in my element, a whole room full of people being forced to listen to me!


Realistically though, at this stage of the game, I don't need to spend half a day giving speeches when I still have two thirds of my income to earn.


I regretfully contacted my Toastmaster sponsor and gave my apologies. I told her I had pressing work commitments and that I would be back when I was able to commit. My sponsor was very understanding and actually gave me some advice. She shared with me that in her also very busy work life she has made a commitment to spend every Wednesday afternoon sailing. It's her gift to herself for all the hard work she does. Nice.

Well, well, sounds like she looked for some gaps and instead of filling them with stress or more work (which as we know there always is when you're running your own show), she has committed to herself to get out on Sydney Harbour and Have Fun.

Again, what great advice.

With that idea resonating in my mind, I took another look at my week. With Toastmasters gone, I have a full morning back that I can fill with something more productive. Being as I already have two fun things planned for myself this weekend I will be filling that time with work. Writing this blog has been added into my evening time slot (when I would have been preparing my speech) and now I still have tomorrow morning, which is great.

And just like that, my anxiety has diminished.

If you haven't seen them yourself, there are two great lessons here. The first one is Seeing Things Differently. I hadn't ever looked at writing a marketing plan in the way Colin mentored me to do. It's already resulted in a phone call to an ex-publishing colleague of mine who I approached about writing another book. This is a high-profile client and the idea that we brainstormed, coupled with her media profile and my publishing nounce could result in another big deal for us both.

The second point is Doing Things Differently. When it came to planning my weeks ahead I had never thought to look for gaps. Knowing there are gaps has an incredibly calming effect on the mind as does clearing something from your diary, (or rescheduling it), if you can see it is not vital to your greater plan.

These two seemingly small decisions may have been glaringly obvious to you, but to me, they have just opened a very large door that holds a very big key to a very grand future.

I can just feel it.