Thursday, July 28, 2011

One Thing I Wish I Knew in my 20s About Money

I was recently asked a few questions by my Personal Coach Vickie Champion. Some of these responses will be on her You Tube channel. Several of the questions had to do with "One thing I wish in knew in my 20s about..." I decided to elaborate in this blog about "One thing I wish I knew in my 20s about money." If you want to see more of the shorter videos, visit and subscribe to her newsletter. The response below is NOT on the videos.

When I was growing up there was a lot of fear in our house about not having enough money. I remember the milk man knocked on the door to collect his payment and my mother had told my older sister to tell him she wasn’t home. I didn’t know about this arrangement so I poked my head into the doorway and said, “She is to home. She’s in the bedroom.” I remember my sister brushed me aside and the milkman came back a few days later after my mom received money from my dad’s paycheck. I remember asking my mom about money and she showed us the bills and how much money came in and how much needed to go out. I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I never asked for money after. Not even the dues for girl scouts (a dime a week). I just told them my girl scout leader I forgot the money. Eventually I stopped going – even though I enjoyed it.

This fear of not having enough money stayed with me as an adult. I also had this misguided notion that if I DID acquire more money – such as working an extra shift as a waitress – I was somehow taking it from someone else.
That was decades ago and I’ve become a little wiser.

One thing I wish I knew in my 20s about money is The Law of Attraction - or that like attracts like. For example, fear of not having enough put me in the perfect position for creating more of what I don’t have – enough money. However, the opposite is also true. Believing that there is an abundance of money, opportunity, good health and happiness for me to enjoy, helped me attract more in my life.
Now I have a new mantra. I say, “I am happy, healthy and prosperous.” Another one is “Money comes easily to me.” Once I changed my attitude about attracting money – things got a lot easier. So if there is one thing I wish in my 20s about money is that you attract what you focus on – so you might as well focus on something great.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recovering from Snarky Remarks

Life is full of defining moments. Of course you don’t know they’re defining moments at the time. They can be pivotal points that help you embrace your life and forge ahead with a ferocious courage that acts as a beacon of light for yourself or others, or can act like a shadow that creeps into your heart and mind and tells you “I can’t” “it won’t work” “I’m too old” “I’m too fat” or any number of negativities that poison our lives and erode our hearts.

We create our own stories every day. Like any good novel, often there is a nasty villain. My nemesis was Cynthia, an average-looking, freckle-faced girl who was in several of my classes in grade school, junior high and high school. There was really nothing special about Cynthia, except she had a mean streak. She carried a grudge from the time we were in 5th grade and I beat her best friend out for the part of Mrs. Santa Claus for the school play.

However, I wasn’t one to dwell on Cynthia and her cohorts. I had my friends and activities and was happy to excel in my own way. My confidence grew and I felt great. I remember standing with a group of my friends laughing and telling jokes. Cynthia called me over. She asked, “Sally, do you think you’re cool?” I think that being conceited was probably the worst thing I could be, so I answered, “no.” Then she said “Then why do you try to act like it?”

It was like someone punched me in the gut. Instead of standing proud and confident, my shoulders drooped. My humor became self deprecatory. I made jokes about my failures and was embarrassed by my accomplishments, so I always downplayed them. I don’t know why, but I gave Cynthia’s comment a lot of power. This happened when I was 13. When I turned 50 I still carried a piece of this with me.

I replayed this scenario over and over in my head. What if I would’ve said, “Yes, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Or “Yes, I’m sorry it bothers you, but I’m perfectly happy with who I am.” Or what if my garrulous nature would have surfaced and replied, “Yes, have a problem with that?” Or even used my sarcasm and said “Yes, and I don’t think it would bode well for me to be talking to someone like you.” But of course I didn’t. I just said “no” and I don’t know that I ever felt quite right about feeling good about myself for a very long time. And I know this is the same for a lot of you today.

Someone, something said or did something bad to you and you believed it. You carried it around and it has poisoned your very being. Maybe 100 people said something good, but that one nasty thing, that’s the thing that has stuck like glue and sapped away at the belief that you are a wonderful human being. I want you to write that hurt on a piece of paper. It just needs to be a word or two for now. Look at that paper and read the words to yourself, or out loud if you want. Well, you know what I have to say to that? They were wrong! I want you to think about the hurt, the pain, the shame, whatever you are holding inside of you right now. I want you to crumble that piece of paper and throw it on the floor. Stomp on it. If it gets away from you, let someone help stomp on it for you as well. If you want to write it again when you get home and burn it, do it. It’s gone. It is no longer true. Release that negativity from your life forever.

We have all experienced painful experiences in our life. However we have absolute control over whether or not we are going to let those experiences beat us down or build us up. We cannot change the past, but we can release ourselves from the pain from it.

Here is my case in point. I wrote this story seven years ago as part of a speech I was giving. Seven years have passed. My high school reunion is coming up next year (40th!) and I have volunteered to call former classmates and encourage them to attend the big event. I volunteered for the same duty at our reunion four years ago. Guess whose name was on my list? Yup, good ole Cynthia. I wound up leaving her a message. I looked for her at the 35th reunion, but she did not attend. However, my guess is she will be at the next one. It sounds strange but I hope she can make it. I’ve decided that if she attends I will make a point to say hello. Perhaps she will remember her unkindness and apologize, or maybe not. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure she has suffered in other ways and is just doing her best to have a happy life. I forgave her years ago.

If she is still snarky I have decided I will just laugh at her remarks. Whatever she thinks or says has no power over me anymore. I have created my own defining moments and I only have room for the ones that empower me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day and the Pursuit of Happiness

Today is July 4th or Independence Day in the USA. One of my favorite phrases in the Declaration of Independence is: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I am not alone in my admiration. Wikipedia states that this line is considered by some as one of most well crafted, influential sentences in the history of the English language.

It is ironic that we Americans are one of the richest nations in the world, we enjoy freedoms that others can only dream about, we have boundless opportunities, yet most of us are unhappy. We may be in “pursuit” of happiness, but actually achieving it seems a frustrating and elusive endeavor.

My friend and co-author, Jackie and I believe that negativity is at the root of most folk’s misery. We wanted to do something to reverse this pessimistic trend so we wrote a book entitled Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. This self-improvement novel IS a good start toward embracing a happier life, but it doesn’t have ALL the answers. In fact Jackie and I do not have all the answers either. However, I’m always open to learning more about creating a joyful life.

That is why today’s article focuses on a conversation I had with my friend and Myoho Sister, Karen. Karen and I are both SGI Buddhists. Through the years we have encouraged one another. On July 3 we were leaving a meeting and Karen shared some guidance that she read from our organization’s International President, Daisaku Ikeda. It had to do with winning and losing. We all have goals we want to achieve whether it is landing a job, overcoming health issues or finding the perfect mate. In my limited thinking I had previously believed I only “won” when I achieved my goals. Through the years I have won some and lost some. A valuable lesson that Karen shared with me is it is not the goal so much as defeating the elements in my life that are preventing my happiness that should be my true objective.

In Buddhist philosophy obstacles to our happiness are not the circumstances but the mindset and actions we take. When we engage in defeatist thoughts, speech and actions we are letting our internal negativity (or innate darkness) take over. This negativity can take various forms. For some it may be laziness, guilt, greed, pride or anger. Others may choose a numbing experience and turn to a temporary fix such as alcohol or drugs. None of these tactics bring true happiness.

Another way to circumvent joy and traipse down the road of misery is to place your happiness exclusively on attaining a specific outcome.. That is not to say that we should not have goals. I’m a firm believer in them. However, the real trick is finding out what is stopping us from becoming happy and working to eliminate that faulty thinking and behavior.

For instance, I have a goal to pray each day. Since I’m Buddhist, my prayer is chanting the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I do this religiously, but the sincerity, length of time etc fluctuates. In my faulty thinking I have thought that I’m only a “good Buddhist” if I chant a lot and what I’m chanting for comes true. We call this actual proof. When I’m unsuccessful (which is often because I have a lot of things I want to achieve) I feel like I finished last in the human race.

However, my friend Karen reminded me that a true victory is making the effort, not achieving the result. Every time I pray, write, exercise or do any of the things that infuses a little joy in my life, I am victorious. After all, I could be watching television, eating chocolate, or taking a nap, but instead I am making an effort. In essence, at that particular moment I am victorious over one of my weaknesses – laziness. Rather than focus on guilt on what I should be doing more often, I should rejoice that I have defeated my lazy nature (for the time being) and I am victorious in the moment. Unfortunately there are times when I’m making progress, but rather than rejoicing in my efforts, I let guilt or other unseemly thoughts enter my brain.

No one is perfect. No matter how hard we try at various things, we cannot always have the result we want. However, we can celebrate our positive causes. The more we rejoice, the more we will WANT to make the effort. It doesn’t matter if these positive efforts are two minutes a day or 12 hours. Every good action is a start toward a happier existence.

In conclusion, I invite all of you to engage in a different type of independence day. Take a holiday from guilt. Instead, make efforts toward your pursuit of happiness. But remember the message Karen reminded me about from President Ikeda. Real joy stems from defeating your inner darkness and letting your happiness shine through no matter what your circumstances bring.