Your Dreams or Your Debt?

They say that people who win the lottery see a spike in feeling awesome (duh!). 

But then, something happens, the diamonds loose there luster, and just a few weeks-months afterwards, they go back to feeling the same way they did before they won the lottery. If they felt lousy about their life before the lotto, they continue to feel lousy after the lotto.

So, how do I feel to be debt free for 1 month? Awesome? Relieved? Ready for anything?
Nope nope nope.

Exactly. The. Same.

Yours truly at the podium ... looking nervous ... cause I was!
Getting up in a room of ~200 people, and gushing my money insecurities was both nerve racking, and liberating. 

If there's anything I learned from having paid off my loans, it's that it doesn't lead to happiness. 

SUPER cliche with a cherry on top!  

Yes, I know. But did I really think paying off my loans would lead to happiness / relief / joy? ... ya...I sort of did.

Yes, I have more cash to free up...but now I'm just looking for something else to obsess over with the freed-up cash -- a house, so just more debt...WFT? Yes, that's right, it continues. 

But this time, with the peace of mind that I understand the math and (more importantly) my goals (not just my money goals), and can add them all up... my money goals + my time (which we know is worth more than money) + my life goals and can fit them together in a nice package with a bow on top. I got this! Like a present to myself, that I have given myself; I am now equipped to climb money mountains joyously! Without fear of whether I'm doing the right thing, or if I have enough for retirement (or any other time or money worry).

Debt + stressing over it + feeling totally lost = ew!
Debt + Peace of mine = priceless.

You know what feels better than being debt free? Cookies? A new car? Winning the lotto?

Nope nope nope.

Being you. 

That's right...simple, right? Well, not for those who feel worried, self-conscious, and unclear about the road before them. And what makes it worse, is that sometimes you're not even able to admit it to yourself...that you're unclear, that road is scary, and that you don't know WTF you're doing. But it's okay. Really.

Whatever you do, don't let money (or lack of it) keep you from being the awesome person you already are. Don't use it as an excuse to not move I did {phew! I said it!}. I used my debt/money as an excuse to 'not be an artist'..."I'll get my life together as soon as I get my money right," I said. 

Heard that one before? Or how 'bout this classic "I'll get my life together once I lose the weight/ New Years comes around/ I pay off these loans..blah blah wang wang."

The only one you're making excuses for is you, it's you're life. Debt / money / a relationships / a clever Facebook profile...doesn't keep you (nor stop you) from living your life in the direction you want to go. Just move forward, debt or not, happy or not, whatever.

You, as you are, 
have everything you need to be your best self.

A dear Buddhist friend of mine told me that, and it propelled me to start this blog, and make the determination to stop bullsh*ting, and take actions that would move my life in the direction I wanted.

What do you think debt / money is keeping you from doing / being / living? 

Irrespective of debt...What could you do right now to move your life in the direction of what you want to be doing / being / living?

So now, I'm on a mission... to keep moving forward. To keep developing dynamically no matter what, not even {insert excuse...including "more debt than I had before"}. 

My mission includes...

...helping *you*. Yes, you reading this right now.

When you're starting out in the "real world" there is zero reason to feel stressed out about money. Unemployed / fully-employed. Zero. I simply just means you're not sure where to being. (A little one knows straight out the shoot..well, unless you're a money geek or had parents who gave you a piggy bank in the form a spreadsheet).

So where do you start?

With your goals. That's right! Money management starts with managing your goals. Not your wallet.

So, again, start with your goals. And I don't mean the ones in your brain. I mean the ones in your heart. The ones you're too afraid to say out load, or that make your heart beat a little faster when you think of them. The ones that make you excited just about the possibility.

Write down 10 of them. 10 of your dreams. Really.

Take a sheet of paper, your phone, a word document, anything, and write them down. These are your secret wishes, yours to share with just you (but writing them down will make you feel great, and you won't be able to keep it secret for long...that's the idea ;) And make them big dreams...if your pen shakes a little, or if you feel you're holding yourself back from one that's teetering in you mind...then you're on the right track. It doesn't hurt to right them down, it will only liberate you from the weight of holding them in for too long.

Write down 10 of your dreams. What are they?
  1. Go to Paris?
  2. Visit your homeland?
  3. Go to graduate school?
  4. Take a cooking class in Morocco?
  5. Learn to dance salsa?
  6. Learn to fly a plane?
  7. Make a feature film?
  8. Learn Chinese?
  9. Go sky diving?
  10. Travel to Thailand?

Share one of yours in the comments! = D

You can do this! Don't let debt / money keep you from any of them.

Next Step...pick one. Just one to start. The one that makes you most excited! Eep! This is so fun!

Now, write down everything you'll need to do to make this happen. If it's take a cooking class in Morocco, then write down: buy a the plane ticket, book the hotel room, get a cab from the airport, etc. Everything you can think of. It's not important to get it all right. It's just important to start. After you've done that, then do it again...under "buy a plane ticket" get even more detailed and write: find the best time of year to go, save up for the plane ticket, ask friends if they've ever been, get a travel book from Morocco, etc.

Last step: Schedule it. On you calendar /agenda / planner, put a 30 minute appointment for the next 7 days. So, for a week, you're allowing yourself the freedom (if only for 30 mins) to dream. To put your happiness first, and not your worries / money burden. This small step will focus you, and give you a path to go down, and a plan for how to get there. 

Say it's $5,000 to get your culinary adventure on in Morocco. Now, you have something to work towards. Now you can start bringing in other goals...those 'mind' goals ... saving, retirement, paying off debt, etc. But what's important, I think, is always putting your money into something worth while for you. That's the motivation that will help you get your money right...not worries...but the things that make you feel like you're thriving.

Put more energy into thriving than scarcity. 
That's where to start.

And don't just talk about it. Actually do it. Plan your dream, take one step each day that will move you closer to them. And boom! Before you know it you'll be feasting in Morocco!

Note: Morocco was my ultimate dream trip since I saw in middle school and went to Disney's Epcot Center Moroccan "village". Go figure, I as one of those kids. 

As soon as I made big money had my first "real" job (which paid around $37,000/yr before taxes in like 10+ years ago), I started planning out my dream Morocco trip, then, and only then did I plan out my money goals (saved for retirement, paid as much as I could towards my ~$20k student loans then), and didn't go into credit card debt. I am SO happy I did that. *That* ... pursing happiness ... felt better (and does still) than paying off my student loans. 

Put more energy into what energizes you back, 
rather than what drains you. 
You have that choice.

Yours truly, on a camel in the Sahara. 
I'm happy to be there, I swear.

From my very first night in Morocco. Feasting on a dream!!!
The food there is AMAZING!!!

Another feast from a day we went to the mountains!
My best friend came along :D #win
(Hey girl!)

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - --

Fast forward 10+ years from Morocco (and a bunch of other dreams)...and I share all what I know with you. In the hopes that you won't let money worries (or any other stress) hold you back from being your best self. You got this! Follow your happiness.

The experience I shared on stage...

Note: I share that I am Buddhist here. However, I believe being religious, orthodox, agnostic, whatever, has nothing to do with anything. You must walk the path that is right for *you*, that just happens to be mine. And, I only share this because it has so much to do with following your happiness, and not letting financial insecurity get in the way of that. 

"Good Morning. I grew up in a single-parent home where I was raised to believe that money was taboo, evil, and would always limit and suffocate me. I was raised to believe that the only way to live was paycheck-to-paycheck, and that there would always be scarcity. And, finally, that the more money you have the happier you are.

This deep and destructive financial karma -- of scarcity, survival, and dependency -- haunted me throughout every major decision in my life, especially as I balanced various jobs in college, and then through graduate school where I juggled both working full-time while attending school full-time. And most profoundly, it influenced my decision to NOT pursue a career as an artist and filmmaker because of the “starving artist” myth I was so deeply afraid of. It also influenced my decision to go to graduate school because I believed that’s what I was supposed to do to be a respected professional, but wasn’t what I actually wanted to do.

Sharing this site with an audience member afterwards.

So even through my true nature and deep desire was to pursue art, I let the fear of financial scarcity sway the direction of my life. I thought my artistic desires were childish, and would simply dissolve after completing a serious graduate school program. But of course, this supression of my true self, only intensifed my calling. My artistic passions bubbled up inside me ready to burst, and despite having over $40,000 dollars in student loans, I couldn’t deny it any longer and took an unpaid internship with a film production company. And, to my surprise, it turned into a job offer. I’d been wishing and dreaming of this moment for years and never thought the possibility of becoming a filmmaker was within reach until then. This was the ultimate test of my fear: 

“Do I take my dream job eventhough it’s low paying and taps into my fear of scarcity, or do I turn it down in hopes of something more abundant but not in the arts?” I convinced myself that I had to either take my dream job and survive on a low salary, OR find another job to pay off my $40,000 in loans. I thought that my happiness depended on these external things, and that I could not have both.

Finally, I let my financial karma make decisions for me; and out of fear, I sadly declined my dream job as a filmmaker and artist. Without any other options (or so I let myself believe) I moved back home to Miami (after almost 10 years of being away), and depressingly found myself unemployed after several months of searching, living on my mom’s couch, hopeless, and feeling suffocated by my debt burden.

In desperation, I reached out to a friend who is always positive and is buddhist, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I asked how I could meet other positive people like her, and she connected me with Buddhism. I went to my first meeting 2 years ago, and became a member 4 months later.

I vividly remember the first time chanted [aka prayed] for my dreams with sincere 
determination and resolve. I reached down into the depths of my life and asked myself, “This is it, what do I really want. What does my heart want, not my mind? What am going to determine from the depths of my life, and what action am I going to take when I get up from this chair!?” I chanted for a job that would allow me to work from home and pay my $40,000 of student loans in 2 years, to move into my own apartment, and give me the flexibility to pursue art. That day, I withdraw all job applications that didn’t fit that criteria because they would just lead me astray me from that path. I only looked for -- and applied to -- jobs that fit.  

Within 3 weeks I received a great job offer, signed a lease on my first apartment,and, did something that redefined my financial karma more than I could’ve ever imagined: I started writing about it. I started keeping an online journal of my financial lessons on a personal website, and became obsessed with transforming the poisonouse fear I had about money into medicine. “This is going to be an opportunity, not a challenge anymore!,” I determined.

I would constantly write about what I was teaching myself financially (through reading books, journals, and other resources), and my determination to get out of debt became a vehicle towards my human revolution and changing my life. But I kept the website secret because I was still too embarrassed and scared of anyone else reading my financial secrets and fears. But one day, I showed it to a close friend who encouraged me to make it public because it could help others.

I was too nervous still to make it public. So I chanted for financial peace, made a sincere determination to share the encouragement I received from Buddhism with others, and started encouraging others young women and men to be themselves and pursue their highest potential. My life began to bloom, and I became even more fiercely determined to pay off my loans, and began more seriously pursuing filmmaking. Through these efforts I was built courage, and found that it lead to wisdom and self-empowerment. And most profoundly, I realized that my goal was empty -- paying off loans or a house or anything else external is not absolute happiness. Having sincere compssion for the well-being of others -- that is, manifesting my buddha nature -- is absolute happiness.

I then proudly shared my website because I knew it could help others who were struggling wtih similar obstables. After that, I was interviewed by national and local press, asked to feature my writings in their publications, and had strangers write to me, thanking me for sharing my own financial struggles.

My original goal, almost 2 years ago, was to pay off more than $40,000 dollars in student loans by my 30th birthday; which is 2 days from today. I paid them. One month ago.

I can tell you about how it feels awesome to not have that burden anymore, but that is just a vail of the truth. Instead, through this journey to overcome my financial karma, I now feel that Buddhahood -- the life state of supreme compassion and wisdom -- is true happiness, and is invaluable. True worth lies not in the external, but the internal.

In the January 2015 Living Buddhism magazine, it says: 

“You can give food to the hungry and money to those in need, but you cannot distribute those things equally to all who are wanting. There is a limit to material aid. And the recipients may be glad, but they may also become dependent upon you and think they can continue to receive this support without any effort on their part. The greatest offering one can make is the offering of Buddhism. This allows people to gain fresh life force, enabling them to do their work and to become healthy again. This inner strength, like water welling up from the earth, is limitless.”

Through determining to be my best self, I realized my unlimited potential, and recognize that of others. With the first paycheck I received after paying off my loans, I proudly contributed to my Buddhist organization (the SGI), to show my appreciation, support and gratitude to the organization. That was a profound moment of overcoming financial karma for me.

And, finally, I will close by sharing that I produced, directed, and edited my first short film during my first year of practice. And, it was televised on PBS. I am now on my second film, which just received a grant from a local foundation.

I wholeheartedly believe that through sincerely and consistently striving towards your dreams, you can revolutionize your life and manifest your highest life condition; Buddahood -- your life state of supreme compassion and wisdom

Thank you. "

Me blabbing, and pretending I have webbed fingers.

Note: Again, you must walk the path that is right for *you*, that just happens to be mine. Now, enough about me blabbing...

What is one of your dreams!?!
Share it in the Comments! #DreamCommentParty!

1 comment:

  1. Good ideas. I think lottery winners have to make others happy rather than revel in luxury. Some say money makes the world go round. But mostly it doesn't go about being really happy. Altruism is a way to happiness.


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