Becoming who I have always been


Not making enough money, or struggling financially, is like being stuck in a small town your whole life because you don’t think you’ll be able to make it anywhere else. You were born in this town. You know everyone and everyone knows you. You know all the streets, all the restaurants, the best places to get fresh fruit and vegetables, the best swimming spots, the best place to look at the stars. Still, you’ve always longed to do more with your life. You’ve always wanted to experience more than just this small town, and to meet other people – different people, maybe even more interesting people; people with different points of view and different opinions. You’ve even thought about learning other languages. You’re often frustrated, sometimes lonely, often unhappy, but everyone is convinced you won’t make it anywhere else. (Look at so-and-so who tried, and look at where they ended up, people would always say.) So, you keep your dreams to yourself and slug it out to the end.

Meantime, the world is full of people who come from small towns, who had dreams, who pursued their dreams, and who believed that they, too, can make it in places bigger than the small towns where they were born and raised. They believed that not only would they be okay, but that they would be able to thrive in a bigger world with fewer limitations and more options – where they could experience more, learn more, and grow into the fullest version of themselves.

* * *

I smoked cigarettes for fourteen years. I thought of myself as a smoker. At social events, I knew who the other smokers were, and enjoyed puffing tobacco with them outside on the balcony or on the veranda. Then came the point when I got serious about quitting (or more serious than previous times). Within a matter of months I started thinking of myself as a healthy guy – a non-smoker. After a few years, I didn’t even smoke one or two cigarettes on occasion outside a restaurant. I had completely outgrown the smoker identity. Smoking was something I did years earlier, but from which I had moved on.

The same with views about money and struggling to make money. For a long time this was part of my identity. I saw myself as someone struggling to make money. I saw myself as someone who would have done better in a world where money wasn’t such a big factor. Other people also knew me as someone who never had much money – if they couldn’t guess, I probably said something that drove the point home.

Now I know that this identity of struggler-with-money was not the truth either. I was never by nature a smoker; it was just a bad habit I had for a few years. Similarly, it is not my truth that I have to struggle to make money. That I struggled with it for years had simply been the result of unintended bad conditioning, lack of proper education about money (for which I myself take responsibility because I have been an adult for almost thirty years), and – like cigarettes – a few bad habits.

* * *

When you are young, ideas about money and about making money sometimes come across as universal; that is, you assume that you share the same ideas and beliefs with your schoolmates and cousins and other people of the same age in your neighbourhood.

What you only realise years later is that beliefs about money, your relationship with money, how it works to earn and accumulate and invest or play with money, even how you spend it, were specific to you, and maybe your siblings. There is a good chance that your schoolmates and friends and cousins of about the same age, and other children in the neighbourhood, had a totally different education about money and related matters.

Of course, you get extended families, or neighbourhoods or communities where there is a degree of consistency regarding what adults teach their children about personal finance. Nonetheless, your relationship with money, and what you teach your children, or what you learned from your parents, cannot as easily be defined as religion or politics or culture, and in many cases the lessons are much more subtle. It is therefore easy to be totally unaware as a child of the effect it has on your development, or as a parent to be aware of what you teach your children.

* * *

A child grows up in a house where he is taught to dance and sing for his bread and butter. In fact, he is somewhat of bashful fellow, and he doesn’t enjoy it at all. It’s not who he is. The stage is not his natural domain. After many years he discovers that he would rather design houses. One can almost say that he is a designer by nature.

For me, the condition of worrying about money is like the guy who is seriously uncomfortable on stage. Being worried about money is not my truth. It doesn’t come naturally to me. It pushes up from inside and gets stuck in my throat. One can almost say that I am by nature a wealthy man who never has to be concerned about whether he has enough money.

What I do now is to confront these negative views and replace them with positive views. The end of the process is that I will be who I have always been deep inside but could not express. So, I am not becoming a new person. I’m just becoming who I’ve always been.


It is said that you have to go out of your comfort zone if you want to succeed. For me, with making money, it was the opposite. I believed money was only to be found outside my comfort zone – if something was easy, or pleasant, it could as a matter of course not work. Something had to be difficult, unpleasant, and boring. Then, and only then, did I stand a chance.