The Mondays with Money Story

Picture yourself crossing a chasm on a rickety wooden bridge, with rope rails. There is nothing underneath you but air. You have to cross – there is no choice. Get this picture in your mind. What do you feel like as you take each step? Do you carefully test it? I’ll bet you don’t just haphazardly cross, and that you are careful to hold to the rails.

Now add a big safety net underneath the bridge. No matter what happens, that net will be there. It is very solid, and it will hold you. The whole experience is just for fun! Now how does it feel? Thrilling, perhaps, but no longer terrifying.

Imagine that you woke up tomorrow and discovered that a huge financial safety net was underneath you and your entire family. Would it make a difference in how you went about your day, in how you felt about things?

I have had the personal and profound experience of discovering that there was a financial safety net underneath me that I didn’t know was there before. It had been there all along. It is a Trust Fund worth several billion dollars. And my goal is to help you find your own net, the one that has been waiting for you all along.

Now, a couple of things I need to make clear:

  1. I don’t draw from this fund, and I have no power to do so directly. If there is a need, I can request support. It can pay for education for my children and grandchildren. But once again, only if there is a need. To date, I have never needed it. I have always lived well.
  2. This isn’t an imaginary fund. This is a real fund. Most of its assets go to support certain colleges and universities and to give scholarships for people to attend those colleges and universities.
  3. I am not going to tell you how you can access this fund, because unless you are one of the people named in the fund, this particular fund is not available to you. My goal is to tell you how to find your own safety net.

My net was set up over 100 years ago, by an ancestor of mine. It has existed my entire life, but for over 50 years I had no knowledge of it. I’ll never know really know why it was hidden from me. Perhaps there was something I had to learn first.

I was at a Mastermind meeting recently and told some of my history, regarding what businesses I have been in and how things have gone for me. When it came to another person’s turn, she pointed to 3 of us who had gone earlier and said that we were “scanners”, people who would spend our lives flitting from one thing to the next, never settling down to any one. This apparently can cause problems for people. I have never seen it that way at all. I love having so many interests.

Although it is possible that someone could describe me this way, it is not entirely fitting, because I think it has more been a series of lives, all lived very quickly, and all successfully! Yes, I have done many things. I have enjoyed all of them, and I wonder what more is to come.

Rather than go through all my professional and personal lives in order, possibly boring you to death, let me give you some highlights and key points that will help you understand me. My main goal here is to help you evaluate whether I am someone who can help you. I’m a big believer in research.

  • I am an author. I have published over 25 articles and book chapters.
  • I am an authority and expert in “biodiversity”, which is the study of life forms. My particular expertise is in the plants of cold regions. My papers are often cited in other papers.
  • I have a species named after me. (And yes, once upon a time I sat in a lecture hall and thought about how I’d like to have a species named after me some day…)
  • I have started 3 companies, run 2 other companies, bought one company, and sold 2 companies. I do not imagine that I am finished starting, buying, or selling companies. I thoroughly enjoy that process.
  • My companies (so far!) have been in these industries: Retail, environmental consulting, ecommerce, money, renewable energy.
  • I have been quoted in National Geographic, and the backyard of one of my homes was a feature photograph in that same magazine.
  • I was featured in a documentary about climate change in the Arctic region.
  • I started one of the first ecommerce businesses, before anyone had heard of Amazon.com.
  • I am in the process of writing a novel.
  • When I was a practicing scientist, I frequently went to Washington to advise on the directions of science research in the US.

I could tell you more. I could tell you about how I have been on helicopter rides and expeditions in the wilds of Siberia and Alaska, all as a guest. I could tell you about exciting adventures exploring the remote areas of the world that I love so much. I could tell you how satisfying it has been to be a keynote speaker at a conference, and to know that my ideas have excited people. These things and more all really happened to me.

But mostly what I want to tell you is that I never found these things difficult. I have had the experience, over and over again, of wanting something and then getting that thing. OK sure, there were days and times when I thought, “This is difficult.” There have been plenty of obstacles. But I saw them only as obstacles or difficulties – not as stop signs.

Although I was a painfully shy child, I came to be an excellent public speaker. This happened because I had something to say, and I longed to be good at it. And so it happened.

As an athlete, I had no great talent. But I won races and meets. I always wanted to play music but was never allowed to have piano lessons or even a piano (to do this day I don’t know why my parents did that…). So I would go to neighbor’s homes and start playing, slowly working out how the keyboard worked, then gradually teaching myself to read music, opening up an even wider number of options. To this day my piano is one of my greatest loves.

I believe, actually I know, that the same thing that has allowed me to do all these things is also available to you. And I want to help you do it.

Someone wrote an article about me once, about how I did three things at one time and made it look easy. Well, it was rather easy. A friend said to me, only recently, “You are the only person I know who has truly lived her dreams, and you have done it multiple times!”

I seem to have been born blessed with an understanding that I could do whatever I wanted. John F. Kennedy began his presidency when I was in first grade. It was a powerful time in history.

I remember how often we were told that anyone could become president. When he was killed, and I was only in second grade, I was deeply moved by the images of his daughter Caroline standing by his coffin, just a year younger than me. I tried to imagine the pain of having had a beloved father taken from me in such a violent fashion, and all I could know was that I was sorry for her. It was an extraordinarily lesson in how privilege and wealth were not a safety net from terrible things. So then why not just do anything and everything? Ironically, in watching her loss, I recognized that wealth per se was not a gift but only a possible state. (I’m still a silent fan of Caroline Kennedy, by the way. We were both born shortly after our mothers had stillborn daughters, which I am certain impacted how they interacted with us. Although I had him for many more years than she did, I also lost my father rather young. She’s a great intellect who is very sincere and protective of her children. I’d love to have lunch with her some day.)

But for all these life experiences, the technique that truly gelled things for me in terms of money began at a luncheon. A group of us got together each month at a “Writer’s Table”. Sometimes we had a speaker, sometimes someone would read from their works, or other times we’d do some kind of an exercise.

This day the exercise was in a journaling technique that involves having a written conversation. We heard a bit about the technique and how profound it could be. Then we were told to spend a few minutes trying it out.

At that time, I was struggling a bit with money. I really felt money had abandoned me. (Now my objective reality did not match this feeling at all, but that is another story…) Although I allowed the possibility that I had had a role in what happened, I was definitely distraught and confused. And I felt that talking to money might bring healing. So I decided to have my conversation with Money.

And lo and behold, once we began talking, a new friendship was born. I came to understand money in new ways. And I found the money that was all around me.

You see, Money is the “bad guy” for many of us. I was lucky enough to be born into an upper middle class family. My father was a dentist. I went to private schools, attended summer camp. But there was a strange message that was always there – the message of “We can’t afford that.” “Those people are rich.” (That was often how my mother described our neighbors, usually with a great deal of envy.)

The message seemed to be that money was short, that others were rich but we were not. Now the truth is that most people living in the US today are incredibly wealthy. That may discourage you to hear, but it should encourage you! Because it is true. And because it means that you probably have it in your power to use some of your money to change someone else’s life.

You are already wealthy, but you need a safety net. You need your own “Trust Fund”. You need to have a blast crossing the bridge, to feel the thrill of being out in the open, with fresh air blowing around you, and spectacular scenery. Your safety net is there – we need to find it.

The most important key to building that financial safety net is to learn that Money never was the bad guy. As long as there is no trust, there will be no Trust Fund. Money can be your great ally in this adventure. Money is there for you – it is all around you.

I developed Mondays with Money and the Million Dollar Family Trust Fund program as a way to help you find your safety net. If a black girl born to an unwed housemaid in Mississippi in the 1950′s can become one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people, you can build a financial safety net.

You can do whatever you want. Are you willing to take the first step to do that?

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