Money Baggage and Work

We design our work lives around our money baggage without realizing it. Perhaps you are working below your true abilities or are in a job that pays a lower wage than you deserve. Maybe you are working long hours at a job you don’t like. Your money baggage is the culprit behind these patterns. Until you find out what it is, it will be as if an invisible force field is keeping you in your current circumstances.

Roger, a participant at one of my workshops, was typical of many people who know what they want to do but stay glued to their unsatisfying job. Roger was a marketing executive: crisp suit, starched white shirt, talking to everyone around him before the class started, confident, smooth, well-liked.

At the beginning of class I always ask, “Why are you here? What do you want to accomplish by being here?” The fi rst words out of Roger’s mouth were, “I hate my job. I hate marketing; I can’t do it any more. I make a ton of money but it’s killing me.”

I asked him what he would do if he weren’t doing marketing. He didn’t have to think for even a second. “I’d be a teacher. I’d love to teach math. But I’d only make a third of what I make now.”

“Well, could you possibly support yourself on a teacher’s salary?”

“I don’t know, I don’t have any debt,” he said. “I do have a lot in the stock market. I never really considered it.”

As Roger was growing up his mom told him repeatedly, “You are only as good as the amount of money you make. If you have money; you are a better person.” Roger’s uncle worked as a brakeman for the railroad. His mom told him, “You don’t want to turn out to be like Uncle Fred.” The fact is, Roger admired his uncle, who had a huge heart, played guitar, was fun to be around, and taught Roger a lot of great things. But his mom made it clear: Roger needed to rise above any occupation that seemed blue collar or ordinary.

Other times his mom would say, “See that person? He’s a social worker. It’s too bad. He doesn’t make much money. You can do more for the world if you have money.” Roger’s money baggage was clear: Money determines my self-worth.

He got a business degree and, as soon as he graduated from college, went for a job that would make him a lot of money—marketing for a pharmaceutical company. And he was very successful.

“So your lifestyle might allow you to become a teacher,” I said, “if you took a hard look at it. But you dread having the conversation with your mom, telling her you have decided to follow your heart? Is that it?”

“No,” Roger said. “Mom’s been dead for ten years.” I was stunned. Ten years, but he still heard her voice in his ear, keeping him from pursuing his passion to teach. That is how powerful our money baggage is. As long as we don’t examine it to find out why we make the decisions about money that we do, we will be frustrated in our attempts to follow our hearts.

Tune in next week to see how money baggage not only keeps us from pursuing work we love; it also can keep us in lower-paying jobs than we deserve.

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