Much has already been said by FIRECracker about this past week at Chautauqua UK, but the experience was just so big and complex and overwhelming that it’s really not possible to sum it all up in one post, so I’m going to take my Wednesday post to add my take on it.
I think the thing that struck me the most was this deep, intimate emotional connection we formed with each other.
But first, let’s back up a little bit.
Each Chautauqua is, at its core, a bunch of us FI weirdos gathering in a super-villain lair. Over the course of the week, each speaker gives his or her talk to the group, there are activities and events that happen, and any attendee can sign up for a one-on-one session with any speaker they choose to talk about pretty much anything they want.
And it’s in these sessions where the magic happens.
Jim “The Godfather” Collins in no uncertain terms instructed all the Speakers early on to treat these one-on-one’s like a confessional. Anything discussed at these sessions gets sealed in an iron vault a million miles underground the moment the session is over, never to be discussed again (unless the attendee wants to). The idea is to give each attendee their own personal bubble of protection where they can’t be judged or embarrassed or attacked for any reason. It’s a system that’s genius in its simplicity, and after doing this for a whole week I understand why.
People get judged All. The. Fucking. Time when it comes to money. Money is one of the most emotional things out there, because every dollar a person has or doesn’t have is a result of a whole series of decisions that led them to that point, and those decisions are twisted in with other emotion-drenched things like identity, politics, sex, love, religion. It just goes on and on. Hell, this site was created as an angry F-U to all the Boomers that kept judging US for having the gall to defy their wise old advice to go into debt to buy a house we didn’t want.
So once that bubble of non-judgment got created, the flood that came from inside it was overwhelming. We addressed the fears people had that made them bolt up at night with their pulse pounding. We dug up money ghosts from decades ago that were still haunting people, and together we figured out a way to slay them. We hugged each other and literally cried when they showed us their scars and realized we had them too.
It was cathartic. And humbling.
And it made me realize that everyone, no matter where they are on their journey towards FI, has a messed up history with their money that they’re embarrassed about. Everyone has mistakes in their past that they’re trying to dig themselves out of. Some mistakes have bigger effects than others, but everyone has them.
But the big difference between the people who manage to recover and get their money working for them and those that seem to spin around in circles is that the people who make it find a way to forgive themselves for their past mistakes. Those that don’t are the ones that can’t let those mistakes go, and keep throwing up their hands and saying “Welp, I’m screwed.”
This is how a typical conversation about money with our friends goes pre-Chautauqua.
Person A: Thanks for taking a look at our numbers, FIRECracker. I really appreciate it.
FIRECracker: Oh, no problem. OK so can you tell me little bit more about this recurring monthly expense marked “Misc”?
Person B: Oh, that’s how much money she spends on shoes. It’s so stupid, right?
Person A: Hey, I like my shoes!
Person B: Well, we wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for those shoes. That’s all I’m saying.
Person A: Hey, that’s not fair! You spend just as much going out with your friends!
Person B: I make all the fucking money! I’m not allowed to go out with my friends?
FIRECracker: *slowly backs away towards the exit*
And what we learned at Chautauqua was that not only does literally everyone have the same baggage when it comes to money, it’s pretty much impossible to fix anything unless all that judgment goes away first.
Now, after Chautauqua, all our conversations go like this:
Person A: How do my numbers look? Is it bad? It’s bad isn’t it?
FIRECracker: Look, whatever happened in the past doesn’t matter. It literally doesn’t matter. Let’s pretend that whoever screwed up in the past was a different person, and that person’s gone now. The only thing that matters is what we do going forward. Can we do that? Does that make sense?
Person A: …I guess…
FIRECracker: OK, so tell me about this number.
Person A: Well, that’s my credit card debt. See, what happened was…
FIRECracker: Don’t care. Doesn’t matter. Would you be OK if we shifted some money out of this checking account to pay that off?
Person A: Oh. OK. Well, I guess I can do that.
Because when someone doesn’t feel judged anymore, they stop trying to defend their past mistakes and instead start thinking about the future. That’s the big difference I’ve noticed between people who have money and people who don’t. The first group figured out a way to forgive themselves for past mistakes while the second group never figures this out.
So if you’re struggling with your own money issues, the first thing you have to do is Forgive Yourself.
Whatever happened in the past, it doesn’t matter who did it, what happened, or whose fault it was. It literally doesn’t matter.
The only thing that matters is what you do starting now.
And only when you can do that, only when you can Forgive Yourself for whatever happened in the past, only then can you start to fix it.
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