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Fear of Making Money

A while back I was having a conversation with a friend of mine Danielle Harper. We were discussing a lot of thing things that affect us as entrepreneurs. One of those was money. Danielle was describing a criticism she received but defended herself by saying, “and I didn’t even make any money on it.”

I stopped her right there because what she said made me realize something. She defended herself by reminding me that she didn’t make money. Why?

Check out her post on her blog about this very conversation. 

So why did she resort to the “but I didn’t make money” defense? I notice this a lot with the people I surround myself with. Grown adults who grew up on punk rock that never quite fit into the system. The whole DIY movement is sort of a fuck-you to capitalism and corporate greed. There’s a certain badge of honor doing things yourself and trying to “stick it to the man.”

I’ll Just Do it Myself

In your teens and early twenties, you are filled with hope and determination. You have enough courage to start your own business and start making money doing your own thing. Maybe you tried to get a job but couldn’t and were like, “fuck it” I’ll just do it myself. Maybe you made an amazing product or had an brilliant idea nobody ever thought of before. Maybe you created something people admired and loved.

You knew you had to charge money for whatever it was, but you secretly hated that part of the business. You loved the creation. You loved the work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard really talented artists say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this shit.” As if their talents are somehow worthless and clients and customers are fools for paying them. How much more self-deprecating can you get?

Fear of Greed

The thing is, we seem to have this underlying fear of making money. Because what does money lead to? Does it lead to becoming that big fat greedy bastard we imagined when we were younger? Are we are afraid of becoming the man? We don’t want to be seen by our peers as motivated by money. Being motivated by money is the ultimate evil, right? Well, that’s what we told ourselves.

Ever since I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, there have been many conversations about money. I heard from people who thought we were rolling in the dough with our $35 ticket price. I’ll be first to admit I was quick to defend myself with how broke we were and how much we sacrificed. “Hey look, we are doing this for the love of the music and art!” That was the truth, we did love it. We just needed enough money to cover our costs. And guess what we got? Just enough money to cover our costs. Danielle said the same about her businesses.

It can be scary imagining yourself earning money. Money is power. Having power can be scary because you’ve seen so many people abuse it. You’re scared of what you might do with that money and power.

Fear of Criticism

Why are we so afraid of making money? Is it because you can no longer be immune to criticism? You can’t fail if you’re not making money right? There’s an assumption if you’re doing anything related to music and art that any hint of commercialism taints the true intentions of the artist. An artist often does not want to be regarded as having compromised his artistic integrity to make a buck.  Once you’re making a buck, you have customers. Customers who feel that you are now working for them and that they’re always right. You now open yourself up to critique and criticisms and that can be hard to accept. 

Altruism and Sacrifice

We all want to do good; to change the world. We all feel that we were granted some special ability to affect the world in our own unique way. We judge ourselves and each other by how much we sacrifice our own happiness to make others happy. Sacrifice is just another measuring stick to compare fellow humans with. Are you better if you sacrifice more for a greater good of the team or humanity?

Being selfless or altruistic is admired. It’s sometimes like a competition to see who can struggle the hardest and earn the least. Have you ever told someone a story of your hardship only to hear someone else one-up you? “You think you’ve got it bad, let me tell you!”

Change Your Perspective About Money

Sometimes we are afraid of other people feeling insecure around us. If we happen to become successful, we’re afraid it’s going to make our closest friends jealous and insecure and even hate us. Until we change our perspective on money we’re going to treat it like poison. Until we stop judging what others do with their money, we will forever be judged with what we do with ours.

Photo credit 2BGR8STOCK

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  1. Seriously. You nailed it with this article. Being raised in a humble home, I’ve always been taught to be “nice” and “always do the right thing for the greater good”…all great principles, but as a kid I took those philosophies as something that means not becoming greedy and as the biblical testament says, “Money is the root of all evil”. Well it took a while (and also removing myself from anything religious) to get myself away from that mindset, and to get into the logic that money is okay and it’s just a tool.

    Reading this article just confirmed the wrong mindset that I had before and how I can change for the better. I know i’m four years late, but i’m glad I found your article Jeff. Everything you said were spot on. Now that I’ve been reading books on money management, avoiding the fear of making money and understanding that having lots of money won’t make me “evil”, things are finally starting to look up.

    My deepest gratitude to you sir!

  2. As a professional photographer/artist for over 30 years, my friends, family and clients have always asked me why I wasn’t so busy I could turn down work? The reality is this gut wrenching fear of becoming corrupted… evil… if I truly made the kinds of money I want/need. I’ve feared money my whole life, having lived a scarcity mentality. I have basically lived my whole life afraid of money.

    When you said: “Money is an amplifier for the good I want to do in the world. It helps me serve more people.”

    This comment has me sobbing like a little child right now – I have no savings, no retirement and I’m struggling to make ends meet. The reality that I’ve been contributing to my own pain and suffering and never truly understanding why til this very moment has me grieving with regret over what I’ve done to myself.

    I printed this quote out and it’s pinned to my vision board now.

    Thank you for presenting a personally deeply painful topic to me in a way I have been trying to find an answer to for many years…

  3. Going to echo the other commenters by saying
    1. You deserve way more attention on this post!!
    2. I grew up in the hardcore DIY scene where even the older people barely had any money.

    I have opportunities to be wealthy but primarily I don’t want to spoil myself. All the adults I knew growing up were out of shape, miserable and numb. I always either stole what I wanted or made my own version of it.

    Now I’m over all that but the thought of having profits makes me feel downright dirty. I don’t want to become coddled by my wallet, and take the easy way out of everything by paying for it instead of learning to either go without or come up with a creative solution.

    I don’t know how to stop feeling like money makes me weaker.

  4. Well shit. This is it.

    30 something female, with punk, hardcore, indie-shoe-gazing roots here. Deep in debt from a doctorate and faced with the opportunity to make an amazing living. I have the work ethic, a sense of generosity, but I’m scared as all fuck to make the money. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

    You got it, this is an issue for our generation’s counter culture. I can remember being a teen and trash talking the hippies who sold out….

    The underlaying core belief is now evident thanks to your post. I’m not a sell out, I’m not some corporate scum– I’m someone who has worked my ass off and deserves to be paid appropate so I can take care of myself and those I love. It’s not greed I’m perpetuating.

    Thanks for this <3

  5. Jeff,

    I have long-searched the inter-webs for an answer to this query: Why in the world do I hate anything having to with the acquisition of money except wanting to have enough of it so I can do all of the good things that rich, evil men SHOULD do with it?
    I realize that I learned very early on about and – to my detriment, deeply accepted – the “conspiracy theories” revolving around money being used as a control mechanism for the masses. I aligned myself with the struggle of the “have-nots”, and adopted their banner as my own. This “education” was coupled with growing up in a household where the words “money” and “no” were synonymous. No allowances, no permission to make or handle money in any way unless from a birthday card, first communion, etc. Even then, spending it was frowned upon yet there was not enough financial education and good practice in the family unit to instruct the children on how to properly save, invest, etc. Thus frustrated, ignorant spending by all parties involved.

    I’ve honed enough of my skills over the years in which someone on the outside would look in and say “Jeepers…why the heck isn’t this guy a freakin’ gajillionaire?” I realize now – after finding this gem of an article – that it is not a skill I must acquire but a relationship that I must nurture and build with regard to money as a tool and, going further: a force that can be wielded for the good and the right in the world. I agree with Andrew in the sense that I cannot believe I’m leaving only the 3rd comment in the 2.5 years this article has been on the net. May that number multiply by the thousands, Mr. Finley!

    Thank you so much for sharing this simple yet profound outlook.

    • Thank you for the awesome contribution to this post David! It’s a great reminder for me to change my mindset and stop identifying with the “have nots” like you said. So true!

  6. No comments on this article?

    You sir have summed up one of the greatest blocks to success. I have concluded that this war between making money and hating it has had a huge negative effect on every area of my life since youth. Good people with lots of money have a huge GOOD effect on the world.

    How do I get over it?

    • You are totally right! If all the people who want to “do good” are weary of money, then only the ones who “do bad” will have it. One thing to do is to simply CHOOSE a new belief about money to one that makes you feel empowered instead of disempowered. Try the belief on for size. What if you chose a mindset that said, “Money is an amplifier for the good I want to do in the world. It helps me serve more people.” And it’s an energy exchange, you buy things with your money, you give it energy. You provide a social value, and ask for a fair exchange in return. Nothing wrong with that if you are providing a real value! It just takes some conscious practice to reverse your fears about money.

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