When I posted the link to last week’s blog about Fear of Change on Facebook, the first response I got was:
“What about fear of not being able to pay the bills and becoming homeless?”
It’s a very valid fear. My response?
“I’m very familiar with that fear. I’ve been there many times over the years of being self-employed. It’s not nice. And yet, I haven’t starved to death yet.
“I can only speak from personal experience, and can’t offer guarantees to anybody else, but my fears have always been worse than what actually happens. And also, I’m really good at rolling up my sleeves and getting resourceful when need be.”
I’m lucky in many ways. I’ve been in financial fear enough times – and got out of it enough times – to know that it’s survivable.
The first time I faced this fear I was young (at least compared with where I am now) – in my early thirties and recently separated. Pending a divorce settlement, I had next to no money, and lived wherever I could. Homes included an unoccupied office awaiting redevelopment, a Dickensian unheated flat over an antiques shop, a camper van, and a cabin measuring 6 x 6 x 6 feet on a dutch barge. I’ve faced the bureaucratic problems caused by having no fixed address. I’ve looked at leftover food left on a stranger’s plate in a coffee shop and wondered if anyone would notice if I ate it. I’ve scraped the mould off leftover takeout and eaten it anyway.
And it wasn’t just that one phase of my life. There have been others too – probably seven or eight times over the years when I really didn’t know how I was going to get through.
And yes, I will also acknowledge my privilege. There are also factors in my favour. I have the benefit of a good education (thankfully paid for entirely by the state), I’m in the racial majority in my country, and supposedly I live in a democracy where there is some kind of safety net (although recent experience would suggest it is now a very flimsy safety net, with many holes in it). I have wonderful friends who I know would not let me starve. I also don’t have dependents counting on me to put bread on the table.
So I’m lucky, but I’m also not a complete stranger to financial scarcity, and the kind of gut-wrenching fear it can evoke. I know that awful feeling, and I know it can undermine even the fiercest resolve to make a change.
But now that I’ve had these experiences, here’s what I want you to know: I believe that money moves in mysterious ways. This may sound mystical – even irresponsible – but in my experience-validated worldview, resources do show up when we follow our calling. Maybe not when we want, maybe not as much as we want, maybe not in the form that we want, but as the saying goes, life gives us not what we want, but what we need.
I can’t explain how or why this happens, but it does, and I’ve seen many friends of mine who are on the path of purpose also manage to keep body and soul together while apparently living on thin air.
Of course, you can’t just sit on the sofa waiting for resources to show up. While everything might come to she who waits, it comes faster to she who gets off her backside and makes things happen. You have to throw yourself in the way of good fortune by getting out there, creating, connecting, contributing.
The main point is that we don’t know if we don’t try. Fear of financial insecurity keeps so many people trapped where they are, because they dread a future poverty that exists entirely in their own imagination. It’s not the actual lack of money that keeps you trapped – it’s the fear of it.
By all means, create a safety net before you take the leap if that feels better to you – although then you never get to find out if you can fly. If you have the safety net, you will for sure use the safety net, because you’ve already prepared for failure. Are you willing to trust and have faith, or not?
Einstein said: “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
I would say that the second most important decision we ever make is whether we’re willing to bet on ourselves – are we willing to take a risk, trusting that (as Marie Forleo would say) everything is figureoutable?
Yes, I know the system is rigged against certain groups of people. For example, if you’re in the US and your dream is to set up your own business, it’s definitely better to be male, white, and from Ivy League, MIT or Stanford. According to a 2019 study of venture capital investment by RateMyInvestor and DiversityVC:
- 77.1 percent of founders were white—regardless of gender and education.
- Just one percent of venture-backed founders were black.
- Women-funded startups received only 9 percent of investments.
- Latino founders made up 1.8 percent of those receiving funding, while Middle Easterners totaled 2.8 percent.
- Asians were the second most-backed group, making up 17.7 percent of venture-backed founders.
But the Universe is bigger than the system, and self-belief is more powerful than discrimination. How will you show how broken the system is if you don’t prove it wrong? Or conversely, do you become complicit in the system if you allow it to be right?
This is the real danger of fear: that it defeats our hopes and dreams before we even try.
Don’t let fear keep you small. Don’t let fear make you be anything less than you came here to be.