What would a storytelling podcast be without me sharing MY story?
My money story is a funny one, because it comes all jammed up in loads of other details.
I don’t think we can look at our attitude or beliefs or patterns towards money and NOT get into some deep, deep work. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible. Because where did we learn all of our money stuff from? Our parents. Our caretakers. Our loved ones. Our own struggles and strife. Other people who wanted to protect us, or help us succeed in the world. And some of that may have served you up until now. Some of that may be time to examine and release.
Either way, you’re here and listening because you’re ready to expose yourself to stories and beliefs that could shift things for you.
So let’s get into it… This episode is the one where I bare it all.
Now to give you a little backstory, I am from Queens, New York. Like SPIDERMAN.
But in my Origin story, I do not get bit by a spider and gain superpowers.
Instead, I get bit by the desire to create, expand, succeed, and be authentic — and both discover and cultivate superpowers.
Born technically in the Bronx, raised in Queens, educated in Queens and Manhattan and always feeling relatively “safe” with money.
My father was an entrepreneur. My parents were homeowners. What money problems they faced I was generally “shielded” from. And there were issues. My father loved to take risks. Entrepreneurship-style risks, day-trading style risks, quit-your-job-and-start-a-business type of risks. All of that. Do-what-you-love and create your own success type of risks.
Everything I stand for is a result of being raised to believe, for better or for worse, that I can create money out of thin air.
It still took (and continues to take) a lot of terrifying trial-and-error to find the evidence that this is true. After all, for every belief, there are stories that support it, and those that rip it to to shreds, after all. Want to believe you can do anything. Great, look for proof of that. Want to believe the Universe, God or whomever you believe in completely and fully supports you, Great. Look for proof of that. Want to believe life is meaningless and nothing is worth suffering or sacrificing for? Great, You can find proof to back that up too.
But this show isn’t just about belief. It’s about belief in creating and belief in creating, specifically, MONEY.
At a very young age, I was taught “you should never be upset about money because you can always, always, always make more.”
Some people were raised to scrimp and save, I was raised with YOLO – order extra food just to taste it. The abundance mindset was STRONG in my household.
And while it was, there was also a lingering unmet desire.
One for greater wealth, acceptance, belonging, and love.
The fact is, I don’t believe my father achieved the success of his dreams before he died.
I was 20, and I’d say he was ‘mid-uplevel’ when he passed away.
I realized much later on (like a decade PLUS later) that this made me believe I couldn’t succeed past a certain point because he didn’t. It was only immediately prior to my own quote unquote uplevel, that I was facing massive anxiety and fear of death because what else did I know?
One of the big things that gets in our way when it comes to receiving is the possibility of surpassing your parents in lifestyle or financial gain.
Some of us carry this belief that we’ll repeat their patterns over and over and over, for better or for worse.
I started my business at 30 years old, in my mother’s basement, after abandoning Hollywood because I felt I couldn’t quite hack it, emotionally.
Although my screenwriting work had gotten some traction, although I was working a job that tons of people would have died for, I was also experiencing regular panic attacks, I was eating my feelings (something I struggled on and off with my whole life), and I was having a very hard time envisioning an optimist future.
In addition, I was starting to use my credit cards for basic living expenses because my 70-hour per week job was barely paying me enough for rent and food, let alone the wardrobe I needed (and the nightly networking I was expected to do in order to succeed).
The other thing I’ll say about this is that I am not naturally a very good executive assistant, yet that was the job I was holding at the time. To be frank, I am not a system creator. My brain and energy were not designed to operate that way, and no matter how hard I tried I felt drained CONSTANTLY by the stress, pressure, and impossibility of doing a good job.
If you want to try really beating up on yourself, just try working a job you’re terrible at.
It was this job that sent me back to New York City and back to bartending, which, while some people are shitty at — I was excellent at!
At the time, I didn’t know enough about myself or personal development or energy to know that it wasn’t my fault that I was drowning at my job. Even my psychoanalyst told me I had the wrong attitude.
But I was smothered in a sea of anxiety and depression that had everything to do with the fact that I was working a job I was terrible at, for a promotion I didn’t want, for money that wasn’t sustaining me, for an ungodly amount of hours each week.
It still took 6 months and a computer meltdown at 8pm on a Friday to break me.
I cried in the bathroom alone and said NO MORE.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the moment I decided I was not willing to accept less than I was worth.
That choosing torture for glory wasn’t actually something I needed to do to myself in order to get where I wanted to go, and that I was capable of more.
Fast forward a few years and we’re back in New York City. We’re in a busy dive bar. Top 40s music is blasting and I’m behind the bar, dollar bills in my cleavage and cracking inappropriate jokes — intentionally humiliating some of my best male customers because they like it.
They even tip me better for it. The first time I accepted a tip I was 18 years old, behind that same bar. I felt so awkward lifting the bills off the bar and putting them in my tip cup. Ten years later and I’m totally thrilled to swipe stacks of twenties from generous customers who like to give me money. Why not? My job is to entertain them and the more I do, the more money they give me. But I know that’s not really true. They pay me for lots of reasons. To look and feel a certain way about themselves, to get me to feel a certain way about them, to be decent, to show love and appreciation, because it’s what you do. Some give me money because it makes them feel like a hero. Some because they want my number. Why do I love leaving good tips? Because I lived on tips for a long time and I know that work is harder than it looks. Industry folk know that about each other. I also believe in tipping karma and always have. I still believe this when it comes to being a great client for someone else. If you’re weird about money, other people will also be weird about money with you…
In any event, bartending by night and making movies by day is not something I recommend for the long-term of your life.
It’s fun while it lasts, especially when you’re shooting a movie with a fully female crew of 40 badass ladies.
But let me tell you — it wears on you.
It wasn’t until I started falling asleep at the wheel driving home at 5am each morning after a full night of serving sticky drinks, yelling at customers, and dancing behind the bar with my midriff exposed that I was like — okay, once again, shit’s gotta change.
I made it worked while it worked but it wasn’t my long-term game plan.
I always knew I was meant to have my own business.
I always knew I was raised for it.
I started buying domains as soon as I had a credit card I felt I could safely use to make purchases only (a.k.a. I was 18) so creative entrepreneurship has its hooks in me early.
But I knew I needed to figure out a way to lift myself out of night shifts and create another flexible revenue stream that would still allow me to write, be me, and pitch screenplays to H’wood when I felt like it from my 10×10 room at my mom’s house.
So I took the leap of faith and starting charging for my copywriting work.
It wasn’t a lot at first. Maybe $100 here, $500 there, but slowly and steadily I saw those numbers increase.
Actually, within 6 months of “officially” launching my brand, I was booking $10,000 of business per month (and feeling equally stressed by the enormity of the work). I was SO good at marketing and branding that I easily booked myself out.
But then I felt I needed help almost immediately.
I brought on my first writer fairly quickly and began scaling from there.
Within a year, I had built an agency.
I upleveled my life. I saw what was possible. I made myself a CEO.
It all happened so quickly that looking back on it is NUTS.
The thing with creating powerfully is that you have to be all-in.
You have to be OBSESSED.
And I was OBSESSED.
I had a vision and I was committed to doing what I could, truly whatever was within my power, to bringing it to life.
And the thing is — when you are committed, other people can feel that, and they want to come along for the ride.
4 years into being an agency owner, and it hit me that I had completely left a piece of myself behind.
This had happened once before in life. In high school.
See, I went to the Fame School for visual art. At the time I was accepted I was doing it all — writing, acting, painting, drawing, fashion design. Winning awards and loving it.
I was completely and fully expressed and blessed to be in a NYC public school in Queens that had a great arts program.
But once I got into a high school for studio art, I was forced to focus on ONE discipline.
I couldn’t play in theater because theater was for the theater kids. I couldn’t dance because dance was for the dance kids.
I was in a singular focus: everything that constituted as studio art: painting, drawing, pen and ink, photography, ceramics, watercolor, design, still life, acrylic, oils, art history, digital art, etc.
These were some of the most difficult years of my life. Years I descended into an eating disorder, self-isolated, and completely shut myself off. Yet I was creating… and it was beautiful. But I wasn’t fully expressed.
You can bet I then went to the most interdisciplinary program possible for college.
But what I learned in those years wasn’t just about combining disciplines — which is what I do now with my work with clients.
I learned that sometimes you can find yourself unexpressed because your focus is accidentally singular.
Maybe from obsession, maybe from need, maybe from love.
There’s a quote from the movie Adaptation that I come back to again and again about obsession and how it ‘whittles the world down to a more manageable size.’
I think about that. How it serves us in making the world seem less overwhelming. In making our options less broad. I think about how zero’ing in with an eating disorder made it easier to make choices about food because I gave myself a constant set of rules to live by.
I think about how hard we resist freedom because it’s terrifying to face both our own power — and the uncertainty of it all. We love being led because of this. Someone else decides, and you’re out of the hot seat.
But when we’re talking about YOU — and your life, what you’re capable of — how can we ever be willing to sacrifice your truest expression of self in your one, single life in exchange for comfort, peace of mind, certainty.
When you’re not being completely 100% YOU, your soul will always work to bring you back to a state of homeostasis and balance.
And it will do so by figuring out precisely what’s missing (usually with pain) and adding it back in (usually with radical change).
For me, at the 4 year mark in business, I found I had to shed the identity of entrepreneur for a little while — I decided to shut down my agency business and start over a new way.
I felt, at the time, that I wasn’t living my own dream. I was living my father’s dream.
Sometimes we carry obsessions that aren’t our own and we have to separate the wounded, unhealthy parts with the true legacy work.
The obsession with being a “boss” or hitting a certain revenue goal wasn’t in my highest good. It served me until it didn’t anymore. And that’s OK.
I had to let go of a business structure that I had built in many ways, in honor of my father. And then I had to do it over again, my way. I had to grieve losing him all over again. Sometimes weird shit like that is part of the process.
I don’t know if this podcast would exist were it not for my father’s work in non-profits and building art centers in underprivileged communities, which he did with the red cross for a short period of time.
This desire to serve a community of creatives is legacy work for me, but it’s also a piece of me.
That said, it must exist in balance with all the other pieces, or else it’s not breaking the pattern that you’re here to break.
The process of allowing the various pieces of you to have a voice and participate in your life’s decisions is an ongoing process.
What I learned is that at any given time we are not ever COMPLETELY expressed but that we are all working to be so. And doing our best with what we’ve got. But there is still room for us to gain the wisdom and insights we need to do it better, to push us in the right direction — whatever that may be for us — and to embrace the messy process of BEING a creative.
The reason I started this podcast is because I want more creatives to tell their story, and I want more people to talk about the money piece.
Money and creativity are not mutually exclusive — they go hand in hand.
We need money to create and we need to create (for) money.
The way that looks is different for everyone, and your version will always be unique to you too.
Whatever you want to create — whether that’s a project that’s on your heart, or 1 million dollars, or both — you can. All you have to do is commit, and create like you mean it.