The Financial Lesson That Took Me 20 Years To Learn

This article first appeared on the Good Men Project site.

Money is about much more than what we think. Here’s the story of how I learned an important lesson about finance and life.

Modern finance owes much to science and science just as much to modern finance. In other words, they leverage each other. How long has this been going on? Modern genetics has begun to make it clear that while we are wired a certain way we are not doomed by our genes. Nature and nurture both play pivotal roles in how we develop and grow. If we have the gene for shyness we can accept that we are shy but work on developing our other attributes to overcome this shy temperament. It is also true with value. Some of us, myself included, prefer ease and leverage. Others find value in hard work and a job well done. Some are inspired to share and others seem wired to take. We are often encouraged to spend but equally important is the nature to invest and create. There are many stereotypes when it comes to money. Perhaps at least one for each type of human nature. Here’s how I came to know this for myself – may you also learn to find your financial nature.

In 1986 I was required to make a decision about where to go to college.

I had several choices from Brown and Cornell to Clarkson and Syracuse to State schools in NY. The biggest influence in my life was my father. We had discussed the options and it was very clear what he was willing to do to support my getting a college degree. I decided that since I was strong in Math and Science I would pursue an engineering degree and he was willing to pay for a state school. That way I would leave college with no debt, which was an important point in my Dad’s eyes. He had a small mortgage on the house as his only debt, had worked to put himself through school and was a hardworking manager at an industrial plant in Syracuse, NY. My Dad’s values were those of a grown up and if I had other ideas I didn’t have the confidence to assert them.

My choice was Brown University but somehow my acceptance there wasn’t in the cards. Had I gotten in I remember thinking it would be worth whatever amount of debt, or work or creative funding would be necessary to get the job done. After that disappointment, I explored my next two options. Clarkson was a private engineering school in New York up by the St. Lawrence River. The other option was the University of Buffalo. Both had excellent Engineering programs. Clarkson had a Division III lacrosse team. UB had a club team. Clarkson would have required me to take out significant loans and UB was free. Growing up in Syracuse perhaps made me a little jaded about other athletic programs. I honestly didn’t see there being much difference between a division III program and a club team. I was also 6’1” and weighted about 175 lbs. Cornell was interested in me for football (middle linebacker) but I couldn’t imagine putting on another 20 or 30 pounds. I liked to run rather than lift weights and so lacrosse was the more natural sport for me. As a senior I hadn’t been heavily recruited and I was about to take the path of least resistance.

I had a good senior season and was selected to the first team all-county team and played in the Section III all-star game. I had accepted entrance to the University of Buffalo and was headed there in the fall until I was approached over the summer by John Desko of Syracuse University. He had seen me playing summer lacrosse up at the university with some friends and encouraged me to apply. The person in charge of admissions was actually the father of a kid I played baseball with. In the eighth grade I had stormed off the field one very hot July day in an incident that involved catching his son’s pitching. I half wondered if that curse laden tirade would now stand between me and acceptance to SU. I got the call very shortly after submitting my application and Syracuse was prepared to offer me a partial scholarship to come play lacrosse for one of the best Division I programs on the planet. You’d think I would have been overjoyed.

My Dad and I sat down and looked at the offer.

We crunched some numbers. While the scholarship would help, it still left a gap between my Dad’s agreed upon contribution and the total cost to attend SU. We discussed taking out loans and living at home as possible alternatives to meet the gap. Mostly I turned inward to try and decide what to do. I knew I wanted to make good money. I knew engineers made good money right out of school. I knew that I also wanted an MBA. Syracuse didn’t have as good a reputation in engineering as UB. One school would saddle me with debt and the other would be paid for in full. One would be easy. Play for a club team and be a star and maybe a founding member of a new varsity program. After all Lacrosse was the fastest game on two feet and the fastest growing sport in the country. The other would be hard. Hard to compete against some of the best players in the country. Hard to come up with the money to pay for school. Hard to imagine my getting bigger and stronger and faster and more skilled. I decided to do what was easy. I turned down SU and went off to Amherst NY and the University of Buffalo.

In 1987 I attended the NCAA Lacrosse final four in Rutgers NJ. I had wrapped up a pretty decent year playing lacrosse for UB and getting decent grades in the engineering program. I had my own summer painting business and decent money coming in so I made the trip with friends to cheer on the home town team. They lost that year but the next three years they would win the NCAA championship. Guys I knew in high school and had competed against were at the top of the lacrosse world. There’s no doubt that I was now second guessing my decision. I wondered again why I had made the decision I did. The next year my grades dropped and I decided to try a degree in management instead of engineering. I didn’t like that any better. I decided to join a fraternity to see if belonging to another sort of team would make the experience better. We won the pledge football tournament. Whoo hoo. I had plenty of money in the bank but got my first credit card and tried to buy friendship and influence by putting the card on the bar and running up a tab.

I did okay that year but the trajectory was not good. The year after my grades suffered even more. I was drinking and partying and spending money 5 days a week and working menial jobs to try and generate spending money. In between my Junior year and my first senior year I made a decision that I had to get out. I had to go somewhere and play real college lacrosse. I found a path over the summer by playing with friends from home in summer tournaments during the week and traveling to play on the weekends.

I put out the word that I was available and the signal was eventually picked up by the assistant coach at Rochester Institute of Technology.

He was the goal keeper in many of our summer games. My dad and I met the head coach. They made my dad comfortable that this step was a step in the right direction. I laid out a plan to play three more seasons. It meant getting my degree in 6 years, but several quarters would need to be spent working on paid co-op assignments that would help offset the cost to attend and preserve my remaining eligibility. We agreed on an engineering management program in the school of packaging science. Most importantly it meant that I would need to take out loans.

The move was a good one. The team accepted me right away and I found lodging in the basement of the only student house on campus. With all the hard undergraduate classes out of the way the work load was easy. I was able to play my way into shape and the team did well. We made the Division III tournament and lost to Hobart in the first round but offered them the stiffest competition that year. The icing on the cake was my selection that year to the All-American squad as an honorable mention. I played for two more years at RIT and again received the All-America honors. Senior Year I was selected to play for the North squad in the annual North South game at Homewood field on the campus of John’s Hopkins.

Success. Sure. But it still made me wonder why I had decided as I did.

This question haunted me and making peace with it came slowly.

Why had I decided to pass on a scholarship to play lacrosse at Syracuse? Was it the engineering program? I eventually ended up teaching math and coaching lacrosse, basketball and football at a boarding school in Maine. It wasn’t the engineering program. Was it a lack of confidence in my ability to perform at the highest level? Post college playing in the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament we went up against the Gait brothers of Syracuse fame and won. Our team was selected to go to Australia and represent the US in the Masters Division games. Over and over I had proved to myself that I could play with the best at every level. It wasn’t a lack of confidence. Or was I intimidated by the cost and prospect of borrowing money? I’d never done it before so it wasn’t a bad experience helping me decide.

A series of changes, and one big lesson.

In 1996 I decided to make a change again. I had been teaching students at Gould Academy about money and finance and that math really does apply. I made it real and interesting to them. They encouraged me to pursue what I do now. I help teach people about money. But more than just teaching them the who, what, where, when and how I teach them at a level that is beneath all that. Why? Why we make the decisions we do has everything to do with something very natural about us. Discipline alone and math alone are not how we make our choices. Beneath and inside there is a nature that is hard wired to sort and trade value based on who we are as a person.

I made my decision to not attend Syracuse because of my nature. It took me 20 years to sort it out and to name it. And by doing so I have come to know myself, my Dad, my kids, my clients, my friends at a deeper level than I ever felt possible.

In 1997 I was struggling in my new chosen profession as a financial advisor. What had come easy had all of a sudden turned hard. For nine weeks I had no success bringing on new clients. Somewhere along the line I started telling lies to my boss about the level of activity that I had going on. Finally I broke down in his office and shared with him what was really going on. I told him the truth. That I was struggling and had no idea why. No idea why, what had been easy, was all of a sudden so hard.
He sent me home with a book. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. The first line gave me instant relief. “Life is Difficult.” It would still be several more years before I could put words to why that phrase changed everything for me. But it changed me because it spoke to me. It spoke to my nature.

I have come to realize that my nature is to prefer leverage and ease.

Anything counter to that was always to be avoided and anything in alignment with that should be pursued doggedly. Over time there is a whole set of words and ideas that are far more compelling to me because of how I am wired. But if I allow this nature to filter out the other ways people exist in this world then I am limiting my potential to grow and develop into a better version of myself.

If it is true for me then could it be true for everyone.

In 2007 the financial crisis was just about to unleash its fury on the country and the world.

The level of leverage in the financial system had become untethered. Dave Ramsey railed about the evils of debt while millions of first time home buyers were sold the illusion of home ownership through highly leveraged products. Jack Bogle touted the benefits of low cost investing and just sticking with stock based index investing and ETF’s had been launched to compete with mutual funds. In the following year index investing lost over 50%. Suze Ormond argued with Dave Ramsey about the best way to get out of debt while attacking the entire annuity industry as unscrupulous.

The wealthy hired advisors to help them avoid taxes often by funding charities to pursue the same roles as government. Bill Gates and his foundation was hired by Warren Buffet to help him do good with his wealth. Mr. Buffet challenged congress to come up with a tax scheme that would hit him harder than the secretary who worked for him. The Fed was about to lower interest rates to punitive levels for those accustomed to CDs and other conservative investments and banks began charging fees for the convenience of being able to access your own money and protect us from embarrassment at the cash register.

There are many different problems in this world and each is an opportunity for somebody. You and I are going to be attracted to something. Naturally it could be thought that your upbringing and culture had something to do with what you gravitate toward. That is partly true. But our educational system was founded on the ideal that you should not get attached to what you are naturally. You should get outside yourself, be exposed to many ideas and experiences. You should be well rounded. These ideals were part of the founding of our country and trace their roots back to a sermon preached by Protestant minister Thomas Shepard in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1637 at First Church Congregational UCC. “Do not rest in your duties” was a phrase culled from that sermon. It was a call to continue developing as a human being. Do not rest in the contentment that comes from doing your work, most especially if it comes naturally to you. Instead the mantra was used as the foundation of what it would take to make a “Harvard man.”
A liberal education sought to round out a man and subdue the human nature with an iron will and steel like discipline.

This denial of human nature is at odds with how to be successful.

To “Know Thyself” is just as important.

The greatest wealth is often created and gathered in by those who leave the likes of Harvard to strike out on their own and pursue what interests them. A single-minded focus and determination fed by the inspiration of the creator may be a better path to success. Discover your gift is just as valid as deny your weakness. “Know Yourself” was at the heart of Egyptian and Greek philosophy. Symbols from many cultures and many periods in time seem to indicate that we have had this discussion before. We have found the wisdom only to lose its meaning to the evolution of civilization and the march of time.

Is there one way or one human nature? No. Modern genetics has begun to make it clear that while we are wired a certain way we are not doomed by our genes. But if I don’t know who I am, I am more likely to try and emulate or become like some standard. Eventually we are either overcome by the mythic ideal that appeals to our nature or we overcome. We risk becoming superman and then living in the presence of kryptonite or iron man speculating on ego or flash trying to relive the past and manage past present and future events. There are certainly not 7 billion different types of human. Life is simpler than that. But there also is not just one way. So what is the map? What does the journey look like? Can we visualize where we are and where we are going? Or do we only make sense of it once we get there?

This path of self-discovery was and still is a fuel that continues to breathe understanding into a complicated world for me.

As it does a pattern emerges that makes simplicity the form that all complexity and chaos is made from. Scholars have been writing about this in the East and the West for thousands of years. The ancient symbol for trade, The Caduceus seemed to hint at a pattern that is now born-out by modern science. So if the maxim in my teens was “if it is to be it is up to me” and in my 20and 30’s “life is difficult” then now it is this “life is simple.”

It’s not as simple as we might like but its difficulty comes forth from simple distortions in our understanding of how we trade one currency for another. How we trade time for money, money for influence, influence for health and health for time are wired into us differently. Knowing how we are wired and accepting the validity of each of us is another step in eliminating the babble that makes understanding and financial evolution so slow and chaotic.

In our experience and experiments we have identified 7 natures and 3 motivations that combine to create 21 different types.

There are 23 chromosomes. Two for sex and 21 for type. You and I are wired to allow one of these types to dominate if we let it.
Do you know your type? Would it make a difference if you did? Would it explain your behavior and make sense out of seemingly senseless choices? Could you leverage the knowledge of who you are at a deeper level? Or avoid creating more debt and depression by continuing to deny your nature? Could you speak to yourself and others with compassion and understanding more accurately? Could you love others more deeply for who they are and accept a wider array of people into your life to help you and to be helped by you? Could you accept yourself for who you are and become a better version of yourself?

“Know Thyself” paired with “Deny Thyself” may lead us to the “Middle Way.” What I have found in my journey is that these stereotypes do not belong to male or female, black or white, rich or poor. Instead we are all traveling through a series of life experiences that are colored as much by our initial hardware as they are by the software we choose to download.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the past. My mom eventually went to work at SU and my brother graduated from there. I love cheering on the home team and suffer when they lose and celebrate when they win. I met my wife and the rest of my life at RIT. I am a man with wounds, but they are scars I share and take pride in how they were earned.

Armed with more intimate knowledge about myself and others I am prepared to use my leverage to make the world a better place by helping people discover their nature. And it’s not to avoid battles and scars but to embrace and learn from them.

Life is difficult, but accepting difficulty is easier when we realize that it comes from simplicity.

Financial Lessons Made Easier: Now enrolling Financial Evolution Boot Camp. Taught by Tom, this class gives you in-depth tools to guide yourself on your own financial evolution~ the path to greater health & wealth. 

The securities mentioned have various risks including loss of principal and may not be suitable for every investor. No strategy assures success of protects against loss.

Thomas Shepard is a registered representative with, and securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Flagship Harbor Advisors, a registered investment advisor. Flagship Harbor Advisors, shepard FINANCIAL, and Currency Camp are separate entities from LPL Financial.

New Year’s Evolution: Transforming Money Energy

It’s upon us already! A new year and a new opportunity to get our financial houses in order. If this seems far too overwhelming to you, know you are not alone. Money has become a power outside yourself, and finance often seems like a secret code way too difficult to crack. The truth is that money is just a thing, a neutral thing that you can use to create the life you want for yourself, your family, and communities both large and small. To plant yourself in the right mental spot so that you can gain power over your finances, consider what our friend Caroline Morrison says:

“The truth is, MONEY is energy just like everything else and it takes on the attributes and qualities of how we feel and think about it. The beliefs we have about money are a mindset, a perception. Money will do exactly what we believe it will!” 

When you don’t create an intentional belief around money, you will default to your financial nature, what others have told you about you and money, or some kind of dysfunctional combination.

Maybe it’s time for an evolution.

Typical definitions of evolution include, “gradual development,” “process of growth,” and my favorite, “peaceful, progressive change.” Caroline is more inspired by “change, expansion, growth, progression, transformation, flowering, maturation, unfolding.” No matter how you look at it, evolution is good for you and will bring you to a better, higher level.

Imagine being at a better, higher financial level!

What would that look like for you?

  • Breaking out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
  • Being confident in how you spend money.
  • Eliminating debt.
  • Having healthy savings.
  • Having a second, unearned income.
  • Ease your expenses.
  • Being financially independent- and not have to work.

Maybe you’re ready to evolve with your money.

Your financial evolution must be intentional, otherwise you’ll end up in the same pattern all over again, and again and again. You have the power to intentionally flip a mental switch. Caroline says, “We have to start somewhere and that somewhere has to be with ourselves. So it’s time to release the vibrational density we have around money, think new thoughts and imprint new perceptions and beliefs about money.” You may be thinking that’s easier said than done, and for some people it is. Here are some other ways to jump-start your evolution:

  1. Intentionally be aware of your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about money- but remember those aren’t necessarily reality.
  2. Find your financial nature. Embrace and understand how you relate to and trade money, experience the energy of money, and what role money plays in your life. This quick, confidential, painless survey will show you your financial nature. 
  3. You’ll start to see your money patterns more objectively and from here you can intentionally swap negative money scripts for healthier ones that propel you forward. (See our post on getting stuck and what that looks like for your particular nature.)
  4. Intentionally seek out information that will help you move forward. Once you point yourself in the right direction, what you need to help get you going and keep going will emerge.

This winter we’re offering another Financial Evolution Boot Camp, an intensive course that gives you the tools to transform your finances. We don’t bother with generic financial information- we go into the very personal aspect of money and show you a method to evolve intentionally for greater health and wealth. This is, of course, just one option!

New Year’s resolutions that are unattainable and end up making you feel terrible can be a thing of the past. This New Year’s Evolution can be the peaceful, progressive unfolding that brings you to a higher level.


In A Knot: Untangling Limiting Beliefs

We all have limiting beliefs. Most likely they formed back in early childhood to keep you safe, or maybe they sprouted out of something someone told you about yourself which turned out to be wrong. How many times have you not done something because you thought you couldn’t? Didn’t explore a new life path because it seemed like it was ok for others but not for you? Or told yourself a lie that kept you in the same place, repeating the same pattern over and over? There’s no judgment here- we’ve all grappled with this or worse: simply gave in to a limiting belief without even knowing it.

The thing about limiting beliefs is that they are not real. They are perceived as real, and often cause damage, hurt, and a ho-hum life, but they are not real. They are powerful, though. As our friend Crystal at Realize Life says, “Our beliefs about ourselves, whether we are aware of them or not, are what holds us back or drives us forward.” Truer words were never blogged.

Like all things, there is a pattern to your particular limiting beliefs and it has to do with your nature, your hard-wiring. Know your nature, and you’ll know how limiting beliefs show up in your life. Do any of these sound familiar?

  1. I don’t ever have enough money, time, energy, or right relationship to live the life I want or deserve.
  2. Other people have what I need, but I don’t.
  3. This relationship, (or job, financial situation, environment, activity), doesn’t make me feel good, so I’m done.
  4. This person/job/financial situation/life option won’t make me feel great, so I’m not going to try.
  5. I will always work myself to the bone and have not much to show for it. (Work-wise, relationship-wise, fitness-wise, financially.)
  6. I’m buried under my responsibilities, and I am stuck living a life that’s ridiculously hard.
  7. I need to save these people. (Often at the expense of myself, in retrospect.)
  8. I’m just fine by myself.
  9. If it doesn’t pay off big, it’s not worth my time.
  10. This job/relationship/activity/thing isn’t giving me as much back as I want, (or I won’t get much out of it), so I’ll opt out.
  11. This is too hard- I’m not doing this.
  12. Everyone else is slacking off, not bringing their A-game.
  13. Nobody wants what I am putting out there.
  14. Everybody wants what I am putting out there, so I need to keep giving. (Even if I end up with nothing for myself.)

Of course there are variations of these, but because of your wiring, you’ll likely end up with the SAME limiting beliefs at various times and in various situations throughout your life. What’s that saying? Same something, different day? What does your hard-wiring cause you to believe?

I’m and Earner. To me money is earned through great effort then promptly paid out in bills until there is nothing left. I felt overwhelmed with my financial obligations and I believed that I would always be living at the financial limit, never having the means to buy a house- until a friend, a mortgage broker pointed out that I could. With help and guidance, I did. There’s one limiting belief out the window!

What can you do?

  1. Honestly, the easiest, clearest way to identify your limiting beliefs is to look at the story you tell yourself about money. Money is tangible, black-and-white, mathematics. (Therefore everything we teach, explore, learn, apply is illustrated using money.) Find your financial nature and get a concrete, black-and-white framework for how you do life- as well how you experience your limiting beliefs.
  2. Once you know your nature and the cause of your particular experience with self-limitation, you can begin to intentionally, consciously untangle those knots. The story you tell yourself is just a story, and you can tell yourself a new story right now. Crystal says, “If you find yourself holding yourself back, try to challenge that voice.” 
  3. Engage with others with open minds and hearts, who inspire you to keep reaching beyond what you know and what you think you know. It’s way easier to evolve when keeping company with those doing the same.
  4. Contact us to keep the conversation going! Connect with us on facebook and subscribe to our blog. Maybe take one of our classes!

Here’s to a new year without tangles!

STUCK: How to see your comfy, terrible rut for what it really is.

You’ve got patterns, I’ve got patterns, we all have patterns that trap us & keep us stuck, unable to evolve or experience success. I’m not talking about routines like a morning walk or a daily 2pm coffee break. Patterns are often unconscious, formed & maintained without our awareness or permission, and our own are really hard to see. You may be able to spot a friend getting into the same relationship or financial situation over and over again, but you simply cannot see your own pattern until you’re in it. Fun times.

There is no one, universal reason we get stuck nor one cause or cure. There is a lot of generic, well-intentioned advice out there, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Here’s why: there are 7 ways people are hard-wired, (or 7 human natures/ 7 financial natures). Though everyone may fall into a financial, relationship, time management, or health rut at some point, it doesn’t look the same way for everyone and it’s not caused by the same underlying issues. We often default to unconscious behaviors in response to getting stuck and those default behaviors are specific to one’s nature.

Each time we get stuck what’s really happening is this: we are trading our currencies, (time, money/stuff, health/energy, and relationships), in a way that traps us rather than moves us forward. And how we trade our currencies is based entirely on our natures. Naturally.

You are not doomed. The first step in getting unstuck is to gain some awareness of your own nature so that you can override your default behaviors. Before reading on, take a couple of minutes to find your nature. Here’s our  brief & confidential survey. It’s wicked interesting & illuminating.

Now, a quick breakdown of how and where each nature gets stuck. Keep in mind: no judgment! Each nature has it’s own strengths and value, but here we’re talking about stuck, so you’ll read mostly about each nature’s pitfalls.

Taker: The Taker often gets stuck in a chaotic situation because they are able to live with, often create, and absolutely survive in chaos. Takers often have a lacking-perspective, believing they don’t have enough of what they need or want, and that can be very painful. Because this is a comfortable place for them they’ll accept it as normal and stay stagnated in a situation that would be intolerable to the other natures. Often Takers will believe that taking what they think they need from others, even when it’s not offered, is the only way to get their needs met. The tendency to react impulsively only produces more chaos and upset.

Takers have a particularly hard time giving and spending their currencies to resolve situations that don’t work for them. For example, they may not be able to bring themselves to spend money on health/wellness and increase their health currency because they believe they don’t have enough money- ever. Or they may not understand how to give their time in exchange for opportunities that may make them more money. The biggest danger for Takers is taking so much from so many, the tangible and intangible, that they end up with nothing more to take and alone.

The Spender lives from a place of feelings & emotions. They often ride an internal roller coaster with their currencies- when they have money they spend it until it’s gone, when they have energy they operate at top capacity until they’re spent, they spend their time as opposed to investing it, and they are up & down in relationships. For other natures this is exhausting and perplexing, but Spenders are right at home.

Getting stuck for a Spender is often associated with riding that roller coaster for ever which pretty much amounts to a lifetime of treading water. If aware of this pattern and the choice to opt out of it, a Spender can grow into a better Spender. Spenders often have trouble knowing when to take or receive help. For example, if a Spender has created debt but has an aversion to receiving help or even advice they may end up compounding the debt & damage indefinitely. Spenders also have a hard time buckling down and doing some work. Spenders are flying high in relationships as long as they have the energy and everything is going their way. But human relationships sometimes need to be intentionally nurtured, and that takes effort. A Spender who refuses to spend energy & time working on a relationship will not have many good ones.

Earners are hard workers, but they can, (and often do), turn EVERYTHING into work. They like being busy all the time. They’ll over think projects & assignments or become intense about getting something to work out the way they want when they should ease up and let stuff flow. Earners earn what they have then allocate to the last penny, the last minute, the last of everything they’ve got. This can leave them with the belief that they have no extra time, money, energy, or space in a relationship for more than is absolutely necessary to keep it all intact. That way of thinking & operating can be joyless and burdensome. Earners in this rut can become angry, resentful, and exhausted.

Being stuck for an Earner often means he or she is struggling with or incapable of spending or saving their currencies in order to create some space/margin. Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to free up some time- hiring someone to help clean your house or run errands for example. Sometimes spending time not being busy creates space to be present for loved ones, strengthening relationships. Earners may be challenged to save their health when they have to pay for care, and they often opt to tough out an ailment or issue until it becomes extreme and debilitating. Earners will have a particularly hard time seeing through their unconscious need to put to use every last resource that they don’t have savings accounts, work out too hard, schedule themselves for every waking moment, and/or can’t show up in relationships.

Savers also have their own patterns. They are compelled to be independent, prepared, and sometimes they save too much, try to save others, and can’t save themselves. Saving too much stuff = hoarding. Saving others = enabling or meddlesome, both pretty irritating. When you can’t or won’t save yourself you can remain in unacceptable situations for far, far too long and sustain unnecessary damage.

Savers often get stuck in their thing when they can’t or won’t recognize when they’d benefit from investing their currencies and when they need to work at something. Because Savers are naturally inclined to, (and good at), saving money they fail to see the value in investing it to make more, unearned money. Savers like to relax, and hard work is not appealing. Yet life sometimes demands that we work hard, no matter our nature. By avoiding that which requires effort or investment opportunities a Saver limits their capacity to save more money, conserve energy, save time, even save relationships. A Saver who stays stuck can end up drowning in stuff, completely isolated, in possession of money that just sits there not growing, and with too much time on their hands.

Investors face their own set of challenges. They are naturally comfortable with risk because they know that taking risks with their currencies can lead to big payouts or more of what they want/value. But Investors can become addicted to the risk & reward cycle, and they can end up risking too much of their money, time, relationships, and health only to end up losing too much or all of it.

Investors unconsciously seek out ways for their currencies to increase or multiply. They are not comfortable with their currencies doing nothing or accumulating, however sometimes breaking out of a negative pattern requires an Investor to save their currencies & resources. In order to have the cash to invest, they need to save some money. To enjoy the rewards of a healthy, fulfilling relationship it’s sometimes necessary to save it by simply not doing things to risk losing it- like not flirting with someone else to cause jealousy in a partner. Other times an Investor will need to get comfortable leveraging currencies rather than risking them. But this is often hard for Investors to wrap their heads around.

Levers like things to be easy. They like to work with others. These are not bad traits, but sometimes Levers can become manipulative and seek to get others to do stuff for them so that they can take it easy. Or they can routinely expect that others will make things easy for them and become resentful when that doesn’t happen- which it won’t 100% of the time.

Getting stuck in the Lever rut happens largely due to the Lever’s inability to be flexible enough to invest the appropriate currency in someone or something, or to give their time, attention, intention, money to someone or something. It may be too complicated or hard to invest your time in training an employee to do what needs to be done to make your job easier. It may be too difficult to invest energy in learning a new skill which would be beneficial. It may seem daunting to give attention to a project that appears to have too many steps to it, regardless of how appealing the outcome may be. It can seem nearly impossible for a Lever to give him or herself the time & space to take the scenic route, literally and figuratively, because it often seems like the opposite of easy.

Givers like to give, naturally. But they can give too much, give to make themselves appear and/or feel better than they think they really are, give with strings so they can later exert some control over others, or give to people who don’t want to receive. All of these scenarios represent a stuck, dysfunctional Giver, one whose attention has gotten away from the greater good and gotten stuck inside a myopic perspective.

When Givers get stuck it’s often due to the fact that they have a hard time with leveraging their currencies, (even when that would lead to having more resources to give), and receiving. Givers will give even when doing so is hard or puts them or others in a hard/awkward position. One Giver I know is a trainer, dedicated to helping others get fit & healthy, and wanted to open a second location before his first was on stable financial footing. If he did so, he’d put both locations in jeopardy because they’d be drawing from the same, insufficient financial well; waiting for the first location to become established and profitable would give him the financial security to take entrepreneurial risk as well as the personal bandwidth, energy, and time to put into establishing the second location.


  1. Each nature struggles the most with 2 essential skills. (Did you notice that?) Practice accepting the validity of those skills, then practice the skills until you can leverage them to help get unstuck.
  2. Remaining stuck results in one thing: unconsciously manifesting the situations your default behavior, (and your ego!), is trying to avoid. No matter your nature.
  3. Allow yourself to seek out help when you can’t break out of your rut yourself.
  4. How to know if you are stuck: when you wonder why you’re always broke, always unhappy with your partner no matter who it is, always have the same boss no matter where you work, never seem to have enough energy to live your life your way, or have other thoughts that include “always” and “never,” you’re probably stuck.
  5. This post is only scratching the surface. Stay connected to us for more about how the natures can thrive in the world & how to evolve in every sense. Please contact us at any time! We’d love to hear from you.
  6. Check out our friend Kris McCrea’s musings on getting stuck: “Life is a funny adventure. Many people spend the majority of their life living in their past and/or fearing their future.”

To an unstuck 2017!



The New All-Stars: Building Your Ideal Team

Team building is a buzz phrase these days, but it’s truly something many of us need to think about, plan, and implement. Typically we’ve been taught to approach team building from the outside-in: games, challenges, and other usually kinesthetic activities where people can have fun while getting to know one another. This method has merit, and it works in many ways. But how are the participants selected? What are their traits and strengths? What about the people who don’t like group activities? Do they have value to the team? (Keep reading- there is a shortcut way to figure out all of this.)

First, our friend Katie at the Adulting School  has written a great, informative, practical blog about the essential professionals you may want to have on your adulting team. Let’s face it, though we may not feel like “adults” at times, there will be times when we’ll need to take action, and often we’ll need the advice, service, and expertise of others. It’s stressful to not know where to look, and Katie has done a fantastic job of putting together this list! (Find out how adult you are with the Adulting School’s quiz!)

How would you go about assembling a functional, productive team? Many people have created a mental list of people they’d want on their zombie apocalypse team should the unthinkable ever happen. Maybe you’re already one of them, but if not let’s go ahead and make that list now. I don’t know your friends and families, so I’ll suggest some types of people who may be valuable to your survival. Following this line of thinking, you’re able to create teams from the inside-out, focusing on the intrinsic strengths & characteristics that will best suit your needs, no matter what they are.

archery-782503_1280 A Taker. This person is highly instinctive, and when a stick snaps in the woods, the Taker will be the first to react. A Taker lives in the moment, able to act quickly before too much thought gets in the way. They’ll just do it, whatever it may be. Debate, improv, taking the hail-mary shot at the buzzer, the Taker is able to act within chaos. Think Katniss Everdeen.


love-826934_1280 A Spender. This person is connected to human emotion and makes decisions based on their feelings. This may not be someone you’d want to drop off at the Mall of America with your debit card for “retail therapy,” but this is someone who will keep your team from devolving into pure animalistic survivalists.


building-1080592_1280An Earner. This person gets things done. Hard work is not an obstacle, and the Earner will make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. Diligent, driven, and often organized, the Earner will make sure tasks are completed. Build a shelter, inventory the weapons and food,  write a report, create a presentation, work overtime- the Earner will do it often without thinking about taking a break.


gloves-1192164_1280A Saver. Naturally you’ll need a Saver on your survival team. Savers save people, things, money. They want to be prepared for any situation, avoid risk, and will unconsciously seek to insulate themselves- and you- from harm. Marge Simpson, with all the stuff in her hair, always has what she needs when she needs it.



aircraft-74020_1280An Investor. This person is able to create something they need from what they have, or in other words, they can “trade up,” trading what they’ve got for something of greater value. They don’t shy away from risk when the reward is good. They’re inventors, innovators, and are often successful. Think Tony Stark/Iron Man, inventing what he needs to be a superhero.


people-1355499_1280A Lever. This person is all about teamwork. They seek to collaborate, to bring their best to the table with others who do the same. They want things to be easy and will look for ways to make a situation, a challenge easier. They also naturally let go of things that don’t serve them and can help a group let go of what weighs them down so they can reach a higher, better level.


child-870377_1280A Giver. This person makes decisions based on what is best for others. They are visionaries, leaders, teachers, and they inspire others. They can see past immediate obstacles to what comes next, and it’s that vision that will motivate any team, no matter the mission. Think Yoda- Givers are connected to the flow.


If you’ve engaged with our message these types of people are very familiar- they are the 7 natures. Each one has specific value to the world, to our communities, schools & workplaces, families, and relationships. Knowing the natures takes much of the guesswork out of creating and/or developing a team. For example, when I was hired my boss, a Lever, knew he needed an Earner on the team, and in 2.5 years our organization has taken off.

Here’s how you can put this into effect:

A. Identify your own nature. HERE

B. Think about why you’re creating your team and what intrinsic characteristics you need for it to be successful. Take a look at the natures above, (or here), and determine which natures are the best fit. If you’ve already got the people together, you’ll be able to know the best roles for them and for you.

C. Share our survey with others so that you and your team, (or partner, spouse, family members, classmates, colleagues, etc.), know what strengths you each possess and how they can come together to raise your game, meet the challenge, get the thing done, or simply how to relate to one another.

D. Engage with us, ask us questions, share stories and ideas.

Allowance: Adolescents to Young Adults

Before jumping in, take a look at the broader context and relevant details, and have your child(ren) take this survey to find their natures.

Walking dogs is a great job for teens.Job & Own: from 16 to 18 it’s important for kids to do something for the world at large and get paid for it. Babysitting, mowing lawns, scooping ice cream, walking dogs- owning the responsibility of reporting on time, working diligently, having a good attitude, keeping commitments, and planning ahead are all important things to learn at this stage. Their ability to earn money and have savings is a gift made possible by your generosity, and they will need help securing that first outside job or turning a hobby into an entrepreneurial venture. Your time, connections, attitude, energy, and love are more important than your money as you help them become independent, (rather than “I-dependent”). Introduce them to the costs of more independence and consider charging them for services rendered or backing off some of their allowance. Up to now their stuff has actually been yours, and they are motivated to get a job so that they can own their own things. They’ll become more selective about their friends, clothes, activities, etc., letting go of some things and cling more dearly to others. This is a time to allow them to learn about how money works and become engaged in the ownership of money gifted to them, and if you have investments earmarked for college consider transferring unofficial ownership to them.

Suggested allowance: again, customize appropriately.

Suggested expectations: engaging with money as a source of positive energy.

You've done a great job, and it's time to let go of adult children. Self-Development & Leverage: there are many ways to continue to invest in our kids and ourselves. In the 19-21 stage kids learn to be interdependent because nobody can accomplish much on their own; we all need good people, and people need us to be good. Help your kids maintain interconnectedness through summer jobs, inviting them to participate in the care of their homestead through chores when they are around, and schedule these in the mornings. The more people invested in their success, the less likely they are to give up, and the more likely they are to stay connected to the value of the experience not just the price. Your kids should be involved in all factors that go into paying for school, including having a say in how assets are liquidated, how much money is borrowed, and how much of a work-load to take on in order to actually learn. If they need to borrow money it’s best to go to the bank and apply in front of someone they know; kids at this age should be able to make a case that they are a good risk, and the bank or others extending credit should be clear about their expectations. At this stage you’re really there to encourage, support, and ground your kids. As long as they know you’re there for them they can feel free to reach for the sky. The challenge at this point is to let them go and allow them to make small mistakes that help them learn without snowballing into something that can take your financial house down with it.

Allowance: Tweens & Teens

Before diving in, read this overview of the whole strategy for important details and review finding your child’s nature

Sponges: get creative with household chores for the kids.

Chores & Earn: from 10 through 12 kids can adhere to some routines that help the household function better. The tasks they once helped you with now become chores that are their responsibility. When children have ownership and responsibility they have things to trade; the more entrepreneurial among your family may end up doing all the work, but they might end up with all the money, too. (A good book: Lunch Money by Andrew Clements about a kid who makes a fortune off his older siblings.) In this stage you are helping them with chores that are under their purview. “Let me help you (insert chore),” or “how can I help you XYZ” are a great means to give them jump-start getting something done. A slight increase in allowance will empower and enable them to start buying the things they want, like specific clothes or shoes, that you were likely to purchase anyway.

Suggested amount: $10+, customized to your family.

Suggested expectations: their ownership of their chores should come with a new level of quality and few reminders.

kids on swing rideWork & Save: in early adolescence children go through another great developmental leap. From ages 13 to 15 they are far more socially aware, and often they want to buy the cool stuff or go to awesome places but don’t have the money. Now is a time to impress upon them the idea of having a financial goal and working to earn money over and above what they, and you, have come to expect. Doing more voluntarily because they have needs and desires should be encouraged. You’ll need to support creativity and expose them to more and more of your finances and financial decisions. Kids in this stage can learn to do more at home and venture outside the home to earn extra money. They are primarily interested in fitting in and being a part of a peer group, so they are beginning to respond less to what you say and pay more attention to what you do. Speak less and work along with them more. Pay them with cash and open a bank account for them to put a portion of their earnings into savings. They may ask for more work only occasionally, but you can offer opportunities to earn more money.

Suggested amounts: customize fairly according to job.

Suggested expectations: (clear communication is critical), vacuum & wash the car, clean the windows, vacuum & dust the house, watch younger siblings, mow the lawn. Outside the home: babysitting, yard work & mowing, pet-sitting, etc.

Allowance: Early Childhood & Elementary Years

Before jumping in, read an overview of the whole strategy and find your child’s nature.

Happy baby discovers smiling as currency.Discovery & Curiosity: birth to 3 years is characterized by discovery and massive developmental leaps, something that doesn’t come around again until early adolescence. Your children will need you to be in Assurance all of the time. To teach them kindness, you’re kind, for example. You’re modeling affection, stability, sharing, compassion, and many, many other positive behaviors. In infancy this is all you do, but as children become toddlers and begin to understand cause and effect there becomes an opportunity to experiment with rewards like stickers and other little items. Money is best put into a piggy bank, first by you then by your child, and larger gifts should be set aside until they’re older.

Playing with money & purchasing.Play & Competition: kids from 4 to 6 are fun, playful, and naturally competitive. Playing games introduces them to rules, winning, and losing graciously. When in Assurance you’ll demonstrate the rules of fair play and sharing. You provide your kids with food, clothes, shelter, entertainment, and unconditional love, and you’ll have your own set of age-appropriate expectations such as taking care of certain physical needs, (like tying shoes or using the bathroom), communicating pleasantly, and generally conducting themselves with appropriate self-sufficiency. Introducing a weekly allowance because they are members of the family is a good idea. They aren’t yet ready to work for the money and are still learning that money is something exchanged for things they may want. You can use proxy money like marbles which represents a comfortable amount which your child can then exchange with you for real money. They can use this money to buy things or gifts, but they’ll need to be taught how to count it. In this stage you all can have a lot of fun together!

Suggested amount: $3, one to spend, one to save, and one to give.

Suggested expectations: brushing teeth, cleaning up toys, keeping room neat, making bed, clearing dishes, picking out own clothes and getting dressed.

Helping around the house.Help & Cooperation: by the time kids are 7 they will want to help around the house. In the 7-9 years children naturally want to please their adults and relate their value within the family to being asked to do things and go places. They will need a fair, balanced cooperative system because they keep track of value. They count the number of times they get to spend time alone with you, and the special things Dad does with Son will be noticed by Daughter. In Assurance, you’ll need to create this system. This is a good time to teach them the difference between “no” and “not right now.” Help them learn to save for the things they want and give them ways to earn money for helping out. Increase allowance slightly along with raising expectations. In this stage they begin to help you, though there is a difference between the quality of kid work and adult work, but it will improve with time!

Suggested amount: $5. However, if agreed-upon expectations aren’t met, (by not doing them, cheating, something other than doing them with understandable kid-quality), they haven’t earned their whole allowance; in this way fines are introduced.

Suggested expectations: (in addition to the above), set the table, put away clean dishes, take out trash, recycling, and/or compost, fold laundry, help prepare food, help with yard work.

Allowance: Teaching your kids about money and value.

Teaching our kids about money and financial health is critical. According to a great article from the Wall Street Journal, despite the best intentions, we’ve been getting this all wrong. “Most children still grow up into adults who can’t properly save, spend, and budget,” and invest, leverage, and give. In other words, kids are growing up without an understanding of money as a neutral tool to help them create the lives they want and instead arrive at adulthood with financial anxiety, unable to speak about finances rationally, and unable to distinguish cultural associations and personal emotions all too often attached to money.

So what do we do? How do we instill in our children a healthy financial perspective and the ability to navigate finances with confidence?

The answer is honestly simpler than you might think. We’ve gone back to our philosophy  to create a developmentally appropriate, easy to integrate approach to teaching children about money and value, and it centers around allowance. The benefits are many: kids learn about themselves and their relationships to money & value while earning some money, and parents are able to eventually off-load some work they’d otherwise have to do themselves. The plan is customizable, and each family can determine the amount of allowance as well as specific expectations and chores.

This strategy spans from birth to age twenty-one, and we’ve broken that time into 7 distinct stages. Each stage naturally comes with its own challenges and opportunities. Your role is to identify and make the most of them. They are:

Ages Stages Allowance

Need to know: before jumping in we need to introduce some necessary vocabulary. Each stage goes through three phases: Assurance Ensurance, and Insurance. These phases will look different at each stage, and your children will need you to be responsive to each one. When in Assurance, they’ll need you to be supportive and to show, tell, and model what they need to know. Each stage will demand that you give your children Assurance support for a good while in the beginning, especially when they are younger, and it requires an investment of your time more than anything else. Ensurance isn’t a word you’ll find in the dictionary, but it’s absolutely the right word to describe making sure, ensuring, your children have enough practice and anything else they need to develop a strong, healthy habit. The Insurance phase is the pay-off for you: you’ve invested in your kids up front and installed in them habits that minimize their risk of back-sliding. By the time you and your kids reach Insurance they are moving along under their own steam.

Additionally your children are born with their natures intact. In order to be the best mentor and guide you can be you’ll need to do your best to identify their natures. Kids 11-18 can take their own survey to find their natures, as can adults, but younger kids can’t so we’ve created this guide to help you identify their natures as accurately as possible as early as possible. More here…

Jumping in: birth to 3 years is characterized by discovery and massive developmental leaps, something that doesn’t come around again until early adolescence. Your children will need you to be in Assurance all of the time. [Read more.]

Play & Competition: kids from 4 to 6 are fun, playful, and naturally competitive. Playing games introduces them to rules, winning, and losing graciously. When in Assurance you’ll demonstrate the rules of fair play and sharing. [Read more.]

Help & Cooperation: by the time kids are 7 they will want to help around the house. In the 7-9 years children naturally want to please their adults and relate their value within the family to being asked to do things and go places. [Read more.]

Chores & Earn: from 10 through 12 kids can adhere to some routines that help the household function better. The tasks they once helped you with now become chores that are their responsibility. [Read more.]

Work & Save: in early adolescence children go through another great developmental leap. From ages 13 to 15 they are far more socially aware, and often they want to buy the cool stuff or go to awesome places but don’t have the money. [Read more.]

Job & Own: from 16 to 18 it’s important for kids to do something for the world at large and get paid for it. Babysitting, mowing lawns, scooping ice cream, walking dogs- owning the responsibility… [Read more.]

Self-Development & Leverage: there are many ways to continue to invest in our kids and ourselves. In the 19-21 stage kids learn to be interdependent because nobody can accomplish much on their own; [Read more.]

You’ve likely heard the saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination,” and this strategy for helping your kids evolve with their money is a wonderful journey with a fantastic destination. You and your children will appreciate and learn a great deal from this intentional, organic process, and you both win at the end: you’ve raised a kid who has healthy money habits and perspective, a kid who knows herself or himself and understands money as it relates to his/her nature.

Currency Camp Value: More than Money

When your relationship with one of the currencies gets better, your relationships with the rest get better. Our programs focus on money, but they are really about improving overall well-being, in every part of your life. Here are some articles & studies that support and make a case for our mission along with some books and other resources we like. Here’s to your health & wealth!

Financial Literacy

Know Yourself




  • The Best Thing I Did for My Marriage – Good stuff! We go a bit deeper and make these shifts much easier through development of an effective way of communicating and a solid strategy for financial health.
  • Married Budgets & Spending – Good intentions, written by one nature who’s spouse is another. Following these tips is easier when a couple knows each other’s natures.
  • Conflicting Belief Systems Among Educators – Conflict comes in many forms, as are noted here, but the most fundamental aspect is missing: the fact that people have different natures, and sometimes they interact negatively.


Health & Energy

Books for Kids (Please contact us to suggest books you’ve read!)