The underlying philosophy of everything I write about is that the most important relationship you have in life is the one you have with yourself.
Within that vein of your relationship with yourself – is your relationship with money. A tricky relationship many people have with themselves indeed.
Many people struggle with questions and ideas around how they spend and how they feel about money. Beliefs we may have around the morality of money. Choices like living a life of passion or money. The type of lifestyle we can “afford”. Control issues we may have learned from our parents. How motivated we are by it…it’s an endless exploration.
I too am someone who has a strange relationship with money. Largely up until the last 3-4 years I was pretty broke. I lived a life of passion, traveled the world and built a business with my friends and gained incredible experience – that just didn’t really translate to my bank account.
Hey – I did write an article way back when saying “20’s are for learning 30’s are for earning” – and that now seems to be coming to fruition. But how much of that thinking affected my relationship with money in my 20’s? The mindset was around learning not earning – or that I had a belief system in place that told me I had to choose one or the other.
Point is – I had a tricky relationship with financing my international lifestyle up until a few years ago.
Like all good stories however, there was a pivotal moment. An exercise I stumbled across that forever changed my perspective of how I think about and spend money – and how much of it was also coming into my life.
So today I want to share a Troy Story with you 😉 A story of a moment that changed the trajectory of my financial life. A moment that became a catalyst for so much more.
Today I share with you the time I lit $200 on fire…
October 2017 – After three and a half years running my company BrainGain, I decide to throw in the towel. The vision hadn’t unfolded the way I was hoping for and it was time to move on. Clients had paid me and I had around $25k in the bank to now decide what I want to do next.
So first and most importantly – Fuck it. I spent the next three months enjoying myself traveling all over Brazil. I had just worked my ass off for the last few years and before I got back to the grind I wanted to reward myself. And I thoroughly did 🙂
Christmas of 2017 at 28 years old I move back home to my parent’s house in the states. Not sure of what my next move is or what I am going to do. I have some ideas around working with my dad or producing my own work or who knows – I’m largely at a crossroads in life unsure of what to do for my next steps.
By around mid January I have an opportunity emerging with one of my previous clients from BrainGain. He wanted help on the sales side, and was building a team in Mexico City as well as India. He offered to fly me to Mexico City to do some consulting for him. No brainer.
I flew to Mexico City towards the end of February. By the end of that 2 week stint together there, he offered me a full time job. $5k a month plus commissions, incentives for building the sales team, and remote work flexibility. I was at home living with my parents so it was a no brainer.
I spent all of 2018 working that job. It was a pretty sweet gig. The money was ok, the work was easy, and I was able to ping pong around a lot – I had a few weddings in California and Florida. He flew me back to Mexico (Tulum this time) for a team retreat, flew me back to Bangalore, India for a homecoming there. I also got to return to Brazil for two months for my Birthday. So while at 28/29 years old I was living at home with my parents again, I got to travel a lot during that year…which helped a lot.
Nonetheless, by October 2018, despite the traveling and great gig that I had lined up for myself, I hated the work. I was bored out of my mind. I mean, it’s an electronic signature company – it’s hard to get excited about that. It was an amazing gig with great people and good challenges to think about as they scaled – but I just didn’t enjoy it. I craved something more.
Around this time, because of the dip off in motivation, I was feeling frustrated. Feeling like I needed a state shift. Something to mix things up. Something to keep my mind occupied amongst the boredom of the job I was doing.
And one day a man named Jesse Elder pops up on my newsfeed.
Not sure if you’ve ever seen this guy. He’s a bit more polished these days, but when I initially saw his videos he looked like this…
He seemed strange to me, for obvious reasons. But there was also something I liked about him I couldn’t put my finger on.
Lo and behold like many other lunatics on the internet, one day his one month personal challenge popped up on my feed. $100 to level up and challenge yourself.
I said fuck it let’s do it and have some fun. Pulled the $100 trigger and jumped in.
Perhaps it was the low expectations, but I must say I really enjoyed it.
He had some fun exercises like getting a picture of your 7-10 year old self and having a conversation with yourself. It inspired my article the “lookback method“. It gave me the habit of simply spacing out and looking at the clouds everyday.
One by one, level by level, I advanced through the training doing the exercises. I was enjoying them. They were thought provoking.
Then one day we get to the money challenge…
The first exercise he explains is called the “money magnet”. Think to yourself – “What would be an uncomfortable amount of money to carry around with me right now? Key word – uncomfortable. It should make you cringe. 500? 1000? 5000? Whatever that number is, take that amount and carry it around with you.”
So the next day I did that. I took out $1k and put it in my wallet. I don’t normally carry around a lot of cash so this felt uncomfortable for me. All the same though, relatively easy and meaningless task to take out some money and walk around with it. I didn’t live in a particularly dangerous place either, so wasn’t worried about it getting stolen. Easy peasy.
Then the next day he unveils Challenge #2 – Take 20% of that number – and light it on fire.
Yes, you read that right. Take 20% of the number you have in your money magnet – and light it on fire. Burn it.
Whoa whoa whoa.
I was down with this challenge until you had me start lighting money on fire. That’s ridiculous.
I went to the community and posted. I wrote something along the lines of “Hey everyone. I know the point of this challenge is to light the money on fire, but imagine if we all pooled our money together and donated to a good cause!? Imagine the collective impact we can make together! Who’s down with me?!”
(Paraphrasing) – “Commendable idea. I recommend that you make the donation anyway afterwards. But that style of thinking is exactly why you are in the financial position you are in right now in life. The exercise is intended to be completed. Light it on fire.”
It hit home for me. Maybe he has a point here. Maybe it was this style of thinking that was holding me back from having the financial life that I desire. Why was I so uncomfortable lighting $200 on fire?
Fuck it, let’s do it.
I wasn’t just going to light it on fire though, no, I was going to put my unique Troy spin on it. I was going to make a whole ceremony out of it.
That’s what I did. I carved out a little fire pit. Rolled up the money and put it in there stood upon some rocks to get the fire moving.
With my little altar set up, I was ready to dive into the meditation.
I did an untimed meditation. The intention was to try to think back through all of my financial history.
I started with my childhood. Grew up in a wealthy middle class neighborhood. Father is an entrepreneur who works his ass off and anxious/fearful about money. Mom didn’t need to work and likes to spend money. From a young age I would always go with my father to his warehouse in the city. I would see him work in action. From a young age he put me to work. I would tape boxes and build plush kits. Then at the end of the day I would get to leave with whatever the hell I wanted in the place (imagine a giant toy store). My parents would often fight about money. Make purchases they weren’t fully transparent about. There wasn’t a lot of financial trust in the house. But we always had enough and were well provided for.
I went through all of the experiences and re-lived and felt how those thoughts made me feel. Thought about how those experiences shaped my beliefs about money. How those experiences shaped my worldview. Shaped how I think and feel about money. How I make decisions about money.
I then thought back to all of the jobs I’ve had along the way. How I started with my dad but then would routinely sell my dad’s merchandise to other students at school. Then when I got older I had jobs like delivering food and door to door sales and working at a department store and cleaning swimming pools. Lots of tedious work but I had the hustle to do it. Always was good at my job and never got fired. Was a good worker.
Then probably my favorite money making experience – selling pot! This was a very lucrative experience for me. Great business and learning experience too.
Then while I was in college I wrote people’s essays and did their homework for them. I was a tutor.
After college I became an English teacher. I prioritized the traveling over the money making. It led me to South Korea and then India. While money was the intention, it was so that I could sustain chasing my dreams. The emphasis wasn’t on getting rich.
Then even the business was a lifestyle play. I was hoping to build a lifestyle business. Then somewhere along the way I got lost In the whole software development VC tech startup world and built a business I didn’t enjoy running. The money kinda came, but it didn’t come because it wasn’t a great business.
Now here I was in the present day, making some good money now that the money was the real focus. We’ve now gotten to a certain baseline stability.
Now – where to from here? What does my best life look like?
Then I transitioned into thinking about the ideal life for myself. My ideal vision of how and where I want to live.
I envisioned a beach in Brazil. I envisioned walking on Slackline’s and highlines. I envisioned being able to eat and drink and do whatever I want. Rent boats and go fishing. I envisioned a giant piece of property whee I have all sorts of animals. Cows and chickens and horses and dogs running around. Living off the land. I envisioned working with the best minds in the world. Having passionate conversations with people all day talking about meaningful ideas.
I paid attention to how all of these ideas made me feel. How excited I was. How tantalizing and delicious this vision seemed to be. How it also didn’t seem so far away. How it was within reach.
It then came to mind that here I was doing this ceremony in front of my parent’s house. The sweet irony.
The thought dawned on me – “no more”. I’m not coming back here. This is the last time I will ever be out of money and need to come back to live at my parent’s house again. It won’t happen again. I will move myself to that vision I have of where I want to be and I’m never going to be in this position again.
I then took those feelings and turned it all into a giant ball of gratitude. Gratitude for all of these experiences that I have passed through that brought me to where I am and made me think how I currently do. I’m exactly where I need to be with the exact set of leanings I needed to get int this next phase now. I’m grateful to be alive and healthy and able to use the money I have to build a better life for myself and hopefully help other people as well too one day. I’m grateful to be passing through these intimate experiences with myself. Knowing and learning about myself. Loving myself.
I sat with that gratitude for a while. Really let it sink in.
Then eventually as I feel it fade, the anxiety of the moment began to set in.
It’s time to light some fucking money on fire!!!!!
I opened my eyes. Said one more thank you to the universe. And sparked the lighter.
I had cones that I had spun up, and I lit them all at the top. One by one they caught fire together and burned down. Money actually doesn’t burn that well I learned, so I needed to light it a few times (lol).
I watched it burn. I sat there thoughtless for a while. Just watching the flames. Feeling the gratitude. Feeling the release and letting go. That I don’t feel bad lighting this money on fire and I’m doing it for the right reasons.
I sat there for a while afterwards. Felt very peaceful and calm. Eventually cleaned up and went back inside.
The next day Jesse made a post in the group about why we do that exercise. The why is the fear of loss.
People are afraid of lighting that money on fire because we’re afraid of losing it. If you’re afraid you’re going to lose it, you’re probably uncertain more is coming back your way.
If you knew $500 would come in tomorrow, would you be as afraid of lighting that $200 on fire? Or if you knew that spending $200 would give you back $500, would you be as afraid or lighting it?
What if you were paying $200 to learn a lesson or new skill? Would that frame it differently? Yes – because now there is something to be gained out of it.
You’re lighting the $200 on fire for a reason. You have faith more will come to you, and you also have faith that whatever you spend your time in has inherent value, if not, you wouldn’t be spending your time doing it. Think of it as a $200 meditation session, and that’s the price I paid to get the lesson of spending money differently.
This exercise is intended to show us and become familiar with our fear of loss, and how that fear of loss can influence your decisions and ideas about money. This exercise teaches us to let go of the fear of loss, and instead focus on the return. The ROI. The gain from the initial loss.
We can spend for the possibilities of what we can gain, rather than the fear of what we can lose.
The final challenge was to now put this into practice. Buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally purchase for yourself. Spend on yourself in a way that you believe will enhance your quality of life.
I bought a flight to Brazil 🙂
At this point it was October. I had saved up some good cash. I realized I no longer needed to be at my parent’s house anymore. It might seem a bit premature, but it’s time to get back out again. Get out on my own. Seemed like the right move.
Then I started looking at apartments. At first I put a filter of a max of $1k/month. I started looking and nothing jumped out at me. I then quickly caught myself in my old ways of thinking. “You’re placing limits on yourself! Open up the filter”
I opened up the filter to $2500. I saw a lot more appealing options 😉
Eventually I stumbled upon one that was $1500 a month. On the beach in Ipanema. Done deal no brainer. Booked it for the next 6 months.
Now we’re getting on track!
Ever since that day I have never spent or looked at money in the same way. This exercise, for whatever reason (maybe the extremity of it), caused a permanent mindset shift in me in the way that I think about and spend money.
And what unfolded after that day is also pretty magical.
Shortly after that experience I found a new job – and not any new job no – my dream job with my dream company.
And guess what happened to my income? Exponential growth. Am I a millionaire? Still not there yet, no. But am I comfortable and heading in the right direction? Absofuckinglutley.
The rest of the vision?
I now live in Brazil on a beach, I walk on highlines 3 times a week, have a dog, and spend whatever I want and don’t think twice about it.
I’m on the hunt for a new piece of property where I can have my animals and open space too 😉
My vision has unfolded exactly as I envisioned it that day sitting in front of my house!
And guess what – that was only about 4 years ago.
It’s pretty insane to think about how my financial life has completely changed in the last 3-4 years. I went from shutting down my business and moving back in with my parents to 3 years later making more than I envisioned living on a beach in Brazil. Grateful even moreso that this happened amongst a global pandemic where tons of people lost their jobs and moved in the polar opposite direction on the income scale.
I see that day where I lit the $200 on fire as a fundamental turning point. A moment where I said to myself that I was going to think about and spend money differently. Have a different relationship to it.
And it seems like when I changed the way I feel about money, it had an effect on how much of it was coming into my life. It’s what made me want to write about that day.
When I think back on it all I’d say the fundamental mindset shift was as follows – In the past I would ask myself “what can I afford to spend?”, rather than “what do I want and how will that improve my quality of life?”
I now think about spending money as a means of enhancing quality of life. Every dollar I spend should be to make life more enjoyable. The best money that I can spend is investing in myself.
When I look back on my life the same pattern is there – the best investments were always in myself.
The best $5k I ever spent on myself was sending myself to India. I had just finished teaching English in South Korea, and I paid $5k to go on a Fellowship Program in Social Enterprise in Bangalore, India. This investment put me around a whole new type of people. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who went to Ivy League schools. Entrepreneurs who were building businesses that make an impact on peoples lives. People building technology that could scale and make an impact as well.
That $5k investment not only put me around those people, but also set me on a trajectory that set me up to be where I am today. That $5k investment then landed me a job which then led to me starting my company.
Then again I took another $5k to get my company off the ground. A $5k Investment that set me up for years to come.
Now here in this story I was at a point in my life where I felt stagnated. Stuck. Not progressing or growing in the way that I wanted to.
The solution? Invest in myself. Invest in my growth.
And that’s exactly what I did. I bought myself a dope apartment on the beach in Ipanema and I bought myself a membership to WeWork so that I could work in the best environment possible.
Another great example of the mindset shift is in how I found my current house. I simply looked for places on Airbnb without any filter. I found a house that was listed for $10k USD a month. Seemed high but I sent them a message and opened up the conversation. Turns out they have never been on Airbnb before and they didn’t know what to charge. The actual price was $1500/month.
I now live in a mansion in front of a lake with a beach behind my house for $1.5k a month just because I looked at airbnb without a filter on and selected the house that I wanted and sent a message. Simple.
This style of thinking has made me more solutions oriented. Now instead of “CAN I afford to live there?”, I think- “HOW can I live here?”
I’ll give another example. Right now there is an amazing piece of property right where I live next to. I imagine it’s probably about 5 million dollars at least. I’m trying to find the owner and have a conversation with him to see if I can buy it.
Do I have $5 million? Absolutely not. But if I know that he’s willing to sell that piece of land and it has a price, I’ll go find the people who can help me buy that piece of land and make it come to reality. I’m thinking “how can I make it happen” instead of “Can I?”.
This type of thinking opens up possibilities. When you think about what you can do within the confines of your current resources, you’re limiting your potential to expand. Instead I believe it to be the opposite – you have to expand outside of your resources to give yourself access to pathways for growth that didn’t exist within your current confines.
Basically just like anything in life – get outside of your comfort zone. Spend more than you are comfortable with to normalize spending more and doing it with the intention of investing in improving the quality of your life.
Since that faithful day I’m now asking myself questions such as – how much do you invest into yourself? Into your learning and growth? Into building new ways of making more money? Of putting the money you do have to work? Do you spend within the confines of what you think to be responsible, or do you stretch your limits at all? IF you haven’t been stretching your limits, have you plateaued recently with your income or earnings?
Some recent purchases of mine include a Thera-gun. $1k worth of highline equipment, a membership to a gym so I can use their sauna. A physical therapist and a trainer. Financial investments that will earn me money while I sleep.
Everything I spend is to improve my quality of life.
Circling it all back, I genuinely look at this day as a turning point in my life where I changed my relationship with money. How I think about and make decisions around money. Plus it’s a wacky story to tell, so how can I not share!?
Now, I’m not necessarily advocating that you go light money on fire. If you resonate with the message and think it could be useful, feel free to give it a shot. I think the meditation practice in and of itself as a standalone exercise is really valuable as well. You can also just take the learnings around mindset and use it as a tool for self reflection. Do with this what you want.
And if you’re already good with money hopefully you just enjoyed reading the tale of how I convinced myself to light $200 on fire!
Looks like that brings us to the end of this Troy Story, hope you enjoyed the ride!