Business Is Not A Dirty Word
I spent two incredible weeks in Bali last month. While there I went to visit a local healer. He asked me to write my full name and birthday in his notebook and after a few moments of his eyes spookily rolling back in his head he proceeded to tell me things about my life. I didn’t really like hearing what he had to say but thankfully he went on to read my palm and he had good news for me.
“Oh! You very good at business. Very very good business lady!”
It was such a relief. I could feel myself exhaling.
Until he then took my other hand and opened it up and slowly said.
“Oh…but you’re very bad with money!”
So he’s right. I’m crap with money. Okay, not crap with money as such, but crap at making money and not spending it. To me money is there to be used. Especially on others. Specifically helping others. I have tried to figure out where my relationship with money comes from. The obvious dots to connect is growing up as a Christian and being taught that money is evil and best to be passed on to others. In a lot of cases to the church itself and their new carpet or parking lot fund. However, recently I’ve been getting into learning about my personality type and it turns out that I am blessed with a very relaxed view about money, so maybe I can’t blame church after all. Maybe it’s God’s fault for giving me this personality!
All that to say that my encounter with the Balinese healer has encouraged me to look closer at my relationship with money and see if there is a way for me to change the narrative. I’ve been mulling it over and realised that I grew up seeing money and business as something bad. Business men (I didn’t even know business women existed!) were greedy, selfish and condemned to eternal damnation. I had such a desire to save the world and clearly the best way to do it was through a life of self sacrifice and avoiding anything that remotely looked like a career.
When it came to money the only positive way I saw to use it was through donations and charity. Those who had lots were meant to give it to those that didn’t. This way of viewing wealth & poverty remained with my until I moved to Cambodia in my thirties. All of a sudden my eyes were opened to the damage that charity and aid can do in the long run. Sure the immediate reaction was positive but most of the time that was all the benefactor was privy to.
Funnily enough it has taken me eight years of being directly involved in a social enterprise to finally see that business is not a dirty word. In fact, business has stepped into the void that my childhood religion left behind. In its truest form business is redemptive, transformative and empowering. Charity on the other hand keeps the rich rich and the poor poor. Most of the time there is no long term change involved.
As a person who is generating jobs and an income for those who were formally dependent on aid & charity I don’t have to feel clumsy in seeing what I do as a business. In fact, the more business savvy I can become the more effective I will be in facilitating change for others. The less stress and anxiety I have around my own bank account the more energy I will have to use towards making long term changes for those in developing countries.
One of the biggest hurdles that I have overcome is the image I have in my mind of a business woman. In my head their shoes match their briefcase, their whites are white and all their clothes are dry cleaned. Somehow me starting my day emptying out lunchboxes only to try to find something to fill them with again means that I will never achieve that elusive status. There is something so liberating in discovering that there are many women who are doing the same crazy juggling act of business in the midst of motherhood, and yes, their whites are not white either. The most exciting part is that a lot of these women look at business as collaboration and it reflects their desire to connect and work together with others. Sure there are a gazillion different webinars and business brunches to sign up for and attend, but to me the real connections are happening in those moments where someone who is further down the path says “hey, let’s catch up for a coffee and see how we can help each other out.”
I’m realising that the more I am able to strip away my old perception of business and what success means and instead be open to connecting with other like minded people the quicker I am able to move forward and grow, and hopefully when I return to my Balinese healer he will have some better news for me.