I realized something today, there are three ways in which we earn money*: we sell, wait, or work for it. I’ll go ahead and break these down for you now, because time is money too and I’m sure you don’t like to waste it.
I recently met a guy who told me I wasn’t hustling enough given my financial situation. He said I need to sell all the electronics, books, and things around my apartment if I was serious about making money. It pissed me off because I know the hustle, I’m the girl who sold free tickets to go see President Obama on my college campus and made $75 as a poor college student. (being a part of Model UN I got them for free, but I also don’t like crowds so there’s that.) It also pissed me off because even though I had already been selling records and whatever tchotkes I could carry, it didn’t feel right when I was standing in line at The Strand selling books that I loved, books that I DNFd (but would have), or books on my TBR. I understood in that moment that when we sell for money, we’re selling ourselves short. And trust me when you’re selling books that are $25 a pop and only get $4 back, this cliche will make all the sense. And that’s why hustle, in all its glory is exhausting and not the same as work, which we’ll get to later. Hustle says I need this return on my investment right now even if its value is not honored. When we offer ourselves for less than what we’re capable of for the sole purpose of monetary gain, it’s a sacrifice that’s not recognized as honest labor in the direction of your dreams, goals, or purpose, it’s a sacrifice to satisfy our immediate discomfort with a current insecurity.
This I know all too well right now. I was recently awarded funding to film the pilot of this show that I’ve been talking about for over a year now. If I’m being completely honest, at the point of being awarded this fund, I thought it was that big breakthrough moment where all of my preparation had met it’s opportunity and I got comfortable. It was an immediate mental relaxation too, I just had the instant thought like, “Finally, I’m good.”
The problem with ever thinking that your preparation is done is that it’s not. The past five months have been the greatest test of patience (aside from my romantic life) I have ever experienced. And while I’ve been sitting here waiting for my opportunity to stop playing, The. Work. I. Could. Have. Been. Doing. That’s why it’s important to keep moving after any pivotal moments in your life whether it’s winning something, getting played, after being heartbroken, or after meeting a kindred spirit, in moments of transition the energy can be so great that it will convince you to just sit down and feel, but beloveds you can move and feel too. Do that. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been filming, producing, working part-time waitressing, and basically keeping busy, but there has been no purpose — and I have literally just been getting by. And without purpose, there is no point. Waiting seems to me to be the trickiest way to earn money because while you know that what you’re waiting for is yours, how you wait for it determines if you keep it or not. How you wait for it determines if your opportunity will just pass you by because you didn’t stay standing to receive it. Stand up, beloved, and keep reaching for your opportunities.
Tried and true. White or blue…collar. Whatever you do, make sure you get that dollar. Now if my purpose was to be a rapper, it’s clear what my work would be. It’d be about the business of improving my wordplay through reading, writing, and revising (study), collaborating with, or being challenged by, other artists (create), and getting my rhymes into as many ears as possible (profit). Work is where purpose meets effort. Work is the adventure between a dream and a reality. Work is studying, creating, and sustaining your craft. Work is difficult. Work often times means sacrificing your comfort, your desires, your immediate wants for an unseen accomplishment or goal. I do believe that we need to work everyday, even if it’s at a job we don’t love but that supports our purpose, or our savings account (message), until we can get about the business of putting our effort directly towards our purpose. And supporting our purpose is multifaceted, jobs offer us life skills, relationships and networks, and of course income. I think in this time that I have been waiting for an award, I could have been about the work of improving my show, or at least the idea of it, so that when the money actually landed, I’d already have the momentum towards making the show rather than what has actually happened. You see, I’ve been about the business of creating my soapbox story, “Woe is me, I was this close, and look at what life handed me…I just want to give up, who will give me an opportunity now?…I don’t have anything left to give.” There are certain setbacks that happen in life, and I feel fortunate and grateful to experience mine now when I’m mature enough to see that it’s not happening to me but for me, and just foolish enough to still have to pick my face up from the floor.
And whatever you focus on will become clearer and clearer the longer you focus on it. The more my attention was on the setback, on my debts, on my perceived failure and bad luck, the more these things grew in my mind and manifested in my actions. I became a damsel in distress whose villain was the big fire breathing dragon called Debt; I started to occupy the “beggar” mentality and I became desperate for anyplace I might get some compensation. I sold myself short standing in line at the Strand, selling the thing I value most for less than its worth, because I was forfeiting the effort towards my purpose in exchange for the instant gratification of holding money in my hands. Whereas, if I had focused on the work that I would have been doing if the award came in as expected, or if I had not been awarded it at all; if I had focused on the fact that I did have income, even though it wasn’t the same amount, it was still useful; if I had focused on my purpose, my effort would have followed in its direction. This is why it’s important to have goals, no matter what setbacks you endure, if you haven’t reached your goal you’ll be reminded that you’re not done yet, so you better not give up.
I have this feeling that many of us have forgotten what the sense of accomplishment actually feels like because we are rewarded so frequently with likes and follows. It’s not the same thing. I can’t tell you how it feels to experience the sense of accomplishment, but I can say that few things are on that plane of pleasure. When you’ve worked a full day towards your dreams, at the end of the day you may feel tired, but you also feel joy. If you had two jars to fill with a dollar every night (message), one labeled “Work to Live” where you add money after a day of effort towards your purpose, and one labeled “Wait to Live” where you add money after a day of selling yourself short at a job that doesn’t serve you or your purpose, or simply waited (or begged) for some miracle to happen, which jar would be full at the end of the month? At the end of a year?
Now this may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but for me it was the aha that raised the most goosebumps in a while. It hadn’t occurred to me that I had stopped working and firmly planted my feet in waiting waters. But now that my awareness is expanded, I’m going to be about the business of continuing to create my dreams until they’re a reality for more people than just myself. In the wise words of our Bajan princess…
*There is sort of a fourth way, but it’s not earned money, it’s inherited. So even if you’ve been spoon-fed into a life you didn’t work for, one day you’re going to come across a big juicy steak that you’ll need your own fork and knife to enjoy. And that’ll be the day you decide whether you’ll sell your spoon for less than it’s worth, you’ll wait for someone to cut it for you, or if you’ll get about the business of setting your own table.