A Deal Is Not a Done Deal Until Money Hits the Bank

No matter how good you feel about it, do not boast, act on or go to press about a deal you just made (business, employment or otherwise) until the first check goes through. I learned this in Hollywood and continue to stand behind it as I make deals or watch deals unfold around me. You can never completely guarantee a deal will go through until it actually goes through. You can make a serious fool out of yourself by jumping the gun, making public announcements or spending money you don’t have. Better to keep your mouth shut and fingers crossed until fiction becomes fact.

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What or Who Are You Competing Against?

Do you even know? No one can genuinely create a sense of urgency without cause or reason. Everyone is competing against the clock (we’re mortals, after all), but why? For what reason? Is it a race? Against whom?

If you have a clear opponent to beat, that’s easy. Wave the enemy’s flag in spite and embrace competition as a positive energy in your organization or life. Move forward and fast, as if it were a fun game.

If you are a startup or non-profit without grasp of a market, what are you competing against? Most small organizations compete against sinking bank accounts. Young companies not yet cash-flow positive must sweat their burn rates and execute on their vision before running out of money. If the money drain is your greatest enemy, make a big deal about that, too. Don’t hide it from your people; share the bank statement with managers if you want them to understand that particular sense of urgency. They will understand.

You cannot motivate people from scratch. You can only give them the tools, information and environment to hopefully inspire them to motivate themselves. As a leader, you must know what you are competing against. And do not forget to share that information with your people who suffer the whip every day.

Profit Is Not the Point

The goal is sustainability. We make money to cover our basic needs – food, water and shelter. The great businesses of our time have figured this out, too. Great product comes before profit – because only great product will keep customers coming back for more. We like steady paychecks and loyal patrons because we can sleep at night and know that life will go on.

The goal isn’t to make money; the goal is to exist. Once you’ve figured that part out, the next goal is to exist longer. Once you realize no one lives forever, the ultimate goal is to leave a legacy.

The only way you can leave a legacy is if you concern yourself less with profit and more with giving life all you’ve got. Sure, you should have a plan to make money. But if greatness comes first on your priority list, then have faith that the rest will follow.

If You’re Going to Spend The Money…

Don’t regret it. Just put the money down, enjoy or learn from the investment, and move on. Cut your losses and figure out how to move forward. There’s no point at all in tarnishing a good evening by despairing about dollars and cents. Live the good life.

Savings: The Game

The best financial advice I received upon graduating college: always have enough cash in savings to survive for at least six months without income. I took that advice with a vengeance. Savings not only provide you with a security blanket, they award you the confidence and flexibility to make major life changes. The risks of quitting a job, changing cities, moving into a new place, taking on a life partner, and having children are dampened by the relative stability of an earned allowance. I would not have felt comfortable quitting my job, leaving Hollywood, and moving to Denver without the cash buffer I built since graduating.

Yes, savings are difficult to accrue. It takes discipline, commitment, and a passion to see numbers grow. I treat my savings like a game: I want to get the high score. With online banking, it’s easier than ever to convince yourself  those numbers are points on a leader board. Have fun with it and take pleasure knowing your high score means something real.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you need to find a way to make more money or live cheaper. And who really wants to live cheaper? Negotiate a raise, yo! But we’ll save that conversation for another time.

Decide What You’re Worth

Want to make more money? First, you need to believe that you’re worth more. If you believe it and exude confidence on the subject, everyone else will believe you’re worth more, too. Believe it deeply enough and you may not even need to ask for a raise.

It’s very helpful to know what you’re worth. To the dollar. Not some random number, no abstract figure counts – the exact amount to cover the cost of living the life you think you deserve. Add up your expenses, your lifestyle costs, your health costs, your travel costs. Cover your responsibilities. Price out your dreams and your hobbies. Set a structured savings plan and contingency for accidents. Add them all together over a year period. With simple math, you can conclude your annual salary. That’s what you’re worth. No less.

Be open to quoting that number to others, and do not be afraid to itemize the costs for them. If you can justify every price point and sell your needs, it will be difficult for anyone to argue. Make sure your employer understands this number. If it’s not possible for your company to match, find alternative means to cover the difference (freelancing, for example) – or find a different job.

Know what you’re worth. Believe you’re worth that much. Fight for it if you need to. Do not sell yourself short.

A New Form of Independence

First page of Constitution of the United States

Thomas Jefferson swore “upon the altar of god eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of man.” The United States of America was formed against the tyranny of dictatorship, a dictatorship that ruled over life, thought, and the soul. We celebrate our Independence from that dictatorship today.

Two hundred and thirty-five years later, we face a new form of tyranny — one less obvious and far more dangerous than the kings of old. Those tyrants ruled with pain and fear. We knew who they were and hated them for it. Today’s tyrants rule with something far more deceptive, manipulative, and resourceful: money. We have all been sold on the value of profiteering by our teachers, parents, media, and leaders who define success by the dollar. We have been raised with the drive for wealth. Money clouds our minds. Greed, our sin; the masters of Greed, our tyrants. And we are only making it worse.

As organized now, few (if any) businesses are democratic. Corporate structure is not unlike an Empire of old: a company’s Founder and/or CEO, its king; the Board of Directors and Executive Officers, its appointed officials; the Shareholders, aristocratic citizens with stake but marginal influence; and employees, the ruled. In this model, citizens do not have the power. Individuals hired into a company have little say in its operation, for fear of being fired; they are predominantly slaves to the will of the Owners.

We are servants, and they are our kings. We buy their products. We work for them to put food on our table. We hustle soulless moderate-wage jobs to cover health, rent, insurance, college loans, and car payments. We are dependent on corporations, so much so that our government twists our tax revenue to bail them out in time of need. And we do nothing to organize against them. Unions barely scratch the surface and have lost traction. Businesses continue to accumulate wealth and are now more powerful than ever before. Profits are going up while jobs and salaries are going down. Large corporations, wealthy elite, and corporatist officials are stockpiling cash to muscle, bribe, and buy us into their profit margins. Money dictates our electoral process. Personal and public debt is higher than ever. Millions of Americans and their freedoms are trapped in a ruthless money game.

Capitalism itself cannot be condemned because it is a free person’s right. And it shall not be blamed. But like all rights, the freedom to economize can be abused. It has been abused. Some organizations, namely conglomerates and banks, have become more powerful than the governments they are legally filed under. In 1999, the United States empowered commercial banks by allowing them investment banking privileges and stake over corporations. Many governments, including our own, are now indebted to, and therefore leveraged by, financial institutions here and abroad. World power now lies in the hands of those with capital wealth and to whom others are indebted. And we gave them that power: corporations are recognized by our laws as living entities with individuality. Unlike real human beings, however, we recognize companies as immortal. Businesses have been granted deity status under our laws. We write about, study, subscribe to, and praise them like prophets. Conglomerates are now our Gods.

Money is not holy, nor is it human. We cannot revere it above the human spirit. Greed now rules over the mind of man, and it must be defeated. However, declaring independence from greed will not be as easy as sailing to a new continent and bleeding the enemy dry. It will take a revolution. It will take an aggressive and confident democratic mass movement against corporatism.

The battle should not be between left and right, for that is a political cage match staged by elitists looking to turn a profit on the cultural war effort. No, the battle should be between corporatists and anticorporatists. Between the greedy and the charitable. Between profiteers and humanitarians. We can experience radical human progress in our lifetimes if we look past regressive profitability cycles to make more human investments. Our civilization could “go green” if natural resource and vehicle companies stop holding back in an effort to perpetuate profits. Our civilization could visit other worlds if investors looked past whether interstellar travel was a “good investment.”  Our civilization could cure countless diseases and save millions of lives if pharmaceutical companies shake their unfounded fear of putting themselves out of the drug business. Our civilization could do so much more if greed wasn’t tugging the reins.

We must wake from denial and the status quo and stand up to established powers. We must respect ourselves and each other. We must not rely on elected officials, for legislative processes are too slow and cumbersome for meaningful change. We must protect and better-educate our impressionable youth. We must reorganize our economy to respect different kinds of intelligence and education. We must empower leaders and businesses organized for efficient democratic progress. We must not lecture our friends, but instead inspire them to stand up to their jobs and their bosses. We must see the dollar as the enemy and look past our own checkbooks. And we must support each other in brotherhood and community.

Let us band together and see to it that our freedom survives through the night.

We are America. We are free. Happy Independence Day.