When thinking about financing your future, most people think of savings, investing, insurance, or financial planning. These are the disciplines that make up most what we think of as the world of finances. How we manage our money is the core of financial planning, but sometimes it helps to step back and reflect on how our money manages us. The ways that we think about money affects our behavior towards it, and the Mandala Chart can again provide multiple windows for reflecting on our thought and behavior regarding money. You can download the FINANCES MANDALA and follow it through the topics below.
In Japanese the character for abundance is written 豊 (yutaka), which curiously is made up of the radicals for melody 曲 and beans 豆, a happy image that might even please the bean counters in the accounting department. Soy beans are the source of many food products in Japan, one of the most popular being soy bean curd, known as tōfu. What many people do not know is that there are serious tōfu turf wars going on behind the scenes, which I wrote about previously in an article called Tofu Wars: Battle of the Bean Curd. It is a not so melodious story about how supermarkets in Japan sometimes sell tōfu below their cost as a loss leader to attract people into their stores. For the tōfu specialty stores (yes, they exist) this is a disaster, because they cannot possibly compete if they sell their core product below cost. My friend and co-author wrote a poem about this, which you can download as an excerpt from our book, Budo, Blogs, and Poetry.
What to the supermarket might only be a corner display, to the tōfu specialty shop is a move aimed at the heart. Supermarkets could rotate their loss leaders among different products to still attract customers without decimating the specialty shops. The tōfu shops on their part could offer varieties of tōfu not found in the supermarkets, and educate customers about the value that justifies the price difference, as well as how to prepare delicious tōfu dishes. And consumers can think twice about what happens to other businesses when they buy loss leader products. One secret of abundance is to take the Hippocratic Oath in business and do no harm.
The Straw Trader
There are also lessons in abundance from a Japanese folk tale called Lord Straw Stalk, in which a wandering poor and penniless boy was struggling from hand to mouth, doing day labor in exchange for his food. He often stayed at Buddhist temples, and praying to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, he received a promise that he would be blessed with a happy life and great rewards. It all started with a stalk of straw, the end of which he tied a buzz fly to for entertainment. Seeing this toy, another boy offered him three oranges for it. These in turn he gave to a woman suffering from thirst, who gave him a roll of woven silk cloth in appreciation. He met a Samurai who offered to give him his tired old horse in exchange for the woven silk cloth. The boy nursed the horse back to health, and offered to sell it to a wealthy landowner, who instead gave him a patch of land to work. This he did very well, and thereby impressed the landowner to offer the boy his daughter in marriage, and the large house in which to raise their family. He became know as Warashibe Chōja, Lord Straw Stalk. The blessings of the Goddess did in fact come true, because he traded his way up to greater wealth, offering value to everyone he met.
A similar story can be found in the West, well known as Master Cat, or Puss ‘n Boots. The lesson is that quite humble things can be of great value when offered to others in the right spirit, and at the right time. It is possible to trade you way into abundance.
Move Less, Attract More
This was the title of an article I wrote on the Abundance Mentality for my Art of Flexible Focus column, Move Less, Attract More. It contains a Hasidic story related by Martin Buber about the difference between Heaven and Hell. Both were rooms in which an abundance of food was laid upon a table, and all of the people in the room had long wooden spoons tied to their arms, making it impossible to feed themselves. In the room called Heaven, all of the people fed each other, whereas in the room called Hell, languished and starved trying in vain to feed themselves. Both rooms offered the same conditions of abundance. It was selfishness and greed that created the condition of Hell, generosity and cooperation that created the condition of Heaven.
This is a simple and powerful story if you think about how it applies in your own life. How do you get fed when your hands are tied? Find a way to feed others first, and soon the mentality of abundance will spread to the benefit of all.
Rules of the Game
Know the rules of the game. They are not always spelled out clearly, but the world of finances is set up with certain rules and laws that ensure that somebody gets paid and comes out ahead. Many contracts are set up specifically for that purpose. While the systems may be complex, they are designed to reward the people who set up the rules, whether in real estate or in taxation. These rules do provide stability in society, but they are designed to serve the people who made the rules.
You may not be able to avoid those rules, but you can gain strength by playing in your own court. Find ways to work in your area of strength, where you know the rules and can sometimes have a hand in setting them up. This is one way to leverage your finances to abundance.
The other is through giving. Givers gain, because they play by the rules of a higher power. The universe rewards those who help others.
One way to finance your future is to enhance the present moment. Zen Meditation can help you regain awareness and appreciation of what you have got, as well as help you discern what you really need. The mind is easily led into a path of unconscious and unending consumption. Meditation can help you become more calm and discerning, that will certainly make you more conscious of your consumption, less likely to be wasteful, and more open to real opportunities in your life.
It will also make you more conscious if you keep track of your receipts, separating them into categories so that you are more aware of where your money is actually going. Making purchases by cash rather than credit card can also give you a greater sense for what is going out, and more attention to why. The conscious consumer gets what he or she needs, and spends more wisely.
The Midas Touch
Everyone knows the story from Greek Mythology about King Midas, who in his greed for gold developed a golden touch, so that everything that he touched turned to gold, including his food and even his own daughter. Despite his riches, he died miserable and hungry.
Greed is a sure way to jeopardize your financial future. Gold Diggers are people who marry for money, where the motive force is not Love but Greed. Instead of a Golden Touch, why not develop a healing touch, a Green Thumb which gives life and helps things and people grow? Watch the people around you and help them to thrive, and you will build trust that will finance your future in subtle but certain ways.
If you want to travel far, you should hitch your wagon to the right horse. Associate yourself in a positive and helpful way with people who have the power to pull you forward. When you clearly express the value you have to offer, and your willingness to share it, people will come forward who want to associate with you for mutual benefit. If the relationship is based on trust and transparency, this can be a very positive way for both sides to finance their future.
The secret is to keep it simple and create a combination that makes things easier and better for both sides, a win/win relationship.
Remember and Help Them
No matter how bad you feel your fortunes have fallen, there are masses of people who are much worse off than you, and they need help as much or more. “I felt sorry for myself having no shoes, until I met the man who had no feet.” As you go about thinking of how to finance your own future, give some time, energy, and assistance to those less fortunate.
Study the inspiring work of Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, a micro-finance organization started in Bangladesh, which gives loans to poor entrepreneurs without requiring collateral, helping them to leverage their skills and finance their own futures. The organization and it’s founder were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Whereas most people search for bargains in which you buy one and get one free, there is an organization which takes the opposite approach of connecting buying to giving, Buy1Give1. This innovative approach to micro-giving enables businesses and individuals to choose projects that resonate with themselves and make a real difference in people’s lives. Your daily purchases can literally finance the futures of people around the world. Find out how it works and give it a try.
—William Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.