I’m A Successful Entrepreneur And I’m Terrified Of Running Out Of Money
I’ve had this blog post sitting in my heart for the past several months.
It’s been sitting so ever present in my body, blocking my creativity and holding me back in my business.
It kind of feels like a big nasty secret that I’ve been holding onto. Admitting it in a public forum feels a little like suicide considering the work that I do.
But it’s a conversation that I’ve been having recently with friends, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs so I know I’m not the only one.
And just like I’ve done over the past couple of years, I know that writing this blog post won’t kill me. Even though it kind of feels like it right now.
So here’s my confession:
I’m a “successful entrepreneur” and I’m terrified of running out of money.
Irrationally and sometimes overwhelmingly afraid of running out of money. It feels buried deep within my tissues, as if it’s been there all along.
And here’s why.
I’ve always taken pride in being very “good with my money.”
It’s not like I really wanted to be. But I had no other choice. Why?
Because I grew up in a family where I regularly heard “there’s not enough money.”
In reality though, my father had a steady job with the government and made above the median national income for his entire career. I never went to bed hungry and I always had shoes on my feet. In fact, I was really overweight from fourth to eighth grade, so I was definitely eating well. And somehow I managed to always get the Nintendo games that I wanted even though I could tell that it was pushing the limits of our family budget.
We even traveled every year, sometimes to my mother’s favorite city of San Diego, CA and sometimes to Japan or Florida to visit the grandparents. One summer we lived in Japan for a month with my grandparents, traveling all over the country with them.
But despite never living on the streets or begging for money, I heard these four words way too often…
“There’s not enough money.”
And when your parents say something when you’re young you believe it. They are your parents after all.
One painful memory that I have from growing up was watching my mother return her anniversary presents every year whether they were earrings or a necklace that my father bought. She’d always say, “We can use this money for groceries instead.”
I also remember sneaking into my father’s office one day and looking through all the piles of bills on his desk. I started doing some mental math and calculating all of the credit card debt that we had as a family.
Seeing that it totaled in the multiple five figures, in that moment I decided, “Shit, we need to file for bankruptcy!”
I think I was in high school then.
Growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I didn’t have any dreams of going to college. It wasn’t really the cool thing to do in my religion since the impending threat of Armageddon and the end of the world as I knew it was always around the corner.
But by getting really good at memorizing lots of useless facts and somehow learning to enjoy high pressure testing protocols, I ended up being our high school’s valedictorian and earned a National Merit Scholarship.
I actually ended up getting a full tuition scholarship plus $6000 a year to go to school. So I got paid $500 a month to go to college.
Even then with a full ride scholarship, I only went to school because it seemed more fun than starting work full time. That’s the only reason. My view of the world was pretty weird back then.
Growing up I never really viewed myself as “poor.” At least, until I went away to college.
And by “went away” I mean I lived at home with my parents all throughout my undergraduate studies. Even with a full ride and a $500 stipend every month, I knew that my family couldn’t afford for me to move out on my own. We just “didn’t have enough money.”
So I ended up living with my parents until I was 24. The whole time I managed to convince myself that living on my own would be “really expensive.”
Despite my less than normal childhood, I really never felt that much lack growing up. There was always food on the table, we played together as a family at the park constantly, and I had a simple, safe, and loving childhood.
Looking back I truly grew up rich with what mattered.
So much love, so much attention, and so much time with my parents. I am the product of thousands of hours of hands-on love from my mom and dad.
Yeah, I shopped at thrift stores and never had a pair of Air Jordans or Reebok Pumps, but neither did anyone else in my church.
So it just felt normal.
I really only started to feel poor when I started to learn about how the other kids from school lived.
Some of them drove new cars to school. My parents had never owned a new car, so how did these kids afford one? I drove an old silver Toyota minivan to school every day.
Some of them talked about their vacations and spring break trips. I could hardly comprehend how they could afford to travel all over the world and go wake boarding and snowboarding and blow a couple of thousand dollars in a week.
It almost didn’t seem possible.
I distinctly remember a moment in my junior year of college as I parked my silver minivan that overheated all the time in the parking lot next to a bunch of BMWs, Hondas, and Acuras by the business college.
I looked around at all the other cars and thought of my friends and their fancy lives and in that moment, I started to tell myself a lie.
“Wow, I guess I’m poor.”
So when I graduated college and started working full-time I wanted to do anything and everything to not be poor anymore.
I started working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car because in the interview process I learned that their Area Managers made six figures a year. At the time, that seemed like more money than I would ever know what to do with.
I made almost every promotion in the minimum time possible and by the age of 24 was running two offices, managing a P&L, and overseeing millions of dollars of inventory.
I also made sure to always pay myself first.
From day one I invested 10-15% off of the top of my paycheck and put it in a 401K. I learned what a Roth IRA was when I was 25. I maxed that out every year since, until I left corporate three years ago. I don’t even know where I got the idea of paying myself first. Probably from one of the self-help books I was reading at the time.
I still didn’t really know a whole lot about money, but all I knew that I was going to keep working, saving, and investing until I was “rich.”
For the first eight years of my work experiences, I never once worried about money. When I was making $27,000 at Enterprise Rent-A-Car or $65,000 in advertising or just over $100,000 in my first year at Johnson & Johnson, I didn’t worry about money.
I lived simply, paid myself off of the top, and spent less than I made. I never spent a lot on designer clothes, going out to eat, or buying retail items.
I still regularly went out and bought friends drinks, spent money on experiences that made my happy, and somehow there was always enough.
And even though I didn’t know why or how, I was telling myself that I was on the path to becoming “rich.”
By the age of thirty I had a little over $100,000 saved for retirement in a mix of investment accounts. Things seemed to be perfectly on track.
Then my mom died.
Then I quit the six figure corporate job.
Then I ended up somehow traveling the world for 31 months straight chasing the next adventure.
Despite knowing nothing about being an entrepreneur, I managed to build a “successful coaching practice” in my first year of business. Whatever the hell that means any way.
People were reaching out to me to have me coach them at rates of $250 to $750 an hour.
And the crazy thing was… it was actually working!
The breakthroughs were coming left and right. In three months they were literally different human beings then when they first reached out to me.
I was working a couple of hours a week, traveling full time to exotic locales, and actually helping people. Really, really helping people make deep, permanent life changes.
It seemed too good to be true. I felt like I had hit the sweet spot of life, where I would forever serve a small group of remarkable clients and live a life rooted in freedom and adventure.
Then the downward spiral began.
And I sat in panic for months, terrified that no one was going to show up and I would go bankrupt. I signed a contract for hotel space and catering that was over $20,000 with only a tiny handful of ticket sales.
I wrote about it a bit here almost exactly a year ago.
But it was even darker than that.
I want to share with you a private note that I sent to all the speakers last year that almost ended the conference before it began, just to let you know how bad I was feeling then.
After sending that note, they all chimed in with some of the most amazing notes of support that I’ve ever received before.
They offered to jump on the phone with me to talk things out. They quoted my writing and videos and showed me where I wasn’t walking my talk. And a couple of them lovingly bitched slapped me into reminding myself that this is the path that I consciously chose.
Sometimes I still look back at that thread at what might be the most epic pep talk ever shared via collective Facebook comments.
So with the support of my team, I kept taking one shaky step after another.
Four months later, we delivered a weekend of transformation that many men said was the most important weekend of their life. One of the attendees who had been to almost every personal development event out there (Tony Robbins, Landmark, etc.) said that The Conference For Men was the most powerful weekend they had ever experienced.
Yes! We did it! Victory!
And after six months of pouring my heart and soul into the event, regularly being crippled from the stress, pulling off a miracle and giving it everything I had…
I didn’t make any money.
In fact, I might have even lost a little. That shows how detailed I was on my bookkeeping for the past couple of years.
All I know is that it cost around $40,000 to put on and I think I made around $40,000. So I broke even plus or minus a couple thousand dollars.
Talk about a disappointment. But lives were changed for the better and I was still alive.
Despite working my ass off for seemingly nothing, I still had some money in the bank. I wasn’t in debt. Like I said, I’ve always been really “good with my money.”
Because if there was one thing that I was never going to do, it was going into debt like my family.
I saw what it did to my father. I felt the stress in his body as he hunched over his office desk even as a child before I knew what debt was.
So I was determined to never go below zero.
Because that would be bad. And dangerous. And scary.
But then I started teetering towards zero in the past couple of months and all sorts of panic flags came up.
So like I always do, I started to talk to a few close friends about it.
As I started to have those conversations, I was shocked to find out that they had money fears too. Some of them were in debt already. Some of them were bankrolled by their parents. And some of them made way less than you would guess from their extravagant Facebook escapades.
As I had these conversations, the shame around money started to lift. With each story another layer peeled back and I felt more confident and less afraid of running out of money.
I also realized that going into debt really isn’t a bad thing. Most small businesses go into debt to get started.
Just think of any brick and mortar business. A gym, a cupcake shop, a nail salon. Most of those business owners either got a small business loan, used credit card debt or used their life savings to get it off the ground.
So why would I think I’d be any different?
At dinner a couple weeks ago, after talking about money and debt for an hour, one of my friends looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Mike, I think you just need to go into debt. Then you won’t be so damn scared of it anymore.”
So last month I decided that I would do the thing that I said I would never do.
I went into debt.
I threw $13,000 on a credit card and hired one of the best business coaches I know. That’s the one piece of my development that I haven’t really invested heavily in. So I decided to go all in.
And despite my cash reserves being less than my liabilities in this current moment, I’m still alive.
Yes, in this moment I owe over forty thousand dollars in credit card debt. Most of it is on 0% APR credit cards.
But still, the guy who said he would never do it, consciously went into debt. And I didn’t die.
In fact, I’m wondering why I didn’t do it sooner.
Doing it felt a little like drinking my first beer or smoking a joint for the first time. It felt really bad and dangerous.
But really bad and dangerous things are only bad and dangerous when we keep them in the shadows.
And I like living in the light.
So where am I today?
In debt. Less afraid of running out of money, but still a little bit. But quickly realizing that everyone else is afraid too, from the conversations that I keep having.
So what’s the moral to this money story?
1. All Debt Isn’t Bad
Most businesses take on debt to get them off the ground.
I remember that from my finance classes in the MBA program, but I somehow forgot about it as a solopreneur.
If I can invest $30,000 now to make $300,000 a year later, then I should make that investment all day right?
It seems obvious when laid out like that, but “debt” has all sorts of emotional baggage tied to it. For me any debt was bad.
Which has kept me playing small for the past couple of years.
Despite my relative growth over the past two years, there are definitely times where I could have simply made an investment in myself, software, or support to move past a hurdle without even blinking.
But I’ve been so afraid of spending money, that some days I feel like I’m inching along.
I was talking to a friend about this and she said, “My debt has been the fuel for my dreams.”
That sure sounds a lot better than all the other associations we put on it.
2. Most Of What We Were Taught About Money Is Wrong
“Money is the root of all evil.”
“Rich people earn their living on the backs of others.”
“It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God.”
“They might be rich, but at least we’re happy.”
“Mo money, Mo problems.”
Do any of those sound familiar? You might have heard something like this when you were growing up and unsuspectingly taken that belief on, where it’s been keeping you poor for your entire adult life.
Here’s an exercise I’ve been doing with clients and friends lately. I seriously want you to try it out.
Write down twenty sentences on a piece of paper beginning with: “Money is…”
Whatever comes out are your current beliefs around money.
And you wonder why you’re not making more money?
No one wants to be bad. And if you believe rich people or having money is bad, of course you aren’t going to allow yourself to be rich.
3. You Become Truly Rich By Shifting Your Beliefs Around Money, Not By Having More Of It
I’ve been devouring resources on wealth consciousness lately. This has been the reading/listening list just in the past month.
As I go through these books and do all of the exercises, I keep becoming more and more open to financial abundance.
Now I don’t believe in “manifesting” miracles by sitting on your ass and reading “The Secret” and praying for checks to come in your mailbox. But I do believe in inspired, authentic action. And I’ve recently come to realize that my beliefs around money have been holding me back in many areas, despite taking a whole lot of action over the past several years.
It’s like I’ve been driving a car with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brakes.
So with every book I read, audiobook I listen to, or courageous conversation around money that I have, little by little a space opens up to allow more in.
As I write these words today, I feel a hundred times more open to money, wealth, and abundance than I did a year ago.
And whether you believe it or not, wealth is an inside game.
Most lottery winners are back to their original levels of wealth within the first couple of years. Their internal thermostat just isn’t ready to handle the new level of wealth so they find a way to get rid of all of the money.
If you’re truly serious about making a dent in the universe, leaving a legacy behind, and having a ton of fun along the way then you need to clean up your beliefs around money ASAP.
Or you can just keep driving the car with one foot on the brakes.
How that’s working out for you lately?
4. I’ve Never Gone To Bed Hungry
I attended a conference called Archangel Academy the weekend after The Conference For Men.
I forgot who said it, but one of the speakers shared with us that any time he feels a little off centered around money, he just reminds himself this one very important truth:
“I’ve never gone to bed hungry.”
It was one of the best gems that I took that entire weekend.
I hope it resonates with you like it did with me.
5. This Was The Last Thing I Thought I’ve Ever Admit As A Coach
No one would hire a coach who is afraid of running out of money, right?
Wait, I’m afraid of running out of money AND I’m in debt now.
Now it’s certain that no one will hire me, right?
Maybe all of my clients will decide not to renew with me or maybe I’ll never be invited to speak anywhere ever again.
Or maybe I’ll just feel even clearer and cleaner around money than ever before.
Even as I write these words, there’s very little emotional heaviness around money left anymore. The headline that I wrote a couple of hours ago almost doesn’t seem true now. It did when I started this blog, but now it’s only partially true.
Yes, my name is Mike Hrostoski, I’m a successful entrepreneur and I’m terrified of running out of money (but only around 10% as much as when I started writing this blog post.)
Wow, it worked again.
Shame is some crazy stuff.
And it’s crazier how quickly it disappears when we pull it out from the shadows.
So… what’s YOUR money story? And what are you committed to doing about it?