Ep. #10: Wealth Whack-a-Mole

Have you ever tried moving forward in one area of your life, only to backslide in another? You go for an advanced degree or a new business,  but gain weight? Or you try to lose weight and start overspending? If so, you’re playing a game called “Wealth Whack-a-Mole” and this episode is for you!


Welcome to Rich and Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk.

Today show is for every listener finds themselves doing well in one area of their life, only to backslide in another area, and they want to find a way to do well in all aspects of life and business at the same time. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth, and I’m glad you’re here because this issue is pretty common and today we’re going to look at how to solve it.

In preparing for the show, I found some statistics that I thought were very interesting About 70% of American households carry credit card debt. About 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. About 70% of businesses fail. We can quibble regarding the exact percentages, you will find them a little lower or a little higher based on the studies that you look at, but I think the more interesting question is how much overlap there is in these groups.

It’s tough to get stats on this, but anecdotally it seems to me that there is quite a bit of commonality, and I don’t think this is an accident, because the same reasons that drive overspending also drive overeating and underearning.

I also see people hopping between groups. We try to make strides in one area, only to fall back in the another. We push our businesses forward, and pack on pounds or debt while we do it. We try to lose weight, but our businesses deteriorate in the process. Sometimes if we start earning a lot of money, we start spending even more. It feels like we will never get ahead.

When we do well in one area, only to backslide in others, I call it wealth whack-a-mole, and it’s a bad game to play because it runs us ragged, prevents us from enjoying our lives and businesses, and keeps us juggling and playing a constant game of clean-up. So today I want to discuss a few ideas that will help you stop playing this game and really move forward on your wealth-building.  They all center on changing our ideas about what’s fun and what isn’t. The first idea is finding the fun ahead of time.

Find the Fun Ahead of Time

When I was in law school, I gained a serious amount of weight, as did many of my colleagues. One guy in my con law class had to buy a new motorcycle helmet because his face got too fat for the old one.

So this case of weight gain in law school is a classic case of wealth whack-a-mole. We were making a serious investment in ourselves, in our future earning and intellectual potential. We were driving that part of our lives forward, but at the same time we were covering up our bodies with excess weight, so we were moving backwards in that area.

What was going on here? Why were we all gaining so much weight? A big reason is that we were telling ourselves that we were in class for 4 hours and we studied for 3 hours on top of that (of course much of this was an exaggeration), and so we “deserved” to plow through beers and junk food and all manner of weight-inducing substances.

Notice how the numbers are neutral. We were overeating because of the meaning we were attaching to these numbers. No one would say, “I was at a spa for 7 hours so now I deserve a beer and nachos and coconut-cream pie.” But we felt that way about school, because we were thinking of it as a torture chamber, and so made the time spent there binge-worthy.

But the funny thing about law school is that every day you’re there costs more than a spa. Not only does it cost more, we were actually borrowing money for the privilege of paying the high price tag.

This was an odd predicament in my mind. If the way we spend money is a measure of what we value and find interesting and fun, and I think it is, one could argue that it’s actually more fun to be at law school than it is to be at a spa. But those of us who were gaining weight couldn’t see this. Why couldn’t we see this? Because our thinking was in the way. We had a negative lens on about it.

Now that we’re all in practice, our lens has changed. We look back and we realize how fun law school was. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that it was a very engaging environment where we got to read interesting cases and indulge in endless philosophical rabbit holes and be applauded for it by our professors. The stakes were very low. We could talk about death penalty cases, but no one was going to the electric chair if we screwed up.

And we were doing this because at the time we were in school, we were thinking, this isn’t fun. And now that we’re in practice, many of us are thinking, oh now I know what isn’t fun. That was fun, when I was in law school, but this definitely isn’t. And many of us are gaining even more weight, or drinking even more than we did in law school, because when most of our day isn’t fun, we deserve a little fun at the end of it. And then what’s going to happen to us? We’re going to retire, and we’re going to look back on our days in practice and think, that was pretty fun. I liked making those arguments and serving those clients and earning that money. But few of us are going to do that while we are in it, so we are caught in a seemingly endless game of wealth whack a mole.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn this on its head, and doing so starts with seeing the fun before and during rather than just in hindsight. The way my law school friends and I are thinking about law school now, that it was fun, we could have easily thought about law school while we were in it, and that would have deepened the whole experience for us.

We can do this with anything, by the way. Whatever you’re doing right now, you can see the fun in it, and if we want to build wealth, we should do this, because it helps keep us out of a whack-a-mole situation.

So the question is how do you do it? It’s not that difficult. We just imagine ourselves in the future, looking back at where we are now, and remembering all the great things about it. When I look back on law school, I remember my friends and a couple professors who were wonderful and the beautiful building that was our law school. The amazing library and librarians who taught us so much. If I had focused on how lucky I was to be there when I was in it, I am 100% confident that my BMI wouldn’t have been bordering on obesity when I graduated.

You can do this with anything. You can do it with a parenting challenge that you’re having, a business issue that’s troubling you right now, literally anything. I’ve been using this technique with my little dogs Winston and Sheffield. They’re getting older and they’ve been acting up and they’ve started fighting with each other so we had to separate them. My mom has to keep one for me and every Wednesday we switch off. With all this going on, there are times when I think this is a big pain and I’m not having any fun. How long is this going to go on with these dogs? Then I think of the future, when they’re no longer with me, and I think about how sad I’m going to be, and it changes my view of the present moment. I remember that I love them dearly, and that having them around is fun even if they are a bit of a bother.

So that’s my first tip for you today. If you want to create wealth in all areas of your life and stop backsliding out of frustration and unhappiness, find the fun in everything you’re doing now. Don’t wait for later when it’s all over. Doing this will accomplish two things: It will make your entire life seem richer as you live it, and it will prevent you from seeking comfort in over-indulgences that don’t serve you.

Another thing you can do to prevent backsliding in one area when you’re trying to move another ball forward is to set higher standards for your fun.

Set Higher Standards for Fun

A big reason that so many of us are in debt or overweight is that we think that overeating and overspending are fun.

So here I would like us all to consider how fun it really is. There’s a dopamine hit, no doubt about it. When you’re plunking down the credit card for one more fancy thing you don’t need or you are cozied up to that pint of Ben & Jerry’s, your brain has a chemical reaction to what’s happening that feels good in the moment. But then what happens? Then there’s the hangover.

With overspending, the hangover can start the moment you leave the store. It continues when you drag the new thing home and wonder where you are going to put it. It keeps going, as the credit card bill arrives and the balance increases and the interest ratchets up and all of your opportunities get further and further away because you are in a deeper and deeper financial hole. It is a very long hangover for a few moments of dopamine.

The same thing happens with overeating. With sugar especially, in whatever form you are drawn to,  the next day can feel like death. The weight gain is bad enough, and it’s exacerbated by our blood sugar swinging all over the place and we’re jonesing for more, and our faces looks bloated and our bodies feel heavy. We feel so crappy we go out for breakfast and ate a whole bunch more of the same, and the downward spiral continues because it’s a drug. For many of us, once a sugar bender gets started, we find ourselves sucked into a rat-hole of addiction that we would be very concerned about if we were doing our addictive behaviors with other white powders. Sugar is socially sanctioned, however, so those of us who go on those benders and live in those ongoing hangovers are generally supported in our suffering.

Here’s what I’d like to suggest. Let’s reconsider the fun of anything that involves a hangover, particularly one that is as deep and protracted as those that are caused by overeating and overspending.

Let’s set a higher standard for our fun. It should be fun in the moment, and there shouldn’t be a payback. We should feel better after we have fun, not worse.

How do we do this? All we have to do is think about what we really want.

Direct your brain towards what you really want

The thing I find the most fun professionally is intellectually stimulating engagement with other entrepreneurs. People who want to serve others and grow wealth and manage their minds. This is one of the reasons I started this podcast. When I am in that environment, working with people who want to build something and become a better version of themselves in the process, Cherry Garcia is the furthest thing from my mind.

Personally, what I really want is to live in a beautiful body. A lot of people spend their time redecorating their houses, it’s become a national obsession, but I view my body as the place where I live, and I want it to look and feel wonderful. When I am directing my thoughts towards that desire, which is very intense for me, having that seems a lot more fun than Cherry Garcia.

How fun would it be to have an amazing business with lots of happy clients and significant revenues that are the scorecard of serving them? Pretty fun, right? Directing our thoughts towards the fun of building that and having it, and away from a few seconds of false fun that just leaves us with the hangover, that’s where wealth happens. We move away from broke and bulky, and towards getting Rich and Thin.

It is all about managing our minds. If we want to create something amazing, something that is fun all the way through, we must direct our brains towards the things that are really fun, and away from the seductive thing that offers us false fun. It feels good in the moment, but it takes us to a place that we don’t really want to go.

Reassess What’s Fun

Another thing we can do to avoid the lore of false fun is to develop a really granular view of what is happening when we are engaging in fake pleasures.

Instead of standing at the Nordstrom counter and rewarding yourself with yet another handbag to make yourself feel better, feel beautiful, feel like you fit in, like you’ve arrived, tell yourself a different story. Paint that scene with a different brush. What’s actually happening in that scene could be described as purchasing the skin of an animal that has been riveted and sewn together and polished and dyed so you can dangle it over your arm to impress people you don’t know and possibly don’t even like at the expense of your opportunities and ultimate wealth and happiness. It doesn’t sound so seductive anymore, does it?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a great bag. But there is a time and a place to buy them, and when you’re struggling with debt, that probably isn’t the right time. And they can lose their seduction, their hold over us, if we describe the process of buying them differently, in a less seductive way. We can tell ourselves an equally accurate story about purchasing a fancy purse that makes buying them anything but appealing. You can do this with anything. You can do it with alcohol or food or even procrastination. Instead of, “I’m enjoying some Netflix and giving myself a break” we can describe it as, “I’m letting my life and my dreams go by while I watch something on this TV that’s not even really that entertaining.” This thought always gets me up off the couch. I’m not sure if exactly this thought will work for you because we’re all very different, so let me know if you need some help on this. I’m here for you.

Replace false fun with meaningful work and leisure

One reason we are terrified to let go of the false fun is because it can leave a hole in our lives. If the thing that we’re using for pleasure and entertainment goes away, because now we see that it was a false pleasure, we can have a little bit of an empty feeling. Or maybe a big empty feeling. We can also have quite a bit of extra time in our schedules, because false pleasures, and recovering from the hangovers they cause, can take up a great deal of time.

So as we’re doing this work, we need to give ourselves permission to not fill that up with frippery or other forms of false fun, but rather to go deep into whatever it is that we find very exciting and very interesting. My clients who learn to let go of false pleasures, whether it’s food or alcohol or overspending or a particular type of socializing that seems fun in the moment but leaves you feeling empty afterwards, whatever it is, shedding the weight of it will leave you poised for doing something much more meaningful. That’s where our wealth is. It’s where we become more connected to our friends and families, it’s where we serve our clients better, it’s where we do the most important and valuable work. There is no deprivation involved. When you’re in that place, you feel fantastic, because everything you’re doing matters to you, and nothing is dragging you down.

I really want this for you, so like I said earlier, let me know if I can help. Go to Rich and then.com to set up a free session with me, or email me at kelly@richandthin.com and we can connect that way. And I’d also like to ask, if you are enjoying the podcast, I would love it if you would share it with a friend and leave a rating or review in iTunes. They really do help the show and in getting the message out there to others. So please leave one if you would be so kind, and I will look forward to connecting with you next week.

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