I’ve written a few times about the “deals” I have obtained by trading with customers, vendors and suppliers over the past few years. As isolated instances, they are fun to talk about and it always feels good to have a win/win exchange. But in this day and age we all need to be more creative with our finances. I think the HUGE change that needs to be made in our community is to redefine finances. I have decided to write my first ever series. I think how our company evolved has a lot to do with how I see commerce changing and how I believe thinking about these changes may benefit you and yours. Bear with me for a few weeks and let me know if any of this resonates with you.
For years I (and I think most people have) defined finances as money. How much do I have to spend? How can I get more? How can I reduce what I spend? How much money can I save for a rainy day? These were questions that I asked myself casually for years. I have always been money driven in my different careers. I earned a lot early on in my professional career, and spent it as fast as I made it. Then LOVE came along and I was married and eventually had kids. I still earned a good bit, but had much less “disposable” income. Who the heck came up with that combination of words? The problem was, I never made the transition between making money and spending it, to making it and making sure it went to the right places. Everything I had ever done was designed to make money, and there certainly would be more around the corner, right??? Then, in early 2007 it started raining. And not just raining, but cats chasing dogs, pouring buckets of blood, your house is worth 60% of what it was worth yesterday kind if raining. Yes, the economy tanked. Yes, Stockton (where Laura, Jackson and Molly and I lived at the time) was the poster child for the national mortgage collapse. But the reality, when I finally decided to look myself in the mirror, was that I had not only lived beyond my means on the certain knowledge that there was always another pot of gold around the corner, but I had put my wife and kids in the position of having no choice but to spin with me down the rabbit hole.
I spent a long time thinking about how unlucky I was. Meanwhile, we short sold our home, and moved into a rental. I thought more about how to get us our of this while I was playing golf with my buddies who were also in denial about their financial situations. Finally, I came to my senses and realized I had to give up the country club membership. By that I mean that I had to go to my best friend (the club manager) and tell him I couldn’t pay the bill he had been carrying me on. That was the second hardest conversation of my life. Let me be clear… the conversations between Laura and I over that time were 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. There were many of those. I would spend all my energy telling her that the next deal was the one that would get us out of this mess. She spent more energy than any human has not smothering me in my sleep for both our sakes. In the end, we had no choice but to call my mom. I had no deals left to sell. Bottom line is I was REALLY lucky. I had somewhere to take my family. Grandpa had not only bought a great property, but had built into it a place which those of us with a severe case of big balls and little brains could fall back on. My late aunt was the first to move in many years ago. My mom did it, and did it with grace. And so I made the call, accommodations were made, and we made the move. I dragged my Key West-raised wife and country club kids from a cul-de-sac in Brookside, Stockton to Grandma’s farm in Sebastopol.
We moved back to the farm and made the best of it. Don’t get me wrong: for me it was familiar, albeit humiliating. The kids adjusted way better and faster than anyone could expect. Laura made them feel as if they had just won the lottery. And I started to look for the next “deal”. The weird thing was that my next big deal was the first REAL thing I had ever done. It started because I had to come up with a way to feed my family. So, I bought a couple piglets and 25 meat birds and raised them to fill our freezer. We already had lambs on the farm. Then lightning struck… I invented the “Meat Annuity”!