How Money Helps You Create Great Work

hand holds book of big idea“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.”
-Steve Jobs

I was speaking with a friend the other day who said, “No offense, but money people are so obsessed with cash that they forget to create. They’re so obsessed with profits that they miss the point of life.

To some degree, I think that’s true.

There are actually studies that have shown that many uber-rich people are mean and unkind, and money helped them become that way. The issue is when we believe we’ll avoid ever becoming that type of person, by simply never focusing on money.

That’s where the wheels come off the bus, so to speak.

Money isn’t a problem if you’re using it to create good in the world. Money isn’t an issue if you’re developing your craft and trying to ensure that your art is noticed.

Money only becomes an issue when all that you can think about is the pursuit of the next dollar.

Even great investors aren’t obsessed with money. Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, has said many times that he’s obsessed with the same things that most of my creative friends and clients are obsessed with: he wants to find perfection. He’s looking at companies and investments and trying to find a better way to accomplish as much as possible. The money? Sure, it’s a yardstick for Buffett as to how well he’s doing, but it’s far from the focus. He’s acknowledged that when he dies, Buffett is giving the vast majority of his money to non-profit groups…. not to his children!

Perhaps one of the biggest frustrations I experience working with creative people is that so many wonderful ideas they have bottled up never get out. Why? There are many reasons…They’re too busy worrying about next week’s rent or car payment. They have credit card bills they can’t pay. They’re wasting away in dead end jobs to make ends meet and then find themselves too tired to produce the greatness they have inside.

What solves these problems? Not money itself, but financial literacy.

If your goal, like Steve Jobs, is to create something wonderful, then you have to be financially literate. You don’t need to know about cash management, insurances and investing so that you’ll become rich. You need to know the basics so that you don’t waste time tripping over inconsequential details while you’re busy perfecting your craft.

How Do You Do It?

1)    Know Yourself. A friend of mine knows that he’s not into hard-core “how to” stuff. However, he likes to laugh. So for him, any hard-core financial book isn’t going to be as good for him as something that holds his attention. Once you know how you learn, you’ll be best able to focus on those avenues that help you to gain  literacy most quickly.

2)    Join groups. Discussing financial topics with like-minded people helps you create a surround sound in your life. If it’s true that you are what you think about, then surrounding yourself with positive messages about money is something you should look to achieve. Don’t live near people who share your values? Thankfully, there’s a big wide internet waiting for you!

3)    Listen to podcasts. One friend of mine has a long commute to work, so he listens to podcasts while he’s driving. Some days these are financial shows. Just like my other friend above, he isn’t into hard-core how to tips, so he sticks with fun shows like NPR’s Planet Money, or Freakonomics, where they take an idea and creatively tell a story about how economics or money affect your life. Don’t have a long commute? Listen while exercising or use an app like Stitcher, which allows you to listen at 1.5x or 2x speed.

4)    Read magazines and blogs. While some financial blogs can be seriously depressing, others (like this one!) are full of upbeat tips and advice. The good news is that there are many, many financial blogs out there, so if you’re excited about investing…there are blogs for that. Not into investing, but just want creative financial discussions? Those exist also.

5)    Find books and television shows where money and creativity intersect. Many of my friends enjoy the show Shark Tank. While it’s not for everyone, here’s what it’s about: people bringing creative ideas to market, try to sell investors on their ideas. Even fictional shows, like The Good Wife, have a money component. The law firm at the center of the show is constantly fighting bankruptcy and is always worried about how much money a case will win them (as much as it’ll win their client….). Many people think you have to find inspiration from straightforward sources, but if I focus my decision-making, I can easily find ideas that help my craft.

Don’t avoid putting your financial house in order only because you’re worried that getting rich will get in the way of creativity. Plenty of the world’s best creators are wealthy (and NOT horrible) people. By tying financial literacy into the success formula for building your craft, you’ll not only show the world your unique talents. You’ll be able to sustain your ability to create more in the future.