Category Archives: money thinking

Perfection is a Money Trap

Money is one of those areas where we have all made some mistakes.

  • We have bought things that didn’t work.
  • We have spent too much money on stuff we never used.
  • We have given people presents they didn’t like.
  • We have lost money on the sale of a house
  • We have gotten “taken to the cleaners” in a divorce.
  • We have run up charges and interest on our credit cards.

And yet we are mostly still here, and kicking!

Sure some of these things were and are avoidable.  And yet they also still serve to give our Inner Critic great fodder for berating us!

There are a couple of things I want to clear up about these ‘errors in judgement‘ and ‘mistakes‘ we all make with our money.

First, you got through them !  The problems may have been messy and costly, but you survived them!  It’s one of the things I think our ancestors that went through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl got trapped in.  They somehow missed that they made it through the troubles, and that they didn’t happen again in the same way.  We tend to practice “one trial learning” with many things.  We tend to either try and hide our head in the sand or decide it will always be like it was, and avoid getting anywhere near the part we think is scary.  We stay trapped.

The other thing I’d really like my readers to consider is the value of the messing up.  Huh, you say!  How can there be value in having gone through that terrible time, that mess?

It’s all about learning!  As humans we actually learn by making mistakes, by being imperfect.  You don’t just get on a bike and ride it the first time.  You wobble and pedal and fall off.  The same process happens a bunch in other aspects of our lives, including money.  We screw up, make mistakes, and learn.  If we don’t make mistakes we don’t learn!

But instead of accepting that we make mistakes, sometimes in order to try and avoid “errors”, we try to be — or appear to be — perfect… yipes!  Just how patient are you with yourself?  Do you keep trying to attain something close to perfection to avoid judgement?  And do you notice that most of the judgement come from your inner critic, instead of the people around you?

Many of us have this thing in our heads about trying to be ‘perfect‘.  I truly think it’s one of the traps our Inner Critics use to keep us stuck in a rut.  Somehow we think we are supposed to be perfect without practice, failing, or learning.  Instead I really like the perspective that Maya Angelou put forth:  “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We do recover, we do persevere, and we do learn.

Money is just one of the assets that we ‘spend’ while we are learning.  Money, Time, and Energy all get spent.   And I’d like to suggest that Money is really just a reflection of the other two: Time and Energy.

Here’s the really interesting question.  How much time, energy, and maybe even money do you spend trying to be perfect, protecting the idea that you are almost perfect, or even hiding that you aren’t perfect?  What if instead of getting trapped by perfection, you actually celebrated your mistakes as ways to learn?  What if it’s really about focusing on the learning, and not beating yourself up about that mistake you made?

It’s really likely that your attempt at perfection is a reaction to some really ‘old stuff’ that actually is no longer present in your life, right?  Like avoiding being judged or lectured.

Seems to me trying to be perfect has us holding on to, and getting stuck in, our errors in judgement, instead of learning from them, perhaps laughing them off, and most certainly moving on… what say you?


Shell Tain, the Untanlger

If you’d like some support letting go of trying for perfection, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Are You Dirigible?

In looking for something to lend a bit of cheer this time of year — and perhaps some new money perspectives — I’ve come up with a new slant on your money beliefs.  What happens when you treat your money like a blimp?

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a truly silly 1930, Cecil B. DeMille film called ‘Madam Satan’.  I love these pre-code movies with the risque dialog and wild clothes, not to mention wacky plots.  This one is about the wife trying to get her cheating, playboy husband back from the ‘party girl’, Trixie.  Of course most of the action centers around a costume ball which includes auctioning off the ladies to rich guys!  The party is being held on a Zeppelin because that is what every wildly rich person does, right?  It’s quite a ride.

You won’t be surprised to find out that in the midst of the musical numbers and witty repartee there is a thunder storm which causes the Dirigible to go down.  It is a DeMille movie after all.  Naturally, there are some clever ways our ‘heroes’ end up surviving.

All this reminded me of the actual definition of Dirigible: “capable of being directed, steerable” — thus a blimp, air ship, or Zeppelin is a ‘steerable balloon.’

Okay, now this is not just a bit of whimsy.

It got me to thinking about the challenge that many folks have ‘directing and steering’ their personal money.

Your money can certainly feel like this big bag of air that seems to get untethered and wander off on its own, leaving you holding the string.  Perhaps it even feels like it has a mind of its own.  For many folks, things like student loans and credit card debt feel like big unwieldy things looming over you.

The crucial thing to do is to become more “dirigible”.  How might you make your money easier for you to manage, control and “steer”?

Like most complex things, it’s about smaller chunks, and processes.

How do you manage other projects?  What techniques work for you?  I’ll bet that there is a way you can use those same ideas around money?  Going back to the blimp analogy, it feels like you have to steer your money the way ‘experts’ do.  To that I say “not so much”, especially when it comes to your day-to-day money “dirigibility”!

The important thing is to find an simple way  to pay attention to what you are up to with your money — a way that allows you to ‘direct and steer’ it and also to enjoy and engage in the process.  Something more manageable than a giant zeppelin above you  that you try and steer from a tiny basket underneath!

Play with this a bit and see where it takes you.  And of course, if you need a bit of support in figuring out how to be more dirigible with your money, let me know!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

The Upside of a Bad Money Behavior

This week I’ve invited my friend, Kathleen Burns Kingsbury to be a guest blogger.  She and I have been chatting about money and how it effects our clients every month for years now.  As you can tell from her words below we clearly have a similar take on how money thinking stymies us! See more about her, at the end of the blog.  If you’d like to check out her fascinating new book:  “Breaking Money Silence®” 

Have you ever wondered why you don’t always act in responsibly ways when it comes to money? Or maybe you are financially fit and find it hard to understand why a loved one seems to spend or invest money in an irrational manner. The reason is simple. There is an upside to every bad money behavior.  That is why it is so difficult to change poor habits, including unhealthy financial habits. The short-term gain keeps you coming back for more.

Dana is a great example. She loves to buy expensive gadgets, but knows that she spends too much of her take home pay on these toys. Dana knows that this spending behavior is getting in the way of her goal to save for a down payment for her first home. When asked, Dana tells me that she wants to stop overspending on electrics.  But her actions tell a different story.

What Dana doesn’t realize is that buying something new gives her a rush, makes her feel good after a long week at work, and boosts her self-esteem. All her friends fondly call her “the gadget queen.” There is a big upside to this unhealthy money behavior. Until Dana appreciates the benefits of this habit, it will be hard, if not impossible to change.

Do you identify with Dana? Do you have a habit or behavior that you would love to stop but find it difficult to let go of? If so, here are some inquiries for you to consider.

What is the short-term benefit of this money behavior?

As a trained behavioral change specialist, I always look for the brilliance in the bad behavior. In other works, what are the benefits of staying stuck or not changing? In Dana’s case not changing her spending habits helped her feel good about herself and good in the moment.

What would it be like to not receive this short-term benefit?

The first step in changing an unhealthy habit is realizing how it serves you. In Dana’s case, the bad habit was paired with feeling good and special. If she is going to save more money, and spend less money she will have to grieve the loss of the excitement she feels each time she buys the latest gadget. This is not an easy task, but possible. It is easier to sit with uncomfortable feelings once you label them and know that feeling them is temporary and part of what will ultimately help you heal. 

What other coping strategy can I use to get these needs met?

Dana’s desire to feel good about herself is not unhealthy and in fact, is a good thing. It is just that how she is going about it is hurting her financially. When you want to change a habit make sure you find other ways of meeting your underlying need. In Dana’s case, she started a blog about gadgets. This way she didn’t have to buy every toy, but could stay up on the latest trends in electronics. She also was still seen as “the gadget queen” by her friends and that was an important part of her identity.

Asking these three questions will help you identify the upside of any unwanted money habit. While the answers are not a magic wand, they do provide valuable data to aid in the change process. So the next time you are beating yourself up for a bad habit, instead wonder about the upside.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is a wealth psychology expert, founder of KBK Wealth Connection, host of the  Breaking Money Silence® podcast, and the  author of several books including How to Give Financial Advice to Women and How to Give Financial Advice to Couples. Her new book, Breaking Money Silence:  Shatter Money Taboos by Helping Your Clients Openly Discuss Their Finances was published September 30, 2017. For more information, visit

Thanks Kathleen, I love having you come play!

Shell Tain, The Untangler


First Things First

When it comes to untangling our myriad of personal money knots, it seems to me there is an essential concept that is missing.  It’s about putting first things first.

Do you have some challenges with money?   Around 97% of us do.  There are bunches and bunches of problems people have with money.  Although there are many, many variations, it mostly it comes down to:

  • Not having as much as we want.
  • Not knowing how to manage it.
  • Spending more that we make.

In other words we realize that something isn’t working for us around money.  And whatever we have decided the missing piece is, we then seek to ‘fix’ it directly.  We try to make more.  We take a class on budgeting.  We set rules around spending.  All that sounds like a great idea… and yet, it doesn’t work, does it?

It’s actually pointing to a much bigger issue, one that I discovered long ago in ‘Corporate Land’.  In my day as a Controller/CFO, the ‘rule’ was to not bring up a problem unless you had a solution.  Sounds good, but there is a big trap in there.

The trap is that you end up ‘fixing’ things that aren’t the actual problem, and thus actually creating more problems.

Huh?  Well in business the fix is usually a form or a procedure, and if it doesn’t address the real underlying issue, it just makes for more bureaucracy and fiddly irritation, right?  I finally learned that the longer process of actually discussing the issue came up with much more effective solutions!

So let’s go visit a hypothetical married couple and see what’s happening in the money tangle of their marriage.  For grins lets say that he keeps a budget to the penny and is watching money all the time, and that she never looks at it and spends it on things that make her feel good.  They fit the criteria we had above — not having enough, not managing it well, and spending too much.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that talking about money is less than fun for them? It’s pretty messy and challenging, right?

So what solutions do they try?  My guess is all sorts of things that are based on changing the behavior without actually understanding what caused it in the first place.  They get into a push-me/pull-you power game that doesn’t take into consideration the ‘Why’ under the behavior.

And yes, I’m back to my concept that we all have 5-year-olds running our money:

  • Because it is the most taboo topic on the planet
  • Because no one talks about how to actually deal with it
  • Because we make up ways to manage it that make sense to our little kid brain
  • Because we then leave the little kid part of us in charge so we don’t have to deal with it

And so I come back to ‘First Things First’.  No budget or plan will work until you understand what your little kid part decided about money.  No lecture or personal rant from yourself or your spouse will help until you dig deep and find out what you made up about money.

By what you ‘made up’ I mean conclusions that you came to, most likely as a child, about money.  Let me give you some actual examples of conclusions clients have shared with me:

  • Money ruins families
  • Money was the only way my family showed affection
  • Money was the only criteria for success in my family
  • My family believed money was bad and evil

Are there all sorts of wonderful ways to manage and handle your money more effectively?  Absolutely!  I have, use, and share a bunch of them—and they don’t help at all until you’ve untangled the underlying knot.  Until you’ve addressed the likely ineffective thinking you’ve been operating under for years.

Please give yourself the gift of addressing first things first before you leap into the action steps!  The results will be much more effective, truly!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some help in untangling that really old hidden money knot in your head, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

“Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees”

Money doesn't grown on trees… but it can grow!We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we?  It’s an example of a money belief—an idea that we have about money.  We all have beliefs around money, yet somehow we don’t actually try to untangle them. We shy away from looking at the beliefs.

Instead we tend to try some method of crunching numbers or budgeting.  We put money in envelopes, we watch our spending on our cell phones.  Some even play with my handy dandy “GOSH” model.  (Which by the way is very cool and useful!)

And here’s the truth:  None of that really works until you figure out what your money beliefs are, and if you want to keep them!  Your money behavior is driven by your money beliefs.

You will create and perpetuate your beliefs around money.  You just will!  Frankly we do that with all our beliefs.  We find the information that supports them, and we ignore the information that refutes them.  It’s part of all that lovely pattern making that goes on in our heads.

Of course, with money it’s more complex than with other things because of that whole money being a taboo topic thing!  Since we don’t talk with others  or even ourselves about our money beliefs that just keep influencing our choices over and over.

Which of these have you ever heard, thought or found yourself believing?

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • You’ll have to work really hard and you’ll still never make any money.
  • There is never enough!
  • Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people.
  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • I am not good with money.
  • I can’t do math, so I can’t do money.
  • I feel like I must have been out sick the day they actually explained money.
  • Having debt means I’m a bad person.

Those are just some of the most common ones.  There are no doubt thousands of possible money beliefs that will hinder or hold back your effectiveness with the stuff.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about how much of it you have, I’m talking about what is your relationship with money?  Do you see it as a tool and ally, or as an enemy?

What do you make up about money?  Really, what do you make up about money?  Make a list!  Now look at each one of those beliefs and ask yourself a couple of questions, like:

  • Is this really true?  Like 100% of the time TRUE?
  • Is this my belief?  Or is it my family’s belief?  Or even, is it my cultures belief?
  • What might be different if I changed this belief?

That’s one of the cool things about beliefs: we can change them.  It takes noticing that you want to change the belief.  Then it takes both patience and maybe even humor to work on changing it.

One of my favorite ways to accomplish the change in beliefs is to throw in another option every time I hear myself either thinking or saying the belief.  It works like this: You follow the belief statement with something like, “…except when it’s not!”  (Examples:  Money’s hard to come by… except when it’s not.  Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people… except when they are!)

So ‘Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees‘ — except it can grow.  It can be different.  And you can do better with it.  It all starts with choosing how you want to think about it.  As humans we are really committed to proving our beliefs.  We see it all the time.  So figure out what your beliefs are, and, if continuing to prove your current beliefs to be true actually makes your life worse, try understanding and re-framing the belief.

Just imagine how much easier all this money stuff would be if you had some positive thoughts about it!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to play with this belief changing idea more, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Misplaced Loyalty

Loyalty can be a truly wonderful thing—on both the giving and receiving side—and like most things, being loyal can lead to some negative results.  The misplaced loyalty knot I’d like to talk about is all tangled up with biology and anthropology.

It starts before we are born.  On the biology side it really stems from those big brains we have—or rather how much more growing they need to do after we are born.  We have to be cared for by the parent for a much longer time compared to many other species.  It’s not just about walking and talking, it’s also about the complexity of human society.  We need to learn how to communicate and behave.  All very complex things going on in a brain that isn’t really ‘grown’ until early adulthood—despite our strong teenage opinions!

We have tons of things to learn, and we learn those things from our parents.  To make that learning more effective we are biologically hard-wired to be loyal to the parent.   We take whatever they say or do as the “gospel truth” when we are little.  We HAVE to!  They are our protection from danger, our source of food, and our primary source of knowledge.  We absolutely cannot afford to piss them off—they might abandon us!  And if they did that, we would die.  That is as true for us today as it was when we humans were hunter/gatherers long ago.

That hard-wired loyalty has a bit of a dark side though.  When it comes to money it gets messy.  And around money, all that loyalty creates huge problems for generation after generation.  It’s that thing where we don’t talk about money since it’s so taboo!  We learn about money without any actual training,  by observation only and thus we absorb and create many odd ideas.  Not only are the ideas a bit strange but they are hidden—we aren’t conscious of them.

This misplaced loyalty creates a bunch of strange results:

  • If your parents fought about money you will likely fight with your spouse about money.
  • If your parents fought about money you may very well decide that money is evil and bad, and make sure to have as little of it as possible.
  • Women will often unconsciously make sure they do not make more money than they perceived their fathers did as some kind of loyalty.
  • Perhaps the only way your parents expressed affection was with money, so that’s the currency for you to give or receive affection.

On and on it goes, and we don’t actually consciously recognize we are caught in these old familial traps around money because they somehow just “are”—they are so ingrained in our brains we have never ventured to distinguish and analyze them.

That is exactly what I would invite you to do!  Spend some time thinking about—maybe even journaling—about you and your money.   Do some digging.  See how what you are doing with money relates to how your family handled and talked about it.  You’ll find that you are doing something very similar to what you perceived your parents did, or you are doing the opposite of what they did.  The ‘perceived‘ word is in there because the topic is so taboo you probably don’t know what they actually did with money  You only know how you percieved what you saw and heard around money.

It’s a knot well worth untangling because this misplaced loyalty has been influencing your relationship with money all your life.  If you look more closely at it you can then make a choice to keep it or change it.  That’s the problem with taboo things that never get discussed.  We don’t even recognize we are caught in them, let alone that we have a choice.   Give yourself the choice!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support understanding how this loyalty piece played out in your family, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

The Eclipse and Money – Something in Common?

I live in Oregon, just about 30 miles from the magic belt of ‘Totality’ so the eclipse stuff has been big here.  Everyone has been talking about it.  People gathered together to get closer, whether in a campsite or a festival.  People all over the country made a special effort to be in it and see it.  That’s a big change!

Centuries ago a solar eclipse was a message from the Gods, and not a fun one!  the sky goes dark, the sun disappears and is left this weird ring around it.  The stars in the heavens shine in the day time.  The animals behave oddly.  “Wow!  Scary stuff.  We’d better sacrifice a few virgins before this gets worse!”

It was a big, scary event.  It made no sense.  There was no ‘science’ about it.  No one knew anything for sure.  Some folks made up things, and they were mostly fear based.  After all, these were generally tough times, what with plagues, droughts, and no plumbing.

And then along came science.  Well, actually science came along, and humans in general resisted it.  Hmm… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Around 500 b.c.  some folks were beginning to embrace the idea that eclipses might be a natural phenomena. Edmund Halley and some others were very sure about that by 1715 a.d.

Today we lean toward it, instead of away — because we know what it really is: the moon crossing in front of our view of the sun.  And those who ventured to see it in totality report it was amazing, emotional, and wonderful.

“Okay, lovely” you say: “What has that got to do with money?”

Well besides the fact that people are willing ‘spend’ a bunch of both time and money to go see the eclipse in all it’s glory, there is a lovely metaphor in this event.

What’s the most taboo topic in our culture?  What’s the thing your parents used everyday and never actually taught you about?  What’s that thing that it feels like everyone else has figured out, and you are  just clueless about?  What is the most bewildering, mysterious, and scary commodity on earth?  Money!

For most people, the real problem with money isn’t money, it’s what we make up about the stuff.  We often treat it as if it was an evil entity trying to keep us from our good — a spirit or god perhaps?  We act as if it has a will of it’s own, like it somehow magically disappears or keeps us from our dreams.

The real issue is that we look at money as a weird, mysterious, almost mystical thing that we just don’t have the alchemical wisdom to decipher.  We align with the taboo about the subject that our parents and ancestors have held for so long.  It stems from the pile of ideas like:

  • The only people who talk about money are greedy people
  • Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people
  • You have to work really hard and you will still never make any money

These ideas limit us, and frankly aren’t the TRUTH.  They are possibilities, but they aren’t absolute truths.  What these thoughts actually do is keep you from actually looking at your money, noticing what you are doing and not doing with it, and changing your thinking and actions about it.

Money will tell you exactly what you are doing with it, if you just look.  And it is you that are making the choices around your money.  Money doesn’t actually cause things, it just reflects what you are choosing.

So how can you look at your money more like the modern day Solar Eclipse experience?  Do you need special glasses (perhaps a bookkeeper?) to help you see what is going on?  Can you think about it as a natural result of the Moon moving across the sun (you spending more than you make?)  instead the will of an angry god?

How can money become the thing you actually want to spend time with and look at?  How can you eclipse your past around money?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to chat more about your own money eclipse possibilities , just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

How I Learned About Money

First, let me say that this is a blog I’m writing particularly for Adam Naor to share on  Pennybox is an app for kids to learn about earning and using money in a practical and fun way. I was delighted to find out Pennybox is doing something directed specifically to kids around money.  Adam asked me for a blog to use on Pennybox—about myself and how I learned about money—so I, of course thought I should share it with you.  Here goes!

The story is all about me and my dad, A. C. Royden Stone, known as Stoney.  A little bit of context about Dad and money.  My dad was 1957 Dad and Meborn in Oklahoma in 1925, he lived through the dust bowl as a little kid.  My grandparents moved to Wyoming in the 30’s and opened a ‘lunch room’ which was run by the family.  Dad served in WWII and was a POW held in a German prison camp.   When my parents first met he was riding the rodeo circuit and dealing poker for a living.  By the time I was five he had sold insurance, had ‘made it rain’ for farmers in Washington by selling ‘seeding clouds’ and was managing a Pepsi plant in Minnesota.

He was what one calls a ‘self-made’ man.  Later in life he went on to become a TV producer, manage cable TV systems, and—even later—motels.  This background sets the stage for his relationship with money.  He always had a bunch of cash, and was likely to buy a round for the bar.  I don’t think he ever really tracked it or accounted for it—which makes his earnest and engaging methods of getting me both comfortable and savvy with it all the more remarkable.  I was an only child, born in the early 50’s, and a girl.  He wanted to make sure I was smart and self sufficient when it came to money.

He started me early, and he made it engaging, fun, and emotionally rewarding.   When I was really young it was more about numbers than money.  The tool he used then was to teach me how to play poker.  Important life lessons were learned through learning old gambling terms—about “breasting your cards” (not flapping them around), and “not betting on the cards to come” (assuming the right cards will show in the next deal).   Really good things to know in addition to the numbers piece.

When I started getting an allowance part of the deal was that in order to get the allowance I had to keep a ledger of my spending.  It had two columns:  Income and Outgo.  If it was up to date and balanced, I got my allowance.  The brilliant part here was that he had no judgement around what I spent, he just wanted me to account for it.  Trust me, if this had been my Mother, she would have had judgement about every entry, and I would have not been able to succeed.  I think that was an inherent part of his strategy, he wanted me to feel good about this money stuff, so he framed it in a way that I would.

Amazingly it was only a couple of years ago while talking to a client about my dad’s ‘money training’ that I had a clear insight about this one thing he did.  He would borrow money from me on a Friday night in order to take my mother out.  This started when I was about nine.  I was delighted to help my dad!  I felt so ‘grown up’.  And he would always pay me back on Monday with interest, so there was that cool idea of ‘investing’ thrown in there.  What I didn’t realize, but am now sure of is that he never actually needed to borrow the money!  He ALWAYS had a wad of cash.  He was doing this so I would learn about money.  Yay, Dad!

There were other examples and the last one I’ll share is no doubt his favorite!  I was about 13 and wanted a sewing machine.  My dad said that if I saved half the money he’d give me the other half.  I saved and saved money from baby sitting for quite awhile—in those days baby sitting was 50 cents to a dollar an hour!  When I had the money together I went to Dad and he asked how much the machine I wanted was.  I said: “$125.00”, and he said: “Okay, then I’ll give you $62.50” to which I said: “No, just give me $60.00.  I want owning interest.”  In that moment he was the happiest man on earth.  He had successfully taught me about money!

It is no wonder that I ended up an accountant.  The actual magic is that I ended up a Money Coach.  See, my deeper nature is not about crunching the numbers but about understanding why people do what they do.  So with the great relationship that my dad helped me create with money, I was not only able to manage and understand money, but to notice when others were bewildered by it.  When another executive I worked with came into my office one day and, after closing the door, sat down and said: “Shell, I need your help, I can’t balance my checkbook!”, I knew that this was not a skill set issue.  It was deeper than a method—it was in his head.  That was just another event that led me to my current career of helping people untangle their money knots…and fundamentally, without my dad and his loving care in helping me be at ease with money, that would never have happened.  I’ll love him forever, for that, and so much more.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Other People’s Money… Knots

This week I have invited my friend, Arthur Breur, to be a ‘guest blogger’.  He came up against a very interesting “money knot” while asking for contributions to support an overture he composed for the Tualatin Valley Symphony.  And it you want to come see its debut performance here’s where to get your tickets for the May 21st, 7:00 p.m. concert. Take it away, Arthur!

Tualatin Overture by Arthur BreurI recently experienced an interesting “money knot” situation that Shell and I thought you might find value in.

First, a little bit of my own history.

I have composed music my entire life, and I consider it my best talent and skill. But I have never worked “full time” as a composer. I have worked in print, graphic design, and website design, and many years ago started my own “multimedia” business that currently focuses on web development.

Around my 40th birthday, as many people do, I started to think about my life and what I really wanted to accomplish. Where had my dreams gone of composing? I still thought of myself as being a composer, but I had barely composed anything for years.

I pulled out the old sheet music from my various compositions, in every state of completion, and started working on them again. That was about nine years ago, and in those nine years I have easily composed as much music as I had over the twenty-some years before that.

A few years ago, I took these efforts one step farther and joined the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce as a composer. I have always made sure my company belonged to the local chamber, but I wanted to make it official that I was now also “in the business” of composing music.  It was a first step toward getting paid for writing music, and therefore being considered as a “professional” composer!

Then, through an event put on by the Chamber of Commerce I was introduced to the Tualatin Valley Symphony. That’s right: a symphony orchestra performs practically in my own back yard! Well, to make what could be a very long story very short, in late October 2016, I met the orchestra’s Conductor & Music Director, Mark Perlman, and he offered that if I composed a piece for the orchestra’s May 2017 concert, they would perform it—which was the moment of inception for my new work, the Tualatin Overture.  Through all this  I was deftly stepping over the idea of my composing actually generating income!

Enter the Chamber of Commerce “AM Networking” events.

When I first conceived of the Tualatin Overture, I did not spend any time imagining that it was a commission. It was an offer from the conductor of a non-profit community orchestra to perform a work, but it was not the offer to pay me for it. I was eager to create a piece of music that would be performed by an orchestra, and I strategically planned that it would be something I did for the City of Tualatin, hoping that doing so might give the work extra “legs” beyond a single performance—but I was not expecting that I would be compensated financially by the orchestra or by the city.

At some point it occurred to me that, even though this was not a commissioned work, I need not be entirely on my own spending so much of my own time and money (sheet music needs to be printed out, copyrights need to be filed, etc.) on the project. While I was the only person who would be creating the music, surely members of the Tualatin community—businesses and individuals both—would feel that this project was something that they could support. So I came up with the plan to appeal for patrons of the work, and I planned that the first group I would reach out to would be local businesses. The perfect opportunity for this kind of request was the Chamber’s weekly AM Networking event, which includes the opportunity to pay $5.00 for one minute of time in front of the members of the Chamber—usually more than 50 business owners and representatives.

So I stood in front of the Tualatin Chamber and reminded them that I was composing the Tualatin Overture, and announced that I was looking for patrons whose names and businesses would be included on the score and in the program notes I would be creating for the composition. I had come up with the initial target of getting total commitments of $1,000 that day, and asked for five or more contributions of $200 each.

And here comes the “money knot”—and the surprising outcome.

After the AM Networking ended that day and people were milling around chatting, a member of the Chamber—who happens to also be a fan of my music—very forthrightly, and with every intention of helping, suggested that asking for contributions of $200 was just too much, and I should have asked for contributions of, say, $20 instead. Yes, it would take more contributions, but I would get more people contributing at a more “manageable” cost.  (I immediately noticed that this person’s perspective was influenced by a money knot, of not ‘asking for too much’ and that my situation was an example of what Shell refers to as others dumping their ‘money stuff’ on us.)

Then, right as I was having that conversation, another chamber member walked up and said they wanted to be a patron for the overture, and offered a contribution for $500 on the spot. They certainly had a different money perspective of how much was ‘enough’ or ‘too much’, and suddenly with just a single patron, I was halfway to my starting goal!

Later that same day I reached out to another chamber member who had not been able to be at the AM Networking. This was someone who is a long-time fan and who had previously commissioned me to compose a song as a birthday gift for a relative. Without my mentioning a number, they offered to write a check for $500.

So within the day I had achieved my initial target of $1,000 from just two eager patrons. I have continued pursuing more patrons and will so until I have to print the “final” score and program notes for the premiere performance.

I can’t help but wonder how the day might have turned out if I had asked for $20 contributions—or if I had asked for $500 contributions.  It’s very interesting to look at how our thinking about money can either limit or expand our possibilities.

And now here I am, a working composer, making money at my craft.

— Arthur Breur

Thanks, Arthur!

Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d a bit more conversation about how money thinking effects your money results, give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Backing Away From Money?

Have you ever found yourself doing that? Backing away from money? People do it way more often than you might think. If you pay attention, you may even find yourself doing it. Let me give you a couple of pretty interesting examples.

When I first started being a Money Coach I noticed this weird thing that would often happen to me at networking events. Someone would introduce me as  a Money Coach and people would literally back away from me. It was pretty disconcerting. I’d find myself checking to see if I had an odd odor emanating from me, or some part hanging out that shouldn’t be… nope, nothing like that. It was simply because I represented Money and it’s a big, scary taboo topic.

Here’s another one.  Year’s ago when my then husband and his brother inherited a fairly large chunk of change this odd thing happened.  I was in the kitchen getting some food ready to take to the table and my brother-in-law was standing there.  I asked him if there was anything particular he was going to do with the money, and mentioned something like “hiring a financial planner” to help him.  He literally backed up, and went to another room.  Ah the faux pas strikes again!

More recently, I was at an Opening Studio event being held by Sari de la Motte of Forte.  Her company works with people around making sure that the messages they are sending with tone and body match the verbal messages.  This event was specifically for attorneys.  I was part of a mock jury, and the attorneys were delivering their opening arguments to us, and then getting feedback from us, and coaching from Sari.  Of course, I can’t tell you anything about the four different cases, which were fascinating!  What I can tell you is that when each one of them got to talking about money they backed up.  Wow!  Trial attorneys!  Amazing.  Money is the vehicle they use to determine damages and worth of their cases.

And just to make the point even clearer, let me give you one closer to home.  There is a listserv that I belong to, it’s primarily people posting about events, things for sale, classes, etc.   I post a notice of my blog on it when I write one.  That’s mostly twice a month.  You probably get a similar notice via email.  The one on the listserv is simpler in that it doesn’t have any photos.  So I posted a notice of my last blog—the one titled ‘Rehearsing Conversations‘—and I got an email from someone that said: “Please stop sending these.”  I assumed he didn’t want the listserv at all, but no: he didn’t want me on it.  What he said next was: “I like the list. I don’t want to unsubscribe. I just don’t like you over using this for self-promotion.  Too many ‘contributions’ from Ka-ching.”  Wow, talk about gobsmacked!  Even writing this out now, I feel my own personal Defense Horse chomping at the bit to zoom out and gallop all over this! Instead, I’d like you to notice that this guy is in essence backing away from what I have to say. My guess is he hasn’t actually read anything I’ve posted, he’s seen word “Ka-ching” and assumed it’s something about money and that was enough for him.

We often get backed up around money, and it’s pretty likely that we don’t even recognize it’s happening because it’s so overwhelmingly taboo.

And here’s the really important and sticky part of this.  How effective do you think you are going to be at making and amassing money if you avoid it so stridently?  If you can’t bring up your fee without backing up, how do you think the potential client is going to react?  Backing up when it comes to money is frankly antithetical to acquiring it.  We back up and avoid things that are harmful, dangerous, scary, and oh, yes, taboo.  If money is all that, then why do you want it?  Our brains avoid things with mixed messages, and backing away from money, while saying we want it is definitely a mixed message.  Which way do you think your brain is actually going to align with?  You body saying: “back up” or some other part saying: “lean in and get some”?

How about you try taking steps toward your money?  Getting closer?  Getting friendly?  Take a deep breath and step toward it – just see what happens.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d a bit of extra support is moving toward your money, give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at