Money Coaching Blog

We sure do get this money stuff tangled up, don’t we? This is the place where I untangle pieces of it. Most of it’s about money while some of it’s about something else that strikes my interest. All of it is about noticing how things get knotted up and how to untangle the knots. Oh, and if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give it a good shake and see what untangles.

Tension Pattern Breaking

As humans it seems like there is only so much we can take before we explode.  We’ve all been there, to some degree, at some time.  We find something is so frustrating we just sort of snap.  What I’ve noticed in working with clients is that there is often a pattern—or dare I say a “dance”—to this progression.

Think for a moment about how couples fight. There is a dance to that right?  She says X, he says Y, then she counters with X on steroids, and he follows with Y on steroids, and they are off to the races.  It’s a well worn groove in their relationship.

Unfortunately, these patterns can be harmful and destructive to us and others.  And they are deeply ingrained, whether it shows up in road rage or the same argument over and over with a family member.

How do you know if you are stuck in one of these places?  Well, it shows up like your own personal ‘Ground Hog Day’ movie.  You keep repeating the events.  You have the same arguments, with the same results.  Perhaps you keep falling into the same traps in your family?  You to do something to try and please them, and find yourself being criticized for it.  Then maybe you blow up at being treated that way, and then end up having to apologize.  Somehow,  a couple of weeks later, it all happens again.  Yipes!

Yes, it’s messy, complex stuff, and it can have you feeling trapped and helpless.

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this.  I’d like to share some thoughts I have about one way that you may not have considered to both look at it and to change the pattern.

Long ago I read a piece in a book that was about the tension of seeing and wanting the shoes in the shop window.  The author talked about the tension that the desire created, and how it builds.  He then pointed out that the way the tension gets relieved is that you actually buy the shoes!  This a really interesting revelation to me, and really has helped me with a lot of clients.  The recognition that we can only take the tension so long, and then we somehow have to resolve it.  (I would love to share the book with you, but it turns out I have no clue as to where I read it!!!)

So that relief of the tension thing is what happens with a lot of those places where we are frustrated beyond our edge and some how lash out.  We don’t want to keep running around in circles, but we feel stuck, so we do something that resolves it, ends the event, blows things up—whatever.

That leads me to a different book and an idea on one effective way to change this.  This book I have and know!  It’s The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  He talks about how habits have a Trigger — Routine — Reward pattern.  While we are talking about these negative results allow me to take the liberty of changing one word to make his process more accessible to our challenging situations.  My re frame is Trigger — Routine — Result.

Take a moment to see how this pattern of Trigger — Routine — Result  shows up in the places where you get emotionally challenged and caught.  The Trigger is the thing that gets it started.  It’s seeing the shoes, or noticing that something is happening that you don’t like. The Routine is what you do in response to the trigger.  For example you pine and fret about the shoes, or you complain about what you don’t like.  The Result is you buy the shoes, or end up in an argument.  Your example may, of course, be more complex and sophisticated.

Okay, we are up to the place where we change the behavior!  And the change is all about the Routine.  It’s really the important thing to change.  Most of the time you don’t have control over the Trigger because it’s about what someone else said or did.  But you do have a choice around the routine.  You can choose to do something different!  Duhigg’s book really is all about  the idea that we can’t just stop a habit or pattern—we can replace it.  I love this idea.  Part of why I love it is that it reinforces the notion that we have to do something different if we want different results.  So if you change your routine, or response, to the trigger you will create different results.

Try it out, perhaps start with something that isn’t emotionally charged and see if you can’t create a different Result by changing your Response to an old Trigger!  It’s worth trying!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like some support in changing your messier patterns, 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

Humans as Pattern Makers

We humans are particularly adept pattern makers — it’s one of our most effective survival methods — except when it’s not.

Long ago I was an Anthropology major, and one of the things we learned about ‘us‘ is that we are pattern makers.   We tie things together in patterns or ‘baskets’ in our brains so we can lump similar things together. It’s pretty effective in lots of ways.  It helps us focus on the task at hand and ignore other things that might distract us.  It can serve to keep us safe too.

There are places where this type of learning gets a bit quirky, and others where it can be dangerous.  I’ll go quirky first — you kinda knew I would, right?

For many years I sat on a ball chair, you know, sort of like the inflatable Swiss ball things at the gym.  I like them, they are more comfortable to me, especially when sitting for a long time.  It’s something about always adjusting a wee bit to keep your balance and minimize stiffness. However, this is not actually a plug for the ball chair.  It’s an intriguing look inside my brain, oh and my cat’s brain, too.

For years I had been using a little technique to get my own attention.  If there was something important for me to do the next day, or after lunch, or even after I went to the Ladies, I would place the piece of  paper about that on my chair.  That way I would see it or at least notice it when I sat on it!  Great plan.  I had it as a pattern in my brain.  This worked really well until I got the ball chair.  It was pretty funny how long it took me to figure out that paper was going to slide off the ball.  Hmm… ball was something I sat on so it went into the ‘chair’ pattern place in my head, however: ball is round, chair is flat… You can see the problem.

Apparently primates aren’t the only pattern makers.  At that time, Agate — the kitty — was used to jumping up on my desk via the chair.  It only took one time for her to learn that balls, even ones I sat on, are round, unlike chairs.  Neither of us were pleased about this learning experience. She lost some dignity — which if you have a cat, you know “simply isn’t amusing!” — and I had to replace the ball because her claws let out the air.

For both of us the learning was something like, just because different things have some elements in common, they do not always create the same results.

Now for the dangerous part: where we lump together things about people and experiences but using the faulty logic created by our intrinsic pattern making.  Here is an example of that.  I was dating a guy named Gary in high school, who was a Taurus.  My parents had a friend named Alan who was also a Taurus.  Additionally Alan also smoked weed.  My mother wanted me to stop seeing Gary because obviously Gary would smoke weed because he, like Alan, was a Taurus.  (Kinda not — Gary really was a mid-western “rule follower”… no weed.)

Now I grant you this association was wacky reasoning, and yet we tend to do it all over the place, don’t we? It’s the fundamental problem with many conclusions we come to especially around relationships, both personal and professional.  For another example let’s look at Jeff. Jeff was a young, studly programmer I worked with in a start up.  He had just broken up with his girl friend and was getting some counseling.   We talked about it over lunch and I asked him what conclusions he had come to?  He said that he’d decided to no longer date blonds.  Really?  Can you see how the pattern making part of his brain was narrowing on something that probably wasn’t really the issue?

So think about where in your life you might be applying this useful — but imperfect — pattern making logic.  Can you find of any of your own associations that might not really be logical?  Most of us can find at least one time when we applied a pattern thought  extension to the wrong thing.

I’m not suggesting that you just forge ahead and ignore the signal of familiarity with a pattern.  Instead I’m asking you to dig a bit deeper, and see which patterns to apply where.  And there is a really simple solution for how to check out where you are applying old patterns that don’t fit, or are not applicable.  See how it’s different this time.  Spend a bit of time considering what fits the pattern and what doesn’t.  Notice when you are avoiding a new possibility by being overly cautious.  Also, notice if the hair on the back of your neck stands up and tells you to avoid the situation altogether.  It’s all good information.   Basically, check to make sure that there isn’t a baby in the bathwater you are throwing out!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

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

Boomers and Personal Growth

First, in case you didn’t know, I’m a baby boomer—a fairly early one since I was born in 1951.  Lots of individual ‘boomers’ have been pioneers and changed the world.  Paul McCartney is just one of many.  In addition to contributions by many of us individually, there are some remarkable changes they we were the first generation to actually experience.  Things like computers for individual use, space exploration, and the one I really want to talk about today—’personal growth‘.

Actually ‘personal growth’ is  the catch-all phrase I’m using to describe a big cultural change.  I’ve decided, based on my own experience, that my generation is the first one to embrace the radical idea that we can work on changing the baggage from our ancestors and our past without necessarily being considered out-and-out crazy.

Things have shifted.  When I was in high school and having a very hard time with a bunch of things, I asked my dad if I could get some counseling.  His response was: “Sure, we can send you to Camarillo!”  Which meant ‘No!‘  Camarillo was that state mental hospital.  It was a stigma for people of my dad’s generation to get help with their emotions.  He even declined the psychiatric help offered to him after he was liberated from a German prison camp at the end of WWII.

As I grew older there was a shift happening in the mental health field.  It was becoming more and more common for people to seek the support of a psychologist or psychiatrist.  It no longer meant that you were ‘totally crazy’ if you tried to untangle your thoughts and behaviors.  There was still a stigma, but it was much less severe.

It’s an important change for all of us.  For literally centuries people kept doing the same dysfunctional things their families did over and over and over.  There was no way to stop the patterns unless you were willing to accept the judgement involved in ‘getting therapy’.

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Phil’s statement: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”  And I would add the obvious idea that you can’t acknowledge what you are unwilling to look at, work on, or talk about.

I’m really writing this to answer a question I get from a lot of my clients, which goes something like:  Why didn’t my parents do better with this?  The answer to that comes from another quote —this time it’s a paraphrase from Maya Angelou:  We do the best we can until we know better, when we know better we do better.  Our parents didn’t know better. How could they?  Their parents, grandparents, etc. didn’t either.

And then in late 1980’s and early 1990’s all sorts of things started to happen around new ways of not only becoming more aware of our thinking and behavior, but actually consciously doing—as Maya would have said—better!  One of the best of these new ways is the one I work incalled Life Coaching.  Imagine, assisting and supporting people to have better lives,! Helping them to let go of the way it was always done before, be it around work, relationships, or even money!

And it’s all been in my lifetime. Wow!

You know I used to think my grandmother, Cupcake (* see below) had seen the most important and remarkable changes in human history in her lifetime.  She was born in 1900 and died in 2001.  In her hundred years there was electricity, automobiles, flight,  computers — a myriad of amazing and miraculous inventions that changed our lives.

And now I think that it may just be possible that the most miraculous thing is happening in my lifetime — people are readily choosing to break the old patterns and embrace their lives and talents in new ways.   They are doing it through workshops, coaching, counseling, retreats — there are all sorts of paths to personal growth.

Wow, just wow!

(*Okay, I recognize an explanation is in order here—as a little girl I nicknamed her that.  She was short and round and had white hair, thus frosting on top.  The name “Cup Cake” stuck!)


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d like to chat more about this idea of how you can break the pattern, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Hard Won Learning

Many of us were taught that when there is a conflict or a problem we should talk about it, discuss it, resolve it, right?  And one thing I have learned the hard way over the years is that there are some times when that just doesn’t work!

Recently I have had a couple of clients who are learning that too.  It’s a hard habit to break—for many of us it ‘goes against the grain‘ to not actually untangle the knot and examine it!  And yet I am fixin’ to bring up the idea that there are times when it’s neither smart nor effective to bare your soul.

Like most things in life it’s about balance, safety and boundaries.  And it’s also very much about who you are dealing with, and their perspective.

Actually one of the things I do as a coach is try to help people explore what is behind their habits and beliefs—to dig deeper and expose the thought processes and obstacles.  And we do that in a confidential, safe place.  In this instance we are both coming from the place of untangling the knot for the sake of the client.

However their are people in our lives that don’t come from that perspective.  Some may put their own agenda before yours.  Some may actually use the information you give them to hurt or manipulate you.

Unfortunately we all find that out the hard way: we expose some vulnerability and then experience the pain of being hurt by the other person using that information in a negative way.

Truly, I do wish—for all of us—that people would stop doing that. Stop lashing out! And when others lash out it is beyond our control, right? So the thing we need to do is learn to stop giving those that hurt us more ammunition.  And we do that by not sharing the things we have been taught to share with those who will use that information in a negative way!

In essence by “opening the kimono” we share our vulnerability.  It’s a wonderful way to share and create intimacy.  People who are both in the same place of caring and respect in a relationship honor that place.  People who aren’t in that same place, or are compromised by  life-long habits of confrontation and other challenging circumstances, will use your vulnerability against you.

You can’t change that.  You can’t change them.  Sacrificing yourself by continuing to give them more ammo won’t help anyone.

Give some more thought to what to share, and with whom.  Recognize that you really aren’t required to bare your inner thoughts to everyone.  And as the song goes:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

I’m happy to help you sort through who to ‘bare your soul’ to and who to ‘keep it under wraps’ with, just give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Communication Lines Open

One of the greatest things about working with clients is the phrases they come up with to help them develop new habits and techniques.  A favorite of mine, an homage to Star Trek, was a mindset one client came up with to help him focus on several goals when facing difficult situations and conversations.  It went: Shields Up, Weapons Down, Communication Lines Open!’

Basically that would translate to something like:

  • Shields Up — be cautious, don’t let your guard down, and feel safe against a perceived attack with no need to be “defensive”
  • Weapons Down —  stay calm, no “horses” (Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling, per John Gottman’s Four Horsemen), no need to feel like you have
    to “fight back”
  • Communication Lines Open — be ready to listen carefully, really paying attention to what the other person is saying, and respond thoughtfully

It’s much easier to say the phase than it would be to relay the underlying meanings. Your brain already knows what all this means—unless of course you have spent the last 60-plus years on the planet “No-television-us“!  In a way it’s even more spectacular than knowing “exactly” what it means.  When you set up a situation with this Star Trek reference in mind, the neuro-pathways in your brain, where all those characters and species live, light up. You tap into an amazing library of techniques and approaches to employ.  You have models in front of you for diplomacy and “calmness under fire“.

Which leads me to digress, ever so slightly, to that favorite question to ask your friends.  “Who’s your favorite Star Trek Captain?”  Again, one of those places where the one bit of information tells you more about the person than you might think.  There is a big difference in the way Kirk handled a crisis and the way Picard did—pretty telling stuff!  Kirk was a ‘cowboy’ rushing in with guns blaring.  It made for good drama, but is “drama” what we want in our exchanges with others? Picard was thoughtful and diplomatic, which meant less fist-fighting and phaser fire, but usually far calmer interactions with whoever was on the other side.

What do you really want from a challenging interaction?  Create a list of how you want a troublesome conversation to go.  No, really, make a list right now.  I’ll wait…

Okay, list made?  Now what items on your list are out of your control?  You know those ones like:

  • They admit they are wrong
  • They agree with me
  • It is 100% my way
  • They believe what I believe

I’m sure you have more, and the main point is that trying to get others to actually think and feel the way you do is like that old saw:  “Don’t try and teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and irritates the pig.” What you can strive for is improved communication and an understanding by both sides.

Which leads to another sticking point in difficult conversations.  Many of us feel like we have to tell everyone everything, all our feelings, all our reasons.  Frankly my sense is that most of this comes from being in families with sticky boundaries.  Not only do we not have to tell all that, it’s frequently better not to.  I like to think of this as the “need to know” principle.

  • Is it really relevant to the discussion? (I.e., will sharing it really help to resolve the problem?)
  • Is it more personal than you’d really like to share?
  • Would it create more problems than it would fix to share that bit of information?

The next time you have a complaining customer—or get into a political discussion with Uncle Fred—give these ideas a try, and see how it’s different when you are prepared and ready to “Make it so!”


Shell Tain, The Untangler

If you’d test out a couple of new techniques to help you boldly go in the direction of easier conversations, give me  a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Removing the Harsh

Back in the last century, actually the 1990’s, I was an Adult Advisor for the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists.  I was involved on a local, district, and national level, and literally “wrote the book” on being an advisor (Youth Advisors’ Handbook, 1996—it is still out there kicking around and had more than one printing!)

The thing that was so amazing and intriguing about this organization is that it was youth led with adults acting as ‘advisors’.   From my point of view  the role of the advisor was really to create a safe  place for teens from 14 to 20 to explore and practice life skills.  One of the places they really excelled in that was in how they ‘governed’ themselves.  Certainly different churches and districts may have done things differently.  The groups I worked with came up with a very democratic and inclusive model for how to get things done.  There were two ‘deans’ who where elected, and an elected council to run an event like a weekend conference.  They had a couple really interesting rules, like “Don’t harsh on someone else’s mellow.” (Really! I couldn’t make that up!)  There was also a “Spirit Committee” for some of the larger ‘cons’ (conferences) which was all about checking in with the ’emotional field or mood’ of the group, and then shifting it when necessary to something more positive or inclusive.  Pretty remarkable stuff.  And I must say that working with these brilliant youth and helping them to find their way (not my way!) was a huge impetus to my becoming a Coach!

Over the years they came up with some absolutely amazing perspectives and solutions—many of which were far more ‘mature’ than those of the adults that surrounded them.  I think we all could use some of that energy now.  It feels to me like there is an extra level of angst abroad right now, and ironically something the youth of the early 90’s modeled for me seems like part of the solution.

At one particular conference the elected council was divvying up jobs and had paired two girls to work together coordinating and managing something—I think it was the workshops for the weekend, but I can’t actually remember!  Here’s the really amazing thing.  Once they found out they had been paired together they came back to the council and said something very close to this: Um, we like each other, but we know that we don’t really work well together.  Could you please move one of us to a different job so we don’t have to work together?  We don’t care which one.”

Really, this happened.  I was gobsmacked!  I can’t imagine two grown women actually coming to that agreement, let alone coming back to a governing body and asking for it!  The only reason I think I might be able to do so myself is because I had this great modeling to follow supplied by two teenage girls!  Wow!

They didn’t have all the unspoken rules that said you couldn’t actually ask for what you wanted. They didn’t ‘suck it up‘ to work in a less than positive situation and then bitch about it later.  No, they jointly asked for a different solutions.   How cool is that?

How do we get our entrenched selves back to a place of clarity and discovery?  How do we stand for what will work better for us all?  I think part of the answer is back there in the experimentation of those youth.   Perhaps it’s all about trying something different to remove the harsh from our own mellow?

Let’s find out

Shell Tain, the Untangler

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