Author Archives: Shell Tain


Do you find that your money always shows up in extremes?  For example, you get a lump of it at the beginning of the month, spend it and then find there is none until the next month.

If so, you may very well be trapped in the scarcity place (feast or famine, binge or purge, black or white, all or nothing…all the same stuff).  It’s a concept of extremes, and it’s exhausting.  Your little kid part that I often speak about is still in charge of your money.  extremesWhen the money comes in, she spends it…all.  She doesn’t think past this moment.  It’s part of being a little kid.

It’s all about that tricky balance thing.  You need to wrap your head around it differently.  Think of the middle, instead of the ends.  After all, the colors are all in the middle between black and white.  Emotionally, you need to make it more valuable to take care of yourself all month than to splurge…not from a sense of boring duty, but from a sense of self love.  This is the inside work.

Consider some outside structures that might help:

          When you get the funds immediately put 30 – 40% aside

          Every time you spend money put 15% aside

          Save some amount every time you get money – this is the crucial one.

Our brain needs to know that we CAN save.  It doesn’t matter how much, even one dollar is fine.  Brainwise, it’s the action of saving that is important, not the amount.

If you are spending it all, and then find yourself lacking, you are doing what ‘poor’ people do.  Poverty creates an interesting concept of quickly exchanging money for stuff.  The belief and logic is that someone may take money from you, but it’s harder for them to take stuff away from you.  So spend it all now, so that no one can take it away.  The trick is to establish the idea and process of saving, taking action to believe that it’s not just about today, but self-care for tomorrow.

Practice this and you will change the behavior and the beliefs…at the same time.



Except When It’s Not

One of the things that gets us all into trouble is Fixed Beliefs.  Those things we say, or think, with assurance as if they are the absolute truth.  We have these beliefs about all sorts of things, including money.

A few the money beliefs I hear most often are:

          Asking for money is wrong

          There’s never enough

          Rich people are bad, mean, greedy

          You can’t make money doing art

          Couples fight about money

          I can’t do numbers, so I can’t do money

The list goes on.

These beliefs aren’t helping us on two fronts.  First and foremost, they aren’t actually the whole truth.  And second, each time we say them we are reinforcing and strengthening their presence in our brains.  As we keep reinforcing our beliefs, other possibilities become harder and scorpionharder to embrace.  Eventually, we just drift towards stopping seeing or trying them at all.

Let’s make a distinction here between ‘Belief’ and ‘Truth’.  ‘Truth’ is something that is the same 100% of the time.  A  matches reality.  It’s never not, it always is.  There is less and less in life that is the truth.  Rocks aren’t hard anymore…turns out there’s a bunch of space between atoms…geez!  And more importantly our ‘Beliefs’ are not the ‘Truth’.  Our beliefs are ‘feelings’.  They are assumptions, often based on evidence.  The problem is that there are times when they just aren’t the only option.

Look at the money belief list above.  Are those always true?  Is there sometimes enough?  What about Oprah or Paul Newman?  How’s Yoyo Ma doing?  Know some couples that don’t fight about money?  And what does numbers really have to do with money these days?

Hmmm.  What to do?

It’s really pretty simple.  We need to broaden our perspectives just a bit, so the trick is that whenever you make one of those ‘belief’ statements, you follow it immediately with an appropriate version of one of these options:

          Unless of course it’s not


          Except when it isn’t


          Rich people aren’t as nice as poor people, except when they are.

          I just can’t save money, except when I do.

          All used car salespeople are rats, unless of course they aren’t.

          My family never pays me back when I lend them money, except when they do

Get the idea?  It actually is kinda fun, and it both softens your view, and changes your brain, unless of course it doesn’t. (snicker)




During the gathering portion of my last teleclass, while we were waiting for the starting time, we were creating a list of topics that actually are taboo.  Those things we know to not talk about, to keep secret, hidden and out of sight.

Here’s what we came up with in both general and specific terms:

Sex:                                                                                                                                                                     Porn                                                                                                                                                             Kinky Stuff

Family Secrets

Health:                                                                                                                                                               Mental Illness                                                                                                                                           Medication                                                                                                                                                 Bodily Functions (poop, periods, etc)taboo

Addictions:                                                                                   Alcohol                                                                                   Drugs                                                                                       Gambling




Legal:                                                                                                                                                                 Arrests                                                                                                                                                         Law Suits

Past Regrest

Oh yes, and what was that other one?  I remember: MONEY.

There are a couple of things that most of these have in common.  First, they are considered to be BAD.  Secondly, we worry how we would be judged around them.  There is an element of shame and recrimination.

The fact that money is in this pile explains a lot about how we are with it.  What other topic that is Taboo is actually neutral in nature?  Doesn’t ‘taboo’ mean bad?  Our parents sure acted like talking about money was bad.  So it must be true, right?

No, money isn’t actually ‘bad’, and it’s not even ‘good’.   It’s neutral.  It’s whatever we say it is, and whatever we stick on it emotionally is what it is.

Money in itself isn’t shameful either.  What we do with it may or may not be shameful.  See,  there’s the rub.  Money is only a tool that we use.  We put the emotion and judgment on money.  We still carry it over to ourselves through the money, but I think this mislaid blame on money serves to just create a bigger knot.  If we recognize that we spend money on things that we don’t care about, that is completely different than thinking that money is somehow bad and doesn’t support us.  This blaming money thing distracts us from being clear about what we are really up to.  It keeps us stuck in old traps.

Good ‘ole Dr. Phil says “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”  I agree, especially around money.  Money doesn’t happen to you by itself.  You make choices, millions of them, and money just reflects those choices.

It seems to start with money being in the same pile as all those other taboo topics, bad and shameful.  What might be different if you could just change that perspective?

Insanity and the Ant

I witnessed this really fascinating example of the Definition of Insanity last weekend.  You know, the Albert Einstein definition: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

pyrexIt involved a one cup glass Pyrex measure, and a tiny black ant.  I’ve been plagued with those little buggers lately.  Sometimes just a few, once a gang in the sugar bowl (which now has packets of sugar) and once ganged up under the table on a scrap of something.  Based on their assault on mostly my kitchen I am less than tolerant of them.

So there I was.  My measuring cup sitting empty on the cutting board, and here comes Adam Ant sauntering along.  So I set the cup on top of him.

Now’s where things got interesting.  Although it appeared that the cup was flat there was a little concave space at the bottom of the Pyrex.  Just big enough for him to wander around in, but solid so there was no way out.

He started out by boomeranging around the circle.  From my point of view, I couldn’t see the edge he was running into, I don’t know if he could.  He kept trying.  Here, then there, then over there.  It was pretty random.  He didn’t try going all the way around to see if there was a hole or gap.  He just kept trying to bounce out.  And then he seemed to freak out a bit.  Ran in a little tiny circle of his own.  That seemed to stun him so he just stopped for a bit.  It seemed like he was almost calm.

A moment later he started the whole routine again, only this time the wacko part came sooner and the calm part lasted a bit longer.

I wondered if he would give up in some way.  Would he just rest until he either ran out of air or was rescued?  Or would he keep doing what hadn’t been working?

The truth was neither.  He actually offed himself.  He just couldn’t believe it, I guess.  He ran into the edge and squished himself in the tiny curve like he could push his way through.  It didn’t work and he squished himself to death.

I know it’s a gruesome tale.  And yet it’s a parable.

How often do we do this, over and over and over again?  Run around with no real plan, just bouncing off the invisible walls?  Freaking out?  Resting a bit? And then doing it over again in the exact same way again?

Let’s all decide to be smarter than the tiny black ant…how’s that for an idea?



Paper vs People

This challenge continues of figuring out what really constitutes your ‘work’.  It’s a tricky little thing.  Our brains are often the culprit that gets us in a tangle.

Let’s see how this works.  When we go to lunch with someone and then say: “Thanks for a great lunch, now I need to get back to work” we are telling ourselves that the ‘people’ part isn’t work.

When our ‘leads group’ meeting is running long and we think: ‘Wow, I wish they’d get done – I have to get to work” we are telling ourselves that the ‘people’ part isn’t work.

When we are helping a colleague or employee solve a problem, we are glad when it’s done so we can ‘get back to work’.

Notice a pattern here?  When we say we have to get back to work, we are implying that we aren’t currently working, and that being in conversations, schmoozing and connecting with people isn’t part of our work .

peopleThe truth is that the ‘people work’ really is the work.  Without the people work, you have no clients or customers.  The ‘people work’ generates the other work.  Without the clients, whatever your work is, you wouldn’t have it.

There is an easy fix to this.  Change your language.  Here’s an effective way to do that.  Avoid using the word “work” without a descriptive adjective.   So instead of getting back to the ‘work’, you will be getting back to the ‘office work’ or the ‘paper work’.  It’s all work.  Be specific about which work you are referring to.  Don’t let your brain, and your subconscious keep perpetuating the idea that the ‘people time’ isn’t ‘work time’.

This can be a challenging transition.  When I went from being a ‘bookkeeper’ to a ‘controller’ in what seems like the last century (oh wait, it was the last century!)…anyway, I had a very challenging time realizing that talking to people was now a part of my job.  I had a staff to support, I had a board of directors to work with, I had sales people to interact with.  Initially I kept feeling that if I hadn’t moved all the papers (you remember paper?) from one side of my desk to the other by the end of the day, I wasn’t really getting any work done.  Silly me.  The conversations and the interactions were crucial.

Now my work is mostly people, with very little paper.  The people work includes both marketing, presenting and coaching.  I need to balance it all.  And I need to think of ALL of it as work.

Take a moment to decide what you want to call each of the work things you do:

Paper work, people work, busy work, administrivia work, money work, promoting work…just remember it’s ALL work!  Changing the language will change the perspective, and bring you both peace and balance.

Teleclass Changes!

Wow!  I started doing teleclasses about money twelve years ago.  That’s a long time.  I love doing them, I love participating with the callers and sharing information about our money beliefs and behaviors, I love helping people to see money in a new way.  It’s important to me to keep helping people untangle money knots.

And…It’s time for some changes.  Starting with the September, 2014 call we will be doing things a bit differently:

·        New day (Thursday)

·        New time (11:00 a.m. Pacific)

·        The calls will be shorter (30 minutes).

Well, actually they’ll be shorter and they won’t.

The line will be open at 10:45 a.m. Pacific on the call date.   That gives people time to gather and, just like a face-to-face meeting, it gives us some time to get acquainted and stir up the topic a bit.  (That dead air waiting for people has always challenged my old radio self!)

Promptly at 11:00, the meat of the call will start.  It will be 30 minutes long.   We’ll go deep and narrow to get right at the essence of whatever is being presented.  After that, if you need to leave you can.  I’ll stay on for another 15 minutes to field any questions or further discussions.  Calls will be recorded and sent to those who attend.

Please accept my invitation to join me on the first call in the new format:

The Biggest Secret About Money

Date:  Thursday, September 11thSharing Secrets - Little Girls


Lines open at 10:45 a.m. Pacific

Call runs from 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. Pacific

Q & A from 11:30 to 11:45 a.m. Pacific


Fee: Still FREE

There may be lots of things that you know you don’t understand about money.  Things like how the stock market really works, how your credit score is computed and how to get your clients to pay you on time.

This call isn’t about those things.  It’s about what we really don’t know, which is how our thinking about money REALLY works, where it comes from, why it’s not helping.

A bunch of why you are stuck around money, no matter what the stuckness is, will become clear. Come untangle this fundamental knot and learn the biggest secret about money and how to change it.

Please accept my invitation to join me on the first call in the new format:

 Spread the word.

Functionally Neurotic

Actually it’s a good thing.  Being functionally neurotic that is.  It’s the functional part that helps.

Functionally neurotic is how I refer to myself, and to most of us.  We aren’t perfect.  We are functional.  We get things done, sometimes in spite of our fears and emotions.  Part of how we do this is with our willingness to change age old patterns.  The coined phrase is Personal Growth.

Personal Growth is ultimately about learning that we can change our circumstances; that we aren’t stuck unless we choose to be.  More importantly, it’s an idea that we can bring focus to this change, this personal development; and we can explore both what works in our life, and what doesn’t.  We can look at the “why” and “how”.  We can get support and help for it without being considered just flat wacko.

neuroticThat’s pretty new.  I think my generation (broadly called the Baby Boomers) is the first generation for whom this is true.  In my lifetime the idea of ‘counseling’ has lost a great deal of its stigma.  We no longer think of getting help and support as a situation like that of Olivia De Havilland in 1948’s The Snake Pit.

 It’s been a struggle.  For many years anyone wanting help was considered either truly ‘disturbed’ or at the very least helplessly self-absorbed.

Certainly the roots of personal growth come from philosophy, religion, psychology and even anthropology.

The game has changed a great deal in the last 50 years.  In 1971 Werner Erhard of EST started “intensive communications and self-empowerment workshops.”  Although controversial, they certainly created a distinction between therapy and self-help.   In 1992 a Financial Planner named Thomas Leonard founded “Coach U”, the first professional “coach” training organization.

The possibilities are both varied and accessible today.

I’m delighted to both a recipient and provider of support.  It’s truly wonderful that we can ‘break the chain’ of all sorts of behaviors with consciousness and support.

This, I think is a great improvement for humankind.  We are no longer stuck doing things the way our parents and their parents and their parents did things.  Sure, sometimes an old way is the best way.  But not always.  And when they aren’t, we can make new choices in our lives in many areas, none the least of which is money.

Think about it. Where have you availed yourself of this concept of ‘personal growth’ that your parents or grandparents never even heard of, let alone would have ever considered?  Makes a difference doesn’t it?

Unwritten Contracts

We have these unwritten and often unspoken contracts all over our lives; with friends and neighbors, with business associates, with companies, with relatives and lovers, with ourselves and, yes, even with money.

I’ve had several clients talk to me about “broken contracts” with their spouses.  What they really mean is that there was an agreement that was either ignored, neglected or broken.  This lapse, for these clients, meant that the contract was broken.  And once the contract is broken, there are often far reaching repercussions.

An irony of this is that often none of it gets talked about.  The actual initial agreement
contracts.jpg isn’t talked about.  The breaking of the contract isn’t talked about.   Even the repercussions aren’t talked about.

We all have this going on all the time.  It’s about expectations, isn’t it?

Many times in life I have had the experience of noticing when the contract, big or small, got broken.  Here’s an odd (at least to me) example that might help clarify this.

You meet someone at an event and they give you their card.  You later call the number on the card.  Turns out it is a cell phone number.  They answer the call with a certain urgency in their voice and say something like “oh, it’s you, I’m at the dentist, I can’t talk now”.  Awkward, to say the least.  This is an example of a “two-fer”.  The contract is broken on both sides.  How is the caller to know that the person is at the dentist and busy?  And the person receiving the call assumes that they need be left alone at the dentist.

Ah, so it’s about expectations and assumptions.  Both of which get us into trouble when they aren’t made clear.

Now, turn this contract concept to you and your money.  Trust me, it’s there.  You expect certain things from money that it doesn’t necessarily deliver.  You made a “contract” with money when you were very, very young.   You’ve expected money to perform and you have been very disappointed when it doesn’t create the expected results from the original contract.

Please consider this.  You haven’t actually outlined for yourself, or money, what the contract was.  And you certainly haven’t revisited or renegotiated it.

On top of it, your contract with money is actually a contract with yourself.  Money only does what you tell it to do.  It doesn’t actually spend itself…you decide where it goes.  And it certainly doesn’t earn itself…it comes in based on your efforts and choices.  Even when your money makes interest, it makes the interest based on your investment choices.

Bottom line, review your contract with yourself.  What did you expect, what did you assume, and what would actually work better.

The most important agreements at keep are the ones with ourselves.  When we don’t keep them there is hell to pay.

Summer Money

For a long time, I’ve known that there was a difference between Corporate Money and Personal Money.  I know as a Controller/CFO I made $5,000 money decisions with the snap of a finger.  Never have I made a $5,000 purchase for myself without bunches of research and deliberation.  They are different things, corporate and personal purchases, and they use money differently.

SummerSo today I was pondering, is Summer Money different than money from the rest of the year? If it is, how is it different? What do the seasons and the time of year have to do with how we spend money?  And it seems to me that the answer is: a lot!

Summer money is, for me, full of lemonade and the pool.  It’s fun money.  Winter money is more about hot chocolate and cozy corners.  It seems more like time to contemplate and be still. Fall money is more about cider and walks in the woods.  Some fun, but some preparation, too. Spring money is tomato plants.  It’s about renewal.

What does all this really have to do with money, you say?  Well, as I often say, money reflects  different purposes as well as being a messenger.  The Corporate/Personal money shows you when you are at your work, and when you are away from it.  Money can also tell you when you take good care of yourself through fun summer stuff and when you are taking care of yourself by meeting your obligations.   It shows you fun as well as hardship.   It’s all there in the money.

So as you are enjoying your summer, please give a nod to money.  Thank it for helping you have fun, sit in the sun, and recharge for the fall.  Know that money is always there to show you where you are, and lead you to what you want.   You just have to notice whether or not you are using money in ways that work for you.

And to do that, you do, of course, have to look at money.  But no one said that you can’t look at it through sun glasses while sitting by the pool!

Happy summer!

Solving Mysteries

Apparently, the mystery as a genre for literature and, by extension film, has been around for only about 200 years.  Prior to then, police weren’t really trying to solve crimes.  Seems odd doesn’t it?   We are used to finding answers.  We want to know how it happen, what caused it, and who did it, don’t we?

Before there were “mysteries” there were other stories that had something to discover, solve or bring to resolution.

The point is, as humans, we don’t really like being left in the dark.  We want things to be explained, to make sense.  We want to know.

Think of all those questions kids ask.  For example, as Bill Cosby said: “Why is there air?”

Personally, I think one of the things that we learn to accept as we ‘mature’ is that some things will never actually be revealed to us.  In spite of Facebook, we may never know what happened to our best friend in 2nd grade.  We may never find out where the missing cat collar is.  We may never know what happened to Amelia Earhart.

We want to know, but mysteries, large and small, surround us.

mysteryIronically, most people think of money as a mysterious thing.  They don’t know where it goes, what happened to it, how it got so messed up.   It’s baffling.

Or is it?

Our favorite detectives use clues and forensics to solve their mysteries.  They gather evidence, make hypotheses and deductions, and come to conclusions.  For them, the issue is getting the evidence.  When it comes to money, that is actually a fairly simple piece.  The evidence is, as it often is in the TV mystery, found by following the money.  Or more precisely, actually looking at what the money is telling you.  Money has oodles of information to share with you…what you have to do is actually look at it.

If you choose to look, you can solve the mystery, understand the why, and change the pieces that aren’t working for you.  Money won’t judge you, or nag you, it will just tell you what you have chosen to do.  And if you don’t ‘ask’ then money won’t ‘tell’, and we all know how well that plan works in the long run.

You can ‘talk’ to your money by looking at your credit card statements, saving your receipts, noting what you are doing with it.  Think about it, your money could tell you when you were sick, when you feel sad, when you are happy, when you moved; all sorts of things.  If you look at how you spend it and how you make it, it will tell you what you are doing.  Part of solving your mystery may be discovering that the reason why you feel like money isn’t working for you is because you are spending it on things that you don’t really value or care about.

So ask money what’s going on, and solve the mystery!