Reflections on Money In a Time of Transition 🌬💸

I’ve wanted to write about this topic for years. My intention in sharing now is to create space for conversations around money and purpose, inspire more storytelling, and invite folks in my community to participate in a journey together.

Table of Contents:
My Money Story | As Within, So Without | A Time To Rise |
New Stories | An Invitation | Additional Resources

Setting the Table:

🌎 I hold my views lightly. I dont have deep expertise in any discipline–rather a unique vantage point at the intersection of many worlds (e.g. Ivy League business, personal development, social justice). I can only speak to my experience and the meaning I make of it, which I know will continue to change. I welcome conversation to learn about your views and experiences so we can construct a more holistic picture of reality. Here’s my Personal User Manual if you’d like to understand more of my experience.

💚 While I hold many alternative, contrarian and progressive views, my aim is not to blame, make anyone wrong, or polarize. I am fairly certain I would do exactly as you if I were in your shoes with your unique circumstances and experiences. I want to learn from you.

Image by Casey Cripe

2020. COVID-19. Income inequality. Markets crashing. Systems breaking. Stimulus check. PPP. Economy open. American Dream. Silicon Valley. Stock options. Conscious Capitalism. Game B. Regenerative business. Self worth. Crisis of meaning. The Great Wealth Transfer. The Great Turning. A Just Transition. Extinction Rebellion. Green New Deal. Anxiety. Shame. Classism. Retirement. Risk. Lifestyle. All in for all life.

I just turned 30. I have no dependents. I work full-time. I don’t earn a paycheck. I have some savings from family, a few years of reasonably hard work, and good fortune. I’m connected to lots of people with resources and new paradigm efforts.

I find myself deeply wondering how I can best utilize my resources to make a meaningful impact on the future of all life on Earth.

I feel both empowered and disempowered around money. Abundance and scarcity. Security and anxiety. Connection and disconnection. Free and trapped.

My money inquiry kicked into a higher gear two summers ago. Frustrated by fundraising challenges for mission-driven startups, some friends and I started a series of conversations to create community among entrepreneurs and investors who were thinking differently about capital and eager to support transformational people and projects. It wanted to be an angel group. A new platform!

Ultimately the project turned inward-looking and prompted us to explore our own relationships with money, and embark on a journey to bring our lifestyles and the resources we are connected to into greater alignment with our heart and values.

There are so many dimensions to the money conversation. In this piece I skim the surface of those that feel most alive in this season. Let’s start with a little time travel.

My Money Story

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” — David Mitchell

I’ve had money on my mind since my earliest memories growing up in affluent suburban New York. Grandchildren of working class Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, my parents worked their way up to prosperous careers on Wall Street.

We were upper middle class with owning class access in many domains. Neighbors were famous CEOs and athletes. We had a lot. Life was good on paper. Many families around us seemed to have a lot more. Life appeared better in my head. The main game in town was get the grades and do the activities to get into the schools to get the jobs to have the things to create a life worthy of praise around the dinner table. It seemed normal. A repeated mantra was: “Make a lot of money and then do good with it.”

But if everyone is doing something not so good to get there, and then often doesn’t do much or any of the good once there, or isn’t happy and healthy once there, then what’s the point here?

Where did this idea come from anyway?

Are there different stories out there?

I‘ve been on a long and bumpy journey to unpack these inherited stories, examine my class privileges and understand what’s mine to do. Confusion in adolescence became shame and resentment in adulthood that more recently clicked into feelings of acceptance and empowerment.

I’ve landed in a place of deep gratitude for those in my lineage who took heroic risks and made lifelong sacrifices in order to support my life with health, education and love. I make efforts to remind myself of this on a near-daily basis. That I’m part of a bigger story and able to do what I’m doing thanks to a village of effort. That every condition and moment–favorable and unfavorable–has been perfect because it led me to this one.

Checking the markets in precocious fleece

Meanwhile, I’ve learned more about the systems and structures that enabled this to happen, and their collateral impact. About people who have worked equally as hard and were just as heroic, but didn’t end up with wealth.

These newer perspectives have been influenced through participation in praxis groups and retreats with organizations like Resource Generation and Yes! Jam, while living in justice and activism-oriented homes where there is more of a socio-political analysis present in conversations and lifestyles. I have a ways to go in building relationships across class and race to learn from those who haven’t had as much of a voice, how to redistribute power and work towards just changes.

Recounting his money story in Wrestling With Wealth and Class, my dear friend and collaborator, Simon Mont, notes:

The story also has to do with the fact that passing as white afforded them some opportunities. It has to do with the growth of the American economy, generally, which in turn has to do with rules about who was able to participate where and when; the foundations laid by slavery; the attacks on organized labor; the development of convoluted financial markets; the wars and policies created to maintain the value of the American dollar; and the relentless extraction of life force from people and planet that weave themselves into the story of the American dream and the growth of the American economy that created the possibility for my grandparents’ investments to grow.

Everything is connected.

They have given me material security inside an economy that preys on insecurity. This security has created respite from the constant water-treading that characterizes most lives inside capitalism, and that respite has provided the space for me to focus on my integrity, my love, and my gifts.

My family paid for my undergraduate education. Today, I have access to a “grad school” fund that originated as a generous gift from extended family members when I was born, and was then invested well over the years. I have access to a roughly equivalent amount from joining a startup early that has done exceedingly well by traditional success metrics. Much of those resources I’ve transitioned in creative ways such as regenerative investments, gifting and sponsorship, self-funding impact projects, personal health and education. I’m proud of what I’ve done with what I have. I’m ashamed of what I haven’t done.

That’s a lot of money to some. That’s not a lot of money to others. Of course it’s all relative. And it’s objectively a large safety net. I’ve played with the calculators and gotten more clear in myself on what I materially feel I need in the coming years. Sort of. So many questions.

At times I’ve felt awkward and indifferent about these facts // “I’d rather not think or talk about it.”

Other times shame and overwhelm // “I have all this just sitting here while friends of mine are deep in debt, sick, without housing??”

Other times gratitude and vision // “omg, I have freedom and a magic wand to create whatever I want! Let’s tell a new story and start this new thing and..”

Since dropping into this inquiry, taking stewardship of these resources and shifting them around has been an exciting, educational and empowering experience.

It has also been a stressful, confusing and underwhelming experience. I thought that after cashing out of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, there would be a large menu of blazingly inspiring places to effortlessly invest in or give to. I’m learning that there actually aren’t many asset classes or startup opportunities out there that satisfy my criteria and can transact with a click of a button. While feelings of scarcity, disconnection and obligation prevent me from giving relatively meaningful amounts to the myriad of nonprofits I receive mass email and social media invites from.

I now understand how time consuming due diligence can be. That conscious financial management is an effortful activity that brings up questions about everything. That most for and non-profit organizations are focused on incremental change of the existing system, which is imperative, and in this moment feels like trying to salvage a ship that is already sinking. That better banks don’t just exist because I would like them to.

Today I’m left with more questions than answers. I’ve thought about these topics more than most of my peers and still feel lost. I want to open more public dialogue, but doing so has strained relationships. I feel more confused than expected about what to do with money. I feel rushed and burdened with trying to find the most aligned and impactful solution. Despite having access to more than ever while living more frugally than ever, in some ways I feel less free.

This meme will always make me chuckle.

As Within, So Without

For me, the dominant story of money and purpose began to collapse through a series of transformational experiences since graduating college: extended solo travel, failed professional pursuits, learning about myself through wellness practices, plant medicine, living in community and so on.

I had spent most of my life thinking I was supposed to make money and have a fancy job to prove my worthiness. Over time I realized this was a vacuous game designed to separate me from my essence, reduce me to nothing but a worker and consumer.

With this understanding, a whole identity dissolved, which was disorienting, but also relieving because there was a part of me that always sensed it wasn’t the thing.

Image by Mark Hensen

I wound up staring into the meaninglessness that capitalism created, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I understood that my privilege would enable me to go in pretty much any direction without falling through the cracks. I felt a sense of responsibility to be of deeper service.

I vowed that I would never again work on something that wasn’t nourishing my soul and serving the whole.

Through my personal healing journey, I’ve come to understand the mind-body connection and how the root of many dis-eases and dis-orders is negative thought patterns: stories from childhood about how we’re not safe, not loved, not good enough, not _______. Which are constantly reinforced by the media and our social norms, and result in recurring emotions that actually alter our physiology and prevent us from living the life we yearn for.

I recently realized that one of those soundtracks running in the back of my mind is “I don’t have enough.”

Which is puzzling, considering I’ve always had more than enough, and yet I still feel a sense of scarcity.

Why the disconnect? How is this impacting my mental and emotional health? My choice making?

SUGGESTED PRACTICE: Try closing your eyes, taking a couple of deep breaths, and repeating to yourself:

“I have enough. I have enough.”

Really tell yourself. As if you knew it to be true that in this moment you have everything you need. As if you were hardwiring a new story into your psyche.

Tell your body. Do you notice any changes in your body? How’s your heart rate? How’s your breathing?

I’m longing to feel free. I often feel trapped by having money. Knowing and not knowing where it came from, what I did to deserve it, how transformational it can be to others, how much work it is to manage appropriately. I feel strangled by lingering pressures to blindly accumulate it, plan for an inconceivable and undesirable retirement, hit prestigious career milestones..

I know I’m not alone.

Image by Mark Hensen

Walking through San Francisco in February, it dawned on me that I regularly make snap judgements about a stranger’s socioeconomic position, reactively feeling protective or anxious, as if they might want something from me or judge me for what I look like I have.

I teared up thinking about how having access to wealth has created separation from others. That I’ve felt less trust in strangers and friends in other class brackets, been afraid of or even worse — looked down on and resented them because of ingrained stories that net worth = self worth, and my own unintegrated traumas around money.

Similarly to my journey examining whiteness and how racism lives inside of me, and gender and how mysogyny lives in me, I connected with the yuck of how wealth has created hatred and missed opportunities as I’ve closed myself off to the infinite potentiality that each convergence of two beings holds.

I’ve missed out on the richness life.

How can I transmute these feels of anxiety and shame so they becomes vehicles for connection and healing?

How can we unlock the potential that’s possible when we lean into intimacy with those whose circumstances are different?

I honestly feel inspired to give it all away. Now. I sense the ripples of impact it will have as others come to a similar conclusion, and I trust that I will be supported by life. Simon asks:

“What would have to be true about the world/yourself for you to give away 100% of your money?”

But I’m scared. Even after meeting people who have given away everything and then seen the utterly unimaginable happen in their lives. What if my life situation drastically changes and I can’t do all the things I want to do? (A position that many, many people find themselves in right now). What if I’m not taken care of if I’m in need? What if I someday meet somebody and we decide we really want to buy a beautiful home with a view? What if I want to birth a new project that requires some startup capital without strings attached?

These fears open up spaces of empathy for those who experience these questions not as hypotheticals but daily realities. They teach me about the structural problems of society and what desperately needs to change.

I’m also afraid of judgement from others. Of banishment from the tribe. Of jeopardizing ties that otherwise might render forms of support. Of being wrong. Of being treated differently.

Simon highlights how our economic system doesn’t care about those without money, so it can be scary to release one’s position. But the more folks are afraid to release their positions, the more the system continues to exploit and destroy.

I’m learning to be with all of these feelings.

In getting curious about my inner experience as it relates to money, I would learn about epigenetics and intergenerational trauma held by many Ashkenazi Jews–through Pogroms, immigration, poverty and racism. That my paternal grandmother grew up during the Great Depression in a family that lost everything after having had a lot. I opened to perspectives like “all wealth is built on stolen land and labor” and that “money is an energy that wants to flow.”

I started to see the intersectionality and interdimensionality of money and all the ways in which its current flows through the web of life through endless micro impressions every day. That every job I work or consumer choice or investment I make has second and third order impacts that are largely abstracted and hidden away from my awareness but are indisputably connected to my lifestyle, and do I want to continue making the choices that bloody my hands or do the work to understand all those micro impressions that my money has made and is making and actively transition that in ways that support systems, people and communities that are regenerative and life-giving rather than extractive and lifetaking?

Whew. This is a whole project. Its own Google Drive with subfolders. Vision quest and bootcamp.

But I’m drawn to the inquiry. I like talking about it with others. In recent months, I really felt my next chapter might might revolve more around money and helping people come into healthier relationship with it. Through conversations with friends and collaborators, conference appearances, fundraising experiences and possible content and coaching projects, I’ve found myself doing more internal work to unpack how stories about money live inside of me and subtly influence how I move through the world. We’re getting deep in there, and I sense it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Maybe part of my purpose is to do this holistic money healing work, with community, and share those stories outwards?

I no longer have interest in pouring myself into the possibility of building a billion dollar business that creates incremental change, when I know I have the capacity to influence the flow of much more than that for deep change, by using my unique voice and skills as I rise into the fullest expression of my leadership.

My core focus right now is building Azure Village, Civilization Redesign and One Nation because I’ve determined this is the highest ROI of my financial and non-financial capital. Not surprisingly, the money work is interwoven and continues to bring me joy to jam on as I move through the mystery of our times.

I recently spoke on these subjects at Nexus: a community ofnext gen philanthropists, impact investors & social entrepreneurs

A Time To Rise

I’m noticing there is a growing and unprecedented population of young people that find themselves in a position of having access to wealth and influence, without family or significant financial obligations, in a time when civilization is destabilizing and a rising tide of leaders are seeking resources to steward a just transition. A desire to “show up.”

Is there a responsibility there?

How much is this a story about people with wealth stepping into their power?

How much is it about people with wealth feeling better?

In this moment I feel a little stuck. Not courageous enough to give it all the way. Not comfortable doing nothing or taking the conventional approach.

I know for sure that I want to clean up my money (i.e. divest from harmful or seemingly neutral impressions) and leverage my gifts in connecting people, weaving communities, and visioning to figure out “all-win” applications of resource flow.

The most natural thing to do in this moment is to use these resources to sustain me so I can focus 100% of my energy on impact projects, while continuing to invest in myself so I can be of greater service, and transition the remainder from extractive and speculative investments to productive and regenerative ones, while generously giving when the opportunities feels aligned and true.

How can I go about this process that is as deeply transformative and reciprocal for the world as possible, and deeply cathartic for me on a personal level?

What principles are guiding me?

Where do those principles come from?

I know for sure that life is way more intelligently designed than I could remotely conceive. I know this will be a lifelong journey, with many cycles, and many layers. I know that everybody is doing the best they can and I would do the exact same thing if I were in their shoes. The banker, the oil executive, the drug lord are all expressing love in the ways they know how. Perhaps we’ll see that it was all perfectly designed for what comes next.

For me, with new awarenesses and a new context (mass unemployment, growing income inequality, risk of civilization collapse on many fronts due to our broken systems), my act of leadership is to believe that there are healthier ways to relate with wealth and influence, and to prototype what that might look like for others.

I feel a sense of purpose in doing this during the historical moment we find ourselves in, and due to my unique position in society, where I’m directly connected to hundreds of people with abundant resources and motivation to show up, as well as centers of gravity of new paradigm projects that are birthing a new world in the shell of the old.

I’m longing to unlock the highest potential of the units of resource I have access to. I don’t know if this role involves writing more, coaching people, starting a firm. Educating myself on economic theory and financial literacy, or building connections across lines of difference to illuminate the interconnected context of my role with that of pipeline protestors and restorative justice organizers.

I trust life.

Image by Mario Sánchez Nevado

New Stories

An activist can make a great case for giving all your money away to grassroots organizers right now, and I agree with them.

A parent can make a great case for building as much security as possible, and I agree with them.

A friend can make a great case for full financial surrender and trust in the universe, and I agree with them too.

Which stories do I listen to? Who do I listen to? Who do I tune out?

What if we attempt to transcend and include all of them? Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. The truth lies in the space between. What’s the integration of these diverse sources of wisdom? What if Spirit was my primary advisor?

Another dear friend Howard Cohen offers:

“When moving money is inspired by Source, unimaginable benefits for people and planet can emerge.”

Image by Jessica Perlstein

It’s en vogue these days to talk about new stories for society. I’ll take a crack at some.

1) The new wealthy is balanced and holistic.

I envision a world where we have broadened the focus of wealth/money/success to include all types of capital (financial, social, physical, material, emotional, spiritual, etc), in moderation–not a major imbalance of any one over the others.

When one has that mix right, they don’t need to spend as much as time doing things to accumulate more financial capital to buy more things/experiences to feel a certain way, because that core need or feeling is “financed” or met through other forms of capital.

Financial capital and the act of pursuing it can’t be reduced to “bad.” However, pursuing it blindly over all others compoundly limits the cultivation of other forms because of the negative externalities that are often created on our personal health, relationships and natural ecosystems. What if we traded more financial capital to invest in these areas?

Besides, research shows diminishing returns on happiness after a certain level of basic needs are met, and anecdotally many are quick to admit that the chase and the actualization of more and more can lead to disconnection, mental and physical illness.

Top death bed regrets include wishing one hadn’t worked as hard, and had the courage to live a life true to themselves vs. the life others expected of them.

And the best things in life are free, right?

Micah Daigle offers:

“Abstract wealth is the ability to meet one’s needs/desires by paying people for goods and services.

Real wealth is being able to meet one’s needs/desires directly or through community.

If the economy collapsed, the latter would persist.”

Looking at community living, for example, one can reduce their expenses to a fraction (lower rent, shared food, shared tools) and access the wealth of regular entertainment, psychological support and growth, healthy habit accountability and more. Not to mention coparenting, homeschooling, and even community-centric forms of health insurance and banking. COVID-19 is giving us all an embodied experience of how valuable these things are when our dominant systems don’t function per “normal.” Wouldn’t it be great to not rely on a fragile, profiteering , intermediate system to meet these core needs?

The savings equation suddenly changes dramatically. Less need to wake up everyday and pretend to enjoy a draining or toxic type of labor and care about a vapid mission. Less need to save for a future that may not exist, be realistic, fashionable or desirable.

With mounting dissatisfaction with corporate and startup culture, increasing popularity and adoption of innovative economic policies like UBI, proliferation of eco-villages and tiny homes, digitization of marketplaces for practitioners of everything under the sun.. more and more people are dropping out of the rat race and orienting towards greater capital balance in their lives, with glowing results.

At the end of the day, I’m clear that what I’m truly longing for is deeper love, intimacy, nature, healing, beauty, experience. Things that I now know I really don’t need much money for.

At least my nervous system doesn’t need hundreds of months of runway to feel safe. Consider what yours actually needs and notice the gap between that and the stories we’ve inherited.

2) Everyone is an investor.

We are constantly investing our financial, social and emotional capital to create the world we want to live in. Are you stoked about all of your consumer choices? Ashamed? Indifferent? How about your holdings? How much you give? Bank(s) you work with? Would you share them all in public in a spreadsheet?

In every moment, our choices are routing (or stopping) different types of energy in different amounts in orientations we are conscious and unconscious of, which have second and third (to infinity) order impacts on the field through every timescale.

One criteria I’m test-driving to make choices is: do I feel lit up to the point of bringing it up in conversation with a friend? If the excitement barometer is low, perhaps I’m doing it out of a sense of obligation or scarcity than an authentic, integrated intention.

In addition to feeling super connected to which brands and people my money is flowing into, it’s important to me that money is circulating toward productive projects over speculative ones that feed a debt-based monetary system requiring compound growth. It also feels important to support projects that are laying the foundations for the emergence of new systems. Which massively expands the ROI for the whole. i.e. deeper leverage points:

To that end, I’m excited about supporting projects that are open source , Public Benefit Corporations or worker-owned co-ops, Community Land Trusts, have a sustainable/regenerative narrative, practice Holacracy or other self-management structures, are transparent with all stakeholders about their decision making, incorporate ethical design process, embody a Zebras philosophy, etc. Please let me know of any projects on your radar!

3) In each moment we can tap into the infinite potential for value exchange and creation.

The microcosmic example I keep coming back to is when we walk passed somebody on the street, two worlds have the opportunity to collide, tetris and co-create with all the different forms of capital available to each. 13.8 billion years of evolution for this moment.

Imagine if we had ultra intelligent augmented reality glasses or a brain-computer interface to see into the totality of the other person’s experience — their needs, prayers, gifts, stories, offers–and a gamified experience to incentivize us to make this person’s life as awesome as possible. We might identify ways to transfer energy that leave one or both of us better off. We might be able to meet each other’s needs. We might be medicine for each other. A hug, an ear, guidance. Food, money, art. Memory, education, story, guidance, wisdom, love. Those things money can’t buy and technology can’t measure. That don’t require selling life.

What if that’s the point of it all? What if it’s all just a game to create the most love for all life on a moment to moment basis?

Instead, we often opt to close ourselves off to these touch points. Busy, other, different, afraid. We cut off the resources available through the natural flow of life, in focused pursuit of means to generate financial capital to obtain the same resources that are freely available if we are courageous and curious enough to receive them. Missed opportunities for the things the saints and sages tell us are available. Moments that alter the trajectory of the next seven generations.

We often don’t look for or recognize these opportunities because we haven’t cultivated practices of empathy, curiosity, intimacy, compassion, deep listening, and all-win choice making. We often close ourselves off to initial connection in the first place because of stories of separation that live in our consciousness and generate feelings of anger, hatred, judgement, fear.

We are constantly missing opportunities to split the atom of possibility and unlock value for all.

Perhaps our greatest opportunity is to recognize our own power and get creative in finding the most inspiring ways to bring more love into the world in each moment.

Energy wants to flow. There are real opportunity costs to holding onto abstract financial capital, which is often creating harm somewhere in the energetic supply chain and taking up space that could be creating more love, creativity and connection in the world.

When energy gets stuck, it causes illness. In a sense, moving energy around is akin to doing financial healing work. Together, we have the power to heal and transform our money systems.

What stories do you want to write?

An Invitation

I believe the next stage of our individual development involves aligning our resources and influence with our path of devotional service to humanity and life on Earth.

Even if I’m just speaking to tech workers without student loans who want something more out of life. That is tens of thousands of us and massive amounts of choice making power. Let’s organize. Share this. Tell me what resonates. What’s triggering. What’s tone deaf. What’s on your heart.

Let’s talk about our fears, visions, prayers, legacies. About how to transform feelings of scarcity, inadequacy and overwhelm and become deeply aligned with our purpose in all our relations.

I want to role model this type of responsible stewardship. I want to free up all this resource that is stuck in story, awkwardness, financial illiteracy. I want my children and grandchildren to be proud of what I chose to do with my resources during these times of great transition. I want to be a good ancestor.

If this resonates with you, I’d like to have a deeper conversation about your journey and how you can participate in the deepest transformation of humanity with the resources you have available to you.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

We are the change we seek.

We will live the story we want the future to tell about our generation.

Andrew Murray Dunn

Additional Resources

Guides

Books

Blogs

Courses

Money Coaching

  • Iris Brilliant — Guiding wealthy people who are confused about what to do with their money to create a deeply liberating vision and plan for their wealth, lead values-aligned lives and help fund social justice.
  • Morgan Curtis — Supporting young people with wealth to align their resources with their social justice values — so that resources can flow to create the world we’d love to see.
  • Mira Megs Lathrop — Former Financial Advisor turned facilitator for healing and empowerment, and speaker and host for emerging ideas and ways of being with money and each other.

Communities

  • Resource Generation — multiracial membership community of young people (18–35) with wealth and/or class privilege committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power.
  • Lumen Society — private, invite-only community of conscious investors and select leaders who are dedicated to developing themselves and investing in organizations evolving consciousness
  • Nexus — Bridging communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship.
  • Intergen — An intergenerational collaboration to re-imagine wealth to address the context of our times.
  • Zebras Unite — calls for a more ethical and inclusive movement to counter existing startup and venture capital culture.

Firms

  • JumpScale —Works with investors and philanthropies to improve the impact and financial wellbeing of their portfolios.
  • MontCalm — A wealth management firm that blends expert investing with new economy sustainability and independent vision.
  • Natural Investments — A national portfolio management firm at the forefront of the socially responsible investment world for over 30 years.

Misc

Regenerative Tech | Business | Culture | Life. Co-founder @getsiempo, Digital Wellness Collective, @Wharton Wisdom. www.andrewmurraydunn.com

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