Experiences

Facing the reality of my empty bank account

Last year I took a sabbatical. I managed to gain a lot of free time without external obligations through a love-driven project, simple living and support of friends and family. I realized that I don’t need much money to live some of my biggest dreams, like hiking for a month in Norway by myself.

But now, 1.5 years later, my bank account is drained. It’s almost empty and not knowing how to pay the next rent makes me extremely anxious. I don’t need much money, but I need at least some of it. Not having, that minimum amount needed to pay my rent, food and health insurance is like having the floor below my feet crumbling away.

night sky miley way lake representing hope and vision without path

Without some financial security, I can’t realize my life visions

Having a vision of what I would love to do in my life, knowing what provides me purpose, with whom and where I can strive is great. It is amazing. But without a floor to stand on, some financial security, I cannot make any of these awesome dreams become reality.

After 1.5 years of thinking big, learning, experiencing and writing, I see myself putting my dreams, of inspiring people and catalyse transformations towards a society and planet we all want to live in, aside to ask myself basic questions like: “How can I earn some money quickly in order to pay the rent? How can I get again a regular income and the financial security I need?” 

I tried several promising financial shortcuts but they were one-way paths

During the last months, I tried several promising paths already. For instance, I checked possibilities to take on some projects by collaborating with people from my existing work contacts. My dream was to have a well-paid part-time job I could do while working remotely and regularly travelling to Switzerland.

I focussed my energy on a few high stake contacts. But over the months the promising clients and projects my contacts talked about did not become projects. I found myself with empty hands, and with even more empty pockets. I felt frustrated, but I asked myself: what else can I do? And I realized that I had many more “cards to play”.

As I moved to Berlin at the beginning of the year, I decided to focus on the local environment and the traditional way of finding a job: networking, searching for open positions online and sending applications. But soon I realized that impact driven jobs are rare and the competition to get them is extremely high. I repeatedly applied to positions, but without success. Eventually, I broaden my search for normal, not impact driven jobs, to realize that part-time jobs are a rarity.

I tried to fit in, to check the boxes and write appealing covers letters. However, applying for jobs I really don’t care about was draining my energy and seriously impacting my mood. I felt as if I had to go with the “mind only” and turn off my heart. After having written such application letters I would feel empty and frustrated. I would need to take a break and go for a walk in the park in order to have a neutral mood again.

I realized that working full-time on a “money only” job was not going to help me progress on my path of building up my coaching activities and driving social impact, while still having a life on the side. I would start turning in a hamster wheel without making progress on realizing my vision. I felt again stuck.

I discovered my prejudices and did let them go

By the point I published the book “A Changemaker’s Guide to Designing for Behaviour Change” with scaling4good, hence delivered the main output of the project I was working on during the last months, the situation of my bank account was critical.

I was happy about the work I did and received a lot of positive resonance, but my financial situation had never been worst and I struggled to fully enjoy the “success” of the book.

I felt as if the ways I tried so far to gain a regular income just did not work. I felt to have put a lot of energy in them, without getting anything back. I felt extremely frustrated and demotivated. I anyway asked again: what else could I do?

Coaching. Organising workshops about designing for behaviour change. Develop transformative retreats in nature. These are some of the activities I really care about and love to do. But even if I know that in the long-term, I can sustain myself with them, I am aware that I will not be able to pay my next rent from them.

Finally, I broaden the search: for what type of jobs employers did struggle to find employees, were part-time and I could do them? I ended up applying for jobs as a barista. But it took me quite some “mental work”, as in the process of applying I realized that I had a lot of prejudices. Somehow I felt that it was a “lower class” job. I felt that I was lowering myself, after having got a Master degree and having considered myself as a successful entrepreneur. It felt awkward to apply for a job where I would have the same hourly rate, as on the first job I got as a teenager when I was selling ice-creams.

bubble lake sunrise hope

I am not what I do, I am who I am

It was funny to realize how many “stories” I had in my head, despite the fact that I considered myself as an “open person”. But the point is that I am not what I do. I can work as an entrepreneur, a barista or a cleaning lady. This will not impact my self-worth, as I am who I am, what I aim for, what I try to make happen, but I am not the label, nor the role I take on.

I went further and got creative, looked at which other resources I had that could help me to generate an income. I started renting a room in our flat. After a few weeks, I had a part-time job in a coffee shop and the first guests paying to stay at our place: I was able to pay my expenses that month. Finally, after months of delusions and worsening of my financial situation, there was some progress!

With an extra pinch of creativity, my situation started improving

There are still moments I feel confused, frustrated, ask myself if I am really using my time in the best way I could. But I try to accept all these feelings and focus on the progress. This month I could cover the costs, the next month I will try to do so as well while progressing on my long-term goals too. For example by organizing a mountain retreat, to help connect to the own vision and find the path that fits best, together with my friend Katrin.

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