It gives me great satisfaction when clients tell me how quickly their lives — and businesses— transform as a result of the work we do together. Increased income, greater peace of mind, feeling more connected, and finding a new sense of purpose are only a few of results they experience as a result of working with me.
For years, I suffered from a long list of physical, emotional, and financial problems. After giving away all of my possessions, an extended spiritual journey connected me to the deeper parts of myself that led me to everything I needed to find health, well-being, and peace of mind.
Like most of my clients, my financial problems were the most difficult to overcome. In the 1980s, I thought I was on the way to financial security as I rapidly built a wholesale, retail, and mail order business to the point where I was grossing over $30,000 a month. My lack of business and financial skills led to my downfall—and bankruptcy.
This experience led me on the path of learning everything I could about business and financial management. The knowledge I gained allowed me to flourish as an entrepreneur while sharing what I learned with others.
In the early 1980s, while attending 12-step programs including Debtors Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous, I began to understand the connection between emotions and the life stories we create for ourselves, including our finances. Years of working to release my own repressed emotions helped deepen my understanding of how we act out family-of-origin issues through our businesses and finances.
I love working with forward-thinking individuals who are willing to implement new ways of being with themselves and their commercial ventures. As I continue to learn and grow, my passion is sharing with others and helping them find both peace of mind and prosperity.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I live, with its expansive skies, friendly people, and abundance of healers provides me with the comfort and peace I have always craved. Thanks to the Internet, which I have been using since 1995, I can live in this wonderful town with my precious dog, Angel, and reach out to clients around the world.
Prosperity Place Spreadsheet
Video Training & Blueprint
Zephan: What’s up, everybody. Zephan Blaxberg here from the Year of Purpose podcast, and in just a moment, we’re going to talk about a topic that really hits home for me and it’s financials. I know a lot of you are always wondering where does money come from to follow our dreams, how should we think about money, and what happens when we make mistakes and we run out of money. So today, I have Joan Sotkin and she is the expert when it comes to understanding how emotions learned in early childhood can affect a person’s earning capacity as an adult.
Now for over 25 years, she has helped entrepreneurs and practitioners experience freedom from struggle personally, professionally, and financially. Thousands have benefitted from Joan’s ground breaking book, Build Your Money Muscles: 9 Simple Exercises for Improving Your Relationship with Money, and her ongoing support programs. Joan is a dynamic, inspiring speaker and coach who brings a depth of knowledge, plus a huge dose of empathy and compassion to her work.
So, Joan, how are you doing today?
Joan: Fabulous. Really looking forward to this.
Zephan: Great! Well, thanks so much for joining me. You know, this is a huge topic for me because I know that one of the biggest things that prevented me from taking my leap of faith even earlier was money. I was always worried about what happens when the money runs out. So I think that you could have a lot of really great insight on both some lessons learned and maybe how we could change our perspective on our financials now so that we can be a little less fearful of taking a leap of faith or living life the way that we really want to.
Joan: Okay, so why don’t we start by looking at financial fear.
Joan: Because it’s amazing how it goes across all age groups. People have financial fear. And it’s never about money. That’s—the bottom line is it’s never about money, it’s always about people because money comes from people. So when you’re afraid of running out of money, you’re really afraid of being alone. And humans instinctively know that if they’re alone and without resources, they can’t survive. So it’s that deep. And when people are afraid of running out of money, they keep thinking “Oh, it’s about the money” but it’s not. Money is actually a symbol of relationships. Because it’s energy passing between two people or entities.
And how you deal with money is how you deal with your relationship with yourself and others. So if you are having money problems, then you have to look at, I think, what it’s creating internally for you. What am I feeling? Do I feel contracted? Do I feel scared? Am I ashamed of where I am? Because those are all emotions that have nothing to do with money. Money is just numbers and you move it around the board… Any emotions you’re bringing to your money are something you’re bringing from another story, and you’re just using the money to act out those feelings. Does that make sense?
Zephan: Yeah, absolutely.
Joan: So when I look at people’s financials—I’m not a financial advisor. I’ve learned to take care of money and cash flow because I had to. I had a very successful business in the 1980s and went bankrupt because I had no idea how to manage thirty thousand dollars a month. And it was like overwhelming me. And so when I work with people, I try to find out what the patterns are. And a lot of people don’t have a feeling vocabulary. So if I said to someone “What are you feeling?” they don’t necessarily know whether it’s shame or anger or whatever it is, but they can tell where they’re contracted or not. Can you see that?
Zephan: Yeah. So you can usually tell when you’re closing off.
Joan: When you’re closing up. When you think about the bills you have to pay, or the bill comes in via email or mail, it’s that contracted feeling. And everybody—actually, I think we all share feelings, but my definition of shame, it may—I mean, I know what shame is, you know what shame it. It may not feel absolutely identical, but we get the picture, right. So when you look at your bank balance—this is where I usually get people to understand this—when you look at your bank balance, you’re going “Wow! I’ve got…” fill in the blank. Usually people go “Oh my god, I’ve only got…” right? And it’s a number. It’s just a number. And so that feeling of “Oh my, it’s only…” well what’s only? I’m only. In other words, if you have a sense of yourself as less than, then you’re gonna bring those feelings to your money. Can you see that?
Zephan: Now, does that mean that we should stop looking at our bank accounts because we do that?
Joan: No, no, no, no. No. Quite the opposite. The bank account is your key to personal growth and development. It’s your key to learning about yourself! What a great opportunity! So you can look at the money and say “What am I feeling?” because feelings are just habits. It’s not like you can’t change them, right? So you look at your money and you say “Okay, I’m feeling ashamed of where I am financially.” Which is very common. “I don’t make enough. People make more than me. Someone my age should be making more.” All these stories we tell ourselves.
So you look at the feelings and you say “Okay, when did I feel this before?” Well, when we’re talking about shame, you probably felt that when your mother said shame on you. Remember? I mean, somewhere along the line, parents tend to shame the kids in some way, and that’s the shame. So it’s like, “I’m shameful.” People take that.
So there are a lot of technique you can use for altering feelings. I like the energy psychology techniques, like EFT and Be Set Free Fast. There’s one Harmony Integration. And these are really easy to learn, so you recognize, release, and then replace. So what would you rather feel when you’re looking at your bank account? Would you rather feel full? Or expanded? Right? So you say “Okay, how do I do that?” what does expanded feel like? The contracted, the shame is just the habit. And if you understand that it’s just a habit, it’s not who you are, then you can change the habit. Can you see that?
Joan: I mean, it’s not complicated, it’s just that you have to be willing to do it. And people tend to want their lives to change, but they don’t want to change. So it’s a matter of being willing to take the time and effort to recognize when you’re going into that state, taking a deep breath, and one of the simplest ways of releasing, other than these energy psychology techniques, is to just make the sound of the feeling. Okay, I’m feeling like this, right, and if I go [groans]—which can get kind of silly—I’m expressing the feeling, and feelings by their nature want to be expressed. So when you make the sound, it actually helps you feel better.
Zephan: Interesting. So—
Joan: It’s a very different way of looking at financial feelings.
Zephan: Yeah, no, absolutely. And it’s something that’s very easy to apply to our lives so that we can start making that change. Is there any perception of how long this might take someone to kind of turn around inside their head, at least just for the example of looking at their bank account? I mean, are we talking is this a year for me to be able to do this? Is this maybe a few weeks?
Joan: Different for everybody.
Joan: And here’s the tough thing: humans hate uncertainty. It’s—soon as something’s uncertain, the amygdala goes “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!” and you go back to doing what you were doing before, right? And the way we are in this instant gratification age, if I try it once and it doesn’t work, “oh my god, that didn’t work.” and the thing is, it takes time to change the neural pathways in your brain. Which is what has to happen so that when something happens, you’re actually altering your habitual response to familiar stimuli. And it’s like changing eating habits or changing financial habits.
If you don’t keep track of your money—and by now, most people know you’re supposed to count it. Because the one thing that money really likes is when people count it. It goes to people who love and take care of it, just like people. And people know I’m supposed to, but when I look at my money, I’m uncomfortable, so I’m gonna avoid doing it. Well, if you’d start with something simple like an app on your iPhone and you just write down what you’re spending… And you’re not gonna do it every day at first because it takes time to build a habit. And so you just give yourself permission to take whatever you need in order to develop this habit.
You have to be uncomfortable enough to want to change.
Zephan: Mhm. Yeah, I guess you have to be tired of your current situation, of where you are enough so that you’re ready to do that. You said something interesting about money who comes to those who take care of it, who care for it. And this is something that we actually see quite often. Is that those people who are worried so much about money and actually closing themselves off to money coming into them verses those who just understand that they’re making responsible decisions tend to be finding prosperity much easier.
Joan: And when you get over financial vagueness, you also get over financial fear. Cause when you know exactly what you’ve got, what’s coming in, what you have to pay out—and if you see there’s not enough, “Okay, what do I have to do to make up the shortfall?” But if you’re just waiting for the shortfall, then you’re in this state of anticipation. Negative anticipation. Whereas if you keep track of your—when I say cash flow, people go “Oh, I don’t want to know about that.” It’s just a matter of financial planning on a day to day basis.
And people have this fantasy that if they have a lot of money, they’re not going to have any financial fear. Or if they have a lot of money, they won’t have money issues. Which is totally untrue. Every financial advisor I have ever talked to says the more money people have, the more fear they have. Because they have more to lose. So the—the comfort, financial comfort does not depend on your bank account. It depends upon your ability to trust yourself to take care of yourself. Can you see that?
Zephan: Yeah. And not only do we have more to lose if we have more money, but we’ve got more taxes to pay and I’m sure tons of other things that come into play.
Joan: It’s much more complicated. You gotta deal with the accountant and the lawyer and what should I do? Should I hide the money? Should I pay my taxes? Every dollar above what you need to pay your basics is a decision. And that’s why people avoid surplus. You actually have to learn how to deal with surplus. People go “Oh, I know what I’ll do with it! I’m gonna buy this and buy that” and pretty soon, there’s no surplus. You’re right back to where you were before, right?
Zephan: Yeah. I don’t know if you’ve seen—I think there’s a TV show about it where they find people who’ve won the lottery and they go back to them five, ten years later and say “Where are you? What do you have now?” and it’s like…I don’t know the numbers, but a majority of them don’t have the money anymore. They spent all of it.
Joan: Well here’s the deal. Here’s the deal. Remember I said our biggest fear is being alone? Well, when you change your financial position, you affect your relationship with your family of origin and your peer group. So—and there’s a fear—because of what we talk about, the one percent, wealth doesn’t have a lot of warm fuzzy feelings around it. Wealthy people are greedy. Wealthy people are this.
Just I know that when I moved to Santa Fe almost twenty years ago, I came here with two hundred dollars and whatever fit in my car. That was the extent of my estate. And I quickly joined a spiritual group that became my supportive family, and as I started making my money, I could see how my relationship with them was changing. Suddenly I was one of the go-to people if the organization needed more money, and there was a difference between how I used to and how I was relating to the locals. In Santa Fe, we have the locals who struggle financially, and the people who come and visit or have big houses in the hills. So there’s this income inequality within our city. And as I started changing positions, I have to realize that it was up to me to find the points of commonality when I was moving away from the common financial position that I held with the other people who were having trouble financially.
Zephan: So having all this money doesn’t necessarily make us any happier. But why is it that all of us just think “Oh, if I made another ten thousand dollars” or “If I had another twenty thousand dollars, I would be happy”?
Joan: Fantasy. It’s fantasy. We’re—we hear all these financial gurus saying—particularly the ones like with the Secret, and the Law of Attraction, and—there’s this myth that money makes you happy. The studies show that anything over seventy-five thousand dollars a year doesn’t make you any happier.
Zephan: Really. So I saw a study actually that—this was older, probably. Maybe five years ago, the number had been at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. So that number has come way down since I saw that, and—which I think is great because it’s showing us that we don’t really need that.
Joan: At one point, I gave away everything I owned. I did it because I didn’t have money for rent, and I just said “Okay, whatever that guidance is that they talk about, show me. Show me what I’m supposed to do.” And I wandered around for a long time. Did a lot of meditating, never knew where my food was coming from, or my lodging. If I had no money for food, I figured I was learning how to fast. And I just learned that whatever was happening was okay. When I look back at that time, I realize it was one of the most valuable times of my life. Because I learned to live in the moment and be okay with everything that was going on. And as I came out of this and came back to life, I made it my goal to not let my back account determine how I feel.
And most people don’t look at it that way. They say “I’ll feel better when…” Well, the fact is, if you don’t feel good today, you’re not gonna feel better “when.” If you’re dissatisfied now, you’re going to be dissatisfied then, because that’s your feeling habit.
Zephan: Yeah, well, it’s—you’re exactly right. I mean, there’s a lot of research and a lot of people who talk about this now. Is we set this goal of “I’ll be happy when I hit here.” Well, what happens when we get there? We get there and then this goes this way. It moves up—the goal moves up and the goal becomes bigger, and the problem is you never quite hit happiness because you keep thinking that you’ll hit a certain point and that’s where happiness is and then where happiness is changes for you.
Joan: Right. Why do you need fifteen Lamborghinis? One should be enough.
Zephan: Why do you even need one?
Joan: I don’t know. My brother, at one point, had a Ferrari. He was pretty—he was executive producer of one of the big television shows. And he was driving around in his Ferrari, and it was really difficult to keep up. It cost a hundred dollars to change a sparkplug, and it was very touchy, and—you don’t need it. If you need it to make you feel good, then when that thing goes away, what’s gonna happen to your feelings?
So for me, I have followed a pretty spiritual path. I mean, I gave away everything I owned, right. And to me, it’s a matter of going inside and finding out what’s keeping you from feeling connected to yourself and the world around you. I think what we really all seek is connection. When someone hands you money, that’s a kind of connection, isn’t it?
Zephan: It absolutely is.
Joan: It’s someone saying “I appreciate you. I acknowledge you.” And there’s a connection. That’s why compulsive shopping is a result of feeling really alone. Or debting is the resulting of feeling alone. “If I owe you money, you’re not gonna forget about me.” So let’s work on the core. I always try to look at the core. What’s at the core of what’s going on and what I boiled it down to, for most of us, is that need for connection. To feel a part of—humans, by nature, are tribal. And in our—when our basic connection is a like on Facebook or someone tweeting or retweeting our tweets or favoriting, that’s a piece of connection.
And I like that. The other day, I posted a picture of myself in my crystal business thirty years ago, and I had a hundred and seven likes and thirty-eight comments and—oh, wow, that was terrific. But I need to feel a deeper connection. Not only to other, but to myself. And for me, the way that comes is through meditation, through taking care of myself, by eating well—I mean, I have a tremendous amount of energy for a person my age. And most people think I’m twenty years young than I am. Because I haven’t had sugar in forty-two years!
Joan: [laughs] I honestly have not knowingly eaten sugar, because it makes me depressed. And I exercise every day. I walk at least a mile to two miles a day. I’m surrounded by people. I do all the things, and they work! But if you’re gonna zone out on candy bars and not get any exercise and “I don’t wanna do that”—it’s not gonna work! And so you have to—and so the money, remember, money’s just energy. And so when you pay attention to your personal energy, and your connection to yourself, you’re going to have more with all kinds of energy, including money.
Zephan: So this goes beyond financials to make you wealthy. Wealth is not just a financial term. Wealth is your health, wealth is your ability to have certain experiences and adventures. Tell me a little bit about where did your decision come from like with cutting out sugar. Because that’s something that, health wise, is a huge deal lately, but I’m sure has a big effect on you throughout the rest of your life and your ability to have a great financial situation.
Joan: I was a suicidal depressive for fifteen years. And I kept looking, “Why am I so depressed?” And remember—this was a long time ago, before the internet, before there was a whole lot of information. I bought a medical textbook to try to figure it out! And then one day, I saw a documentary on television, 1973, on hypoglycemia. And I knew that what it. And I did a little research and I saw that doctors were calling that a “disease of thin, nervous women,” it wasn’t real. I asked my family doctor about it, he gave me a glucose tolerance test, and my blood sugar level went down so low, I should have been passing out. But he had no idea what to do about it!
So I meditated and I said “Show me what I’m supposed to do” and I found this endocrinologist who discovered that—he specialized in bariatric medicine, which was dealing with overweight people—and he discovered that almost every one of his clients was hypoglycemic. So I made an appointment, went to see him, handed me a piece of paper that said “No peas, no beans, no corn, no rice, no, potatoes, no bread, no grapes, no bananas, no watermelon, no sugar, no caffeine, no white flour.”
Zephan: Ouch. [Both laugh]
Joan: And at that point, I was so willing not to be depressed that I went home and did it all. And he had never seen anyone who did it all at once, and so I would up having a lot of other problems because my liver wasn’t working properly—it was a long story. But within two days, I wasn’t depressed anymore. It was amazing! And I had other problems that came up as a result, but I was so determined not to be depressed anymore. I remember having a ripe pear once, and within twenty-four hours, I was wondering whether I should still be on the planet.
And right now, I’m going through something called low dose allergen immunotherapy now. And the doctor assures me that after a year, I won’t be as sensitive. And I’ve had three rounds of the shots, and as of yesterday, I started introducing foods that used to make me react. And I actually had almost a whole orange in two days.
Zephan: Wow. [Joan laughing] Now, do you think that this issue with sugar and depression played a big role in your experience with bankruptcy and financial issues when you were younger?
Joan: Well, it had a lot to do with how I viewed myself and how I interacted with the world. By the—when I gave up—by the time I gave up the sugar, I was already—I was already into metaphysics, you know. Why, how do we make our lives the way they are? And I already believed that we create our own reality. And I wanted to know how. I don’t like to use the word reality anymore. I use the word “life stories.” That our behavior determines our life stories and our outcomes.
And because I had two millionaire brothers, and I was sick—I mean physically, aside from the depression, I had every imaginable physical thing that you can imagine. And I wanted to know why. And I began to understand that at the root, you know, we have beliefs that lead to thoughts that lead to emotions. And the emotions act as the bridge between the internal and external world. So if you understand the emotions that are informing your behavior, then you can change the whole cycle. You see that?
Zephan: Yeah, so, it’s a process, for sure, but it’s crazy to think that we place a value on ourselves based on these numbers that we see in our bank accounts. But let me ask you this, so you know a lot of people are in debt. We’ve got college tuitions…
Joan: Student debt, right.
Zephan: …people take forever to pay off. We’ve got tons of other things causing debt, but debt can be pretty debilitating. What should somebody do if they’re already there? Because I know that it’s actually possible to get out of debt, but how should we kind of change our perception or alter our way of approaching it so that we can kind of dig ourselves back out?
Joan: Okay, so this is one of my favorite topics because I was a debtor. My father was a compulsive debtor and went bankrupt, and I never learned how to save. I would—my father used to say to me “You’ve got the ideas, the bank has the money, go get the money.” And I was very good at talking the bank out of the money, but he forgot to tell me about paying it back. And I—I just never learned to do—I could manage debt better than I could manage surplus. And—so I had to look at what are the feelings behind debt? And to me it’s that I need to feel connected. If I owe you money, you’re not gonna forget about me. And it’s that need to have more. I need more. I need more because I feel less. So there’s all these feelings behind it.
I keep thinking about Donald Trump. And how he doesn’t appear to be bothered by whatever billions of dollars’ worth of debt he may have with all his construction. So I realize that the feelings about debt are optional, they’re not a requirement. That whatever you’re feeling because of the situation you’re in is why you need that situation so you can express those feelings, which come from another story! Can you—like, debt makes you feel trapped, right? Trapped, burdened, ashamed, right? But those feelings don’t get written into your contract. Those are what you’re bringing to the debt. So my theory is you need to debt to express those feelings. And when you express those feelings, you’ll find a way out of the debt.
Now, at the same time, you have to learn techniques for getting out of debt. You can’t just sit there waiting for the debt to go away. You have to learn how to put money aside and how to manage cash flow and you can get out of debt. But to me, behind it all, is the emotional need to be in debt.
Zephan: Do you think that we are reproaching old feelings from past experiences when we feel lost or trapped in this debt? Could it be that we’re choosing to go back to a feeling that we’ve had from a circumstance, whether it’s from our childhood or from another point in time, and we’re coming back to that?
Joan: We’re not choosing, it just happens because it’s out habit. When you’re a little, tiny kid, right, and your mothers feeding you and she’s not looking in your eyes and you’re not bonding, that’s where the aloneness starts. Can you see that? So that feeling of aloneness—or when you’re two and you’re saying “me, me, me” and they’re going “no, no, no,” right, you feel trapped in your family situation. Can you see that?
Okay, so, alone and trapped and if there’s any kind of abuse of any kind, there’s anger and feeling this sense of contraction. And those feelings are so habitual, you don’t even recognize them. They’re just there automatically. So that’s why part of the process is RECOGNIZE, release, and replace, because you have to recognize what’s going on before you can change it.
Zephan: So we have to accept that this is kind of a step in the process to release those feelings.
Joan: Right. And I don’t ever talk about “negative emotions.” I hear that expression all the time. There are no negative emotions, there are just emotions. Not one is not better than the other, but they’re often habitual. So if you have—if you come out fighting and everything is a challenge like that for you, it’s gonna be like that with your money too. So it’s recognizing what’s going on, and it’s—I somehow made a decision somewhere along the line that I wanted to understand what inner peace was. That I really like the Dalai Lama and the spiritual teachers who I came across and their ability to just accept what was going on and just make a decision to just do something else.
So there is a decision about feelings once you recognize what’s going on. “I recognize I’m feeling contracted. When did I feel this before? When my father used to tell me I was no good. Well, was that true?” You see how the—you create a different thinking pattern. And in my book, Build Your Money Muscles, I give instructions for doing all of this.
Zephan: That’s really great. Well, are there—I want you to tell everybody where they can grab your book, as well as are there any mentors or authors that you recommend to also check out that have influenced your way of thinking and, you know, where you’ve gotten to now?
Joan: Good question. Uhm, prosperityplace.com is my center of activity. And my book is there, my book is on Amazon.com, Build Your Money Muscles. People who have influenced me really are as much in the—the personal growth and development. The Path and spiritual authors—I have kind of Swami Vivekananda, who died in the early 20th Century but was really into freedom and women’s rights and everything when he was speaking in the 1890s. All the teachers who teach us that—that we need to know ourselves.
I have a problem with the idea that we’re all supposed to be wealthy. Where did that come from? If you look around the world, it’s not true. And I think it’s all about love. Learning to love ourselves and learning to accept ourselves as we are. One of the things that really affected me—I think the name of the book was You Can Have It All by, uhm…oh, I forge the guy’s name. But I used to go to a support group where we were learning how to just appreciate ourselves and appreciate others. And to me, this is what matters. In terms of the money, there’s so much information out there about how to manage money.
I used to—Suze Orman’s no longer on the air. I used to listen to her just for interest. I didn’t like her, you know, shaking finger kind of thing. And she pretty much talked to people who had jobs, and I’ve never really had a job, so I don’t relate to that. I just relate to the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and the thing that got me the most was my bankruptcy, where I learned that I really had to learn how to manage cash flow and I kind of figured out for myself—as a matter of fact, if your listeners are interested, if they go to prosperityplace.com/spreadsheet, I have a very simple spreadsheet, all in one screen, so you can see it all and there’s a video on how to use it. And it shows you how to see what you have, what you need, what’s coming in, and what’s left over or not. And so you can make your decisions. So that’s prosperityplace.com/spreadsheet.
I also have a video training program and a blueprint for steps I think people should take at presperityplace.com/freedom.
Zephan: Awesome. Well we will definitely make sure to have links to all those on our blogpost at www.yearofpurpose.com. So for everybody listening in, you don’t have to write that down if you’re in the car or wherever you are. We will have that written down for you on our website so you can find all of those links.
It’s been really great speaking to you. Is there any one thing, before we go, that you think you could say to light the fire under someone to start making a change today?
Joan: You’re perfect just the way you are, and love yourself. That’s the bottom line.
Zephan: Easy enough. Well, thanks so much for spending some time with us and I hope to speak with you soon.
Joan: My pleasure.