Think about it.
There are very few things in this world that baffle me more than the human relationship to money. This really came to the forefront of my mind a few weeks ago when speaking with a self-employed friend of mine. K. does great work as a one-woman home reno/decorating/painting/fix-it business. One of the things that makes her so great is that she cares–she cares about you, the client, and she cares about the quality of her work. This is not just about money for her, it’s about helping people make their homes as safe and beautiful as possible. But she always comes across the same feedback, “You don’t charge enough.” (Not that you can ever win this game because there are always those who gripe that you charge too much.) Admittedly, I’ve heard the same thing about my class fees.
What the heck does this mean?
“You don’t charge enough” seems to equal:
- Your work is crap.
- You have low self-esteem.
- You don’t value the work you do.
What if all of that is wrong?
I keep costs in my business low and I do it consciously. I do it so people on fixed or limited incomes can still access the healing benefits of Yoga. I do it because I know first-hand how it feels to really need something and to not be able to access it because the cost was way out of my league. I do it because I know the suffering of “not enough”. In order to do it, I take on more responsibility. I am the one who cleans, mops, vacuums and does the laundry. I do my own bookkeeping. I print my own advertising material. I teach from the most affordable place in the world–my home. I do this so I can prevent the bleeding of costs into my students’ lives.
None of this impacts the amount of time I spend on class planning or on continuing my education in order to keep me fresh and qualified. My classes remain high in quality and are affordable and accessible. This helps me adhere to my personal philosophy that the world would be a much better place if everyone simply asked for only as much as they need and not as their greed dictates.
I recently read an article where a company in London, UK produced the most expensive t-shirt ever. For the cost of $400,000 US you can own an organic black t-shirt studded with 16 certified diamonds. (You can read more about this here.) Yes, the t-shirt is produced in an environmentally sound manufacturing plant, but does that warrant the price tag? Some may think it’s a reasonable price to save the earth, but look underneath the sparkle. Look at the diamonds. Diamond mines are environmental disaster zones and are linked to war. There’s blood on them diamonds! So, does this blood and war soaked t-shirt made in a high tech plant hold more value than the $15 t-shirt at the local farmer’s market that was hand-dyed using local plants grown and harvested in a neighbour’s backyard? You tell me.
My take on it:
does not =
Money is a method of exchange. It helps you purchase a product or a service. There are some who have the desired product or service who will charge an inordinate amount of money, not because it is worth any more than any similar product or service on the market, but because they know someone out there will pay the price. I’ve heard it myself, “Some idiot out there will pay it.” There are others out there, like me or K., who charge what they think is fair, asking only for what they need so that those who don’t have as much don’t need to be excluded from the experience.
We aren’t bargain basement service providers.
We’re ethical entrepreneurs.
There’s a difference.
Take your thinking, turn it around, and look at it from different directions. Wonder about the origins of your thoughts. Question the products you purchase. Oh…
and don’t be the “idiot who will pay for it.”
You’re better than that.
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy reading, “Why ‘Charging What You’re Worth’ is Bullshit” by Tad Hargrave.
Our birth and death are easy hours, like sleep
and food and drink. The struggle staggers us
for bread, for pride, for simple dignity.
And this is more than fighting to exist;
more than revolt and war and human odds.
There is a journey from the me to you.
There is a journey from the you to me.
A union of the two strange worlds must be.
– The Struggle Staggers Us, Margaret Walker
Every week, and several times at that, I drive past a community organization called The Compass, where people who have fallen on hard times can go to find food, employment assistance, emergency money, spiritual and emotional support, and a sense of belonging. It’s quite the thing driving past the place that is sandwiched between two hubs of extreme wealth–Port Credit and Lorne Park. So while the Bentleys and the Botox babes stream past, there, on the corner, every day, you will find a gathering of souls, the “Lakeshore trash” milling about, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and waiting for what might be their only meal of the day. And so it is, as I drive by, that I do not find myself shaking my head in pity and saying, “Those poor bastards.” Instead, I often repeat, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Despite the fact that I live in a comfortable home and can afford the luxury of a car, I see myself in those struggling souls; I am not different. One day, I too could be standing outside The Compass; there is no guarantee against it.
Over the years, I have had close connections to people who have fallen on hard times. It’s remarkable how they look just like you and me…because they are you and me. The teenage boy who, in trying to save his sanity and his very skin, has no choice but to run from his abusive home to the city streets. The young woman from an upper middle class family who survives a horrendous traffic accident, but not without almost losing her leg. In struggling to put her life together again, she has to go on welfare to support herself and her young daughter. The proud, hard-working woman who is afraid her husband is going to kill them all so, she shoves her kids in the car while he’s away at work, and drives off to another state. She spends month after month looking for work but nobody wants her. She has to go on welfare to put food in her children’s mouths. The man who lost time from work for a few weeks due to illness. No work, no money. Now he loses sleep wondering how he can rob Peter to pay Paul. What can he sell? How does he bridge the gap between zero dollars in his accounts and the rent that is about to come due? One wrong move and it could mean he’s out on the street.
I have a face for every one of those stories. I have looked into those desperate eyes. I have smelled the stench of terror on their breath. I have touched their skin. I have loved them all. And I have been desperate right along with them.
There are so many stories like these. Sometimes it seems that everywhere you turn you see a desperate, suffering face. It can grow deep, dark despair in your own heart when it feels like, no matter what you do, you can’t stop the suffering. Isn’t that what all people want in the end anyway, to stop the suffering?
So, what can we do? Well, we can throw money at it, but I don’t think that’s enough. Sometimes we need to get dirty. Sometimes we need to look into the suffering eyes and really hear the pain, the sorrow, the despair; we need to take it all in. We need to have our hearts torn open and we need to hurt right along with those who are in front of us. We need to ask from the purity of our hearts, “How may I best serve you?” Maybe the answer is risking a tirade and showing up with enough groceries to fill the cupboards of a proud soul. Maybe it’s taking a chance at being annoying and firing off emails to everyone you know to help someone find work. Maybe it’s taking time out of your schedule to do the laundry of someone who is frail and housebound. Maybe it’s opening your doors and taking someone in so they don’t have to sleep on the street.
Nothing about any of that is easy. It’s asking for a lot, but it’s what we do when we realize we’re all in this together and if we don’t stick together, we’re not going to make it. It’s what happens when we know we’re no different from the ones standing outside of The Compass waiting to eat someone else’s food because they don’t have any of their own. It’s what happens when we risk and we Love.
Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.― Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa
Here’s my hand, in case you need it:
If you’d like to extend yours, I’ll be happy to hold it.
Travelling with you in the human boat,