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  • What are you feeding your mind? Hacking your brain like it’s the Facebook algorithm

    hack your brain like the fb algorithm

     

    Humans. We’re complex and unpredictable. Yet deep down we all just want a few basic things – to feel seen, heard, understood. Our minds are so incredibly powerful and yet, the base operating system is … well, pretty basic.

    It’s at once humbling and amusing to realise this.

    Your brain basically has a nifty little Facebook-like algorithm powering it

    You can shape, feed, train it to support your goals. I mentioned the reticular activating system in my last post – this is what is always working to show you what you want to focus on, bringing you the best stuff,┬ásurfacing new opportunities that you can capitalise on. Helping you get where you want to go.

    If FB can serve you ads for all the things you want to buy and all the content you want to read, your brain can absolutely steer you likewise, bringing your attention to opportunities you want. Maybe that’s finding a new job. Turning your eye toward ways to make more money. Finding the perfect house or partner.

    The flipside of that, of course, is it can reinforce negative patterns. I’ve had to consciously work to let go of a number of deeply ingrained beliefs and replace them with more useful ones.

    I can’t make good money doing what I love >>> I get paid well and have fun doing it

    Oh hey, ex journalist over here with a starving artist mindset and pegged to poverty-level income from the beginning!

    This was a gradual process over years, but the data points added up and eventually, this shift happened for me too. As I truly came to see and believe what was possible, I made damn sure I pursued the money and steeled myself to ask for it.

    • My friend from uni who landed a $60k starting salary (obviously not in journalism…)
    • My colleague who went to a PR agency, constantly got told what a great job she was doing, and given a pay rise every 6 months.
    • My colleague who went on to do social media at a financial institution for $80k
    • Hearing about PR reps and media/comms managers on $130k

    I devoured salary surveys, staring at the numbers until they imprinted in my brain. I did the same with the salary bands on the intranet, burning those figures into my brain. If those people could make that much money, so could I. Why not?

    I shouldn’t spend money on myself >>> I get to have nice things if I want them

    My immigrant parents definitely modeled intense frugality. Honestly, I still have a mental anchor around $20 being what we spent on shoes and gifts. I bought a $25 swimsuit once and lied to them about what it cost. Shopping sprees – buying more than one non-essential item at a time? Get outta here! And on top of that, I had a block around having nice things, knowing they can be taken away (like when my mum gave away my Westlife CD to a friend’s kid, or the multiple times I’ve been burgled, or other people taking/using things of mine).

    I work hard and I deserve nice things. I know this gets some people into trouble, but I am more of the underbuying, self-denying variety ­čÖé Little luxuries, like hand cream or nice cheese, elevate daily life SO much. You can’t be what you can’t feel, and pleasures that help me feel like a million bucks actually support my success.

    I’m not an ideas person >>> I know my stuff and I own it

    A particularly formative experience for me involved receiving unexpected, harsh criticism from a parent. That probably fueled my reluctance to put myself out there and to do anything to avoid the discomfort of going through similar pain. But of course, I wound up dating someone who told me, albeit jokingly, “I’m surprised you came up with that by yourself…”

    Until recently, the word “idea” was literally a huge trigger for me. I’d panic if asked for ideas. I’d panic ahead of “brainstorming sessions”.┬á Spontaneous ideation was not a thing for me, so I worked really hard to overcompensate and overprepare.

    Being asked to prepare presentations on my area of expertise at work was a daunting challenge every time. But each time, I was able to synthesise industry trends and formulate great decks based on my own knowledge, and surprise myself.

    Now, I embrace my subconscious and know that great stuff flows out from there when I relax and let it. I try not to overthink things too much before speaking up. I trust my value and power, because over time people have validated my contributions over and over. The data points added up. I now finally believe them.

    I’m a bad communicator >>> I am an articulate and thoughtful communicator

    My parents were terrible communicators. Not that they realised it. They told me I was, projecting their issues onto me. Everything was my fault. And of course, we gravitate to what we know, and I’ve experienced the same pattern play out with others since then.

    I communicate fantastically through writing. I’m much better at verbal communication than I used to be. I am often complimented on how articulate and thoughtful I am, and recently a colleague literally told me she learns a lot from I work and communicate. My communication style continues to evolve for the better as I heal, become more emotionally mature, and learn more about psychology and human nature.

    Clear your cache, upgrade your brain’s OS

    Where the hell did all that stuff come from, anyway?

    As you can see, it’s mostly shit we’ve taken on from external sources and formative childhood experiences. That noise is like retargeting – stalking you, haunting you, following you around. Whispering (or shouting!) at every chance it gets.┬á

    When you become aware of it and start to really observe what’s happening, you will realise that your brain is probably telling you mostly unkind thoughts. You’re stuck with it, even though it’s not that helpful. We’re stunted, frozen in time emotionally,┬áplaying in adult bodies.

    What if you flipped that around and nurtured your mind with encouraging thoughts instead? What could you do? What could you have? What could you be?

    Clear your cache. Each belief you shake up is like clearing your browser cache, emptying out all the accumulated weight. 

    Upgrade your operating system. Eventually, you’ll notice a dramatic difference. Rewire enough beliefs and it’s like running an entirely new OS.┬áIf you’re about my age, you’re probably still running something like Windows XP when now Windows 10 is available. We’re up to a WAY newer version and just haven’t updated.

    There’s a whole new world waiting on the other side. You may not look any different, but you will feel like an entirely new person.

  • Money, mindset, and manifesting: Why I’m now making mindset work a daily practice

    i'm working on my mindset like a full time job

     

    Years ago, I noticed something odd. Little windfalls seemed to come my way just after I gave money to a charitable cause. This happened over and over again.

    That really was the beginning of my journey in relation to manifesting.

    I’ve gone on to manifest lots of things, small and big.┬áBut my favourite example has got to be a tailor-made-for-me job (no kidding – a new position at a dream organisation that didn’t previously have a team in this department, let alone an office in my city). I truly believe in the power of setting an intention, then stepping back, and taking actions that flow in the right direction.

    Just recently, I received an email that I’d written to 2021 me, three years ago. No joke: I have everything I outlined in that letter, none of which I had achieved back then, and had no concrete idea as to the HOW – only the WHAT. That’s not to say my life is perfect. Far from it! There are some things I didn’t specify, didn’t touch on at all in that letter – and those are currently the most deficient areas in my life. They are worse than I could have ever imagined, to be honest.

    Now, I’m still not crazy about the word manifest. It’s a little too woo for me and I know it turns a LOT of people off. But the fact is, my experience has shown me that:

    • I can achieve what initially seemed like impossible goals once I DECIDE to go all in
    • The more I give, the more comes back to me

    Barring certain external limitations (physical, societal/systemic/structural factors, etc), what I need to succeed is already within me. And therefore on the flipside, all that’s stopping me is also within me.

    Sometimes you hear something phrased in a way that just clicks for you.

    We are mental health sanitation workers.

    (Courtesy of The Hello Seven podcast)

    It’s not all about money, although a lot of my goals have been financial. And let’s face it, most goals require money.

    In my quest to work my way up to six figures, I have had to do SO MUCH inner work, training my brain to absorb and accept new thoughts, ideas, and patterns. Moulding it to help me. Building those neural pathways. The brain is a muscle, and it has so much power to help or hinder you (as anyone with anxiety, etc knows). Opening my brain up to new possibilities helps it to see more opportunities and then to take advantage of them.┬á No wonder so many entrepreneurs treat working on their mindset like a full-time job. I’ve tried to adopt that mentality too. It’s what has helped me get through Covid, along with a ton of … other life stuff. I’ve made mindset work a daily practice, and I only wish I’d discovered it earlier.

    Getting my brain on board with change

    What really clicked for me was learning about the Reticular Activating System (RAS), a lovely big bundle of nerves that basically┬áconnects the subconscious and conscious part of the brain. ┬á(This is basically the science that serves as the base for anything vaguely Law of Attraction-y.) When you learn a new word then start hearing it everywhere, buy a new car and start seeing the same model everywhere, or instinctively snap to attention when you hear someone call your name – that’s our buddy RAS kicking in. It tunes us in to the things we care about, filtering out all the masses of information that the brain is constantly taking in and processing and honing in on what it thinks we’ll be interested in.

    It’s basically nature’s version of the Facebook algorithm. It’s always looking for data points to back up and validate your beliefs. It shows what it thinks you want to see and what it thinks you care about. But it doesn’t actually know what you really want unless you explicitly tell it. And that’s where all the mindset work comes in – training it to prioritise stuff that will help you achieve your goals and help you become the person you want to be.

    Three things that have helped me a lot in the past year, and that I frequently return to, are:

    • I can choose a new thought any time (and everything that exists once began as a mere thought)
    • A thought just needs to be 51% believable
    • Envy = evidence. Take others’ achievements as proof of what’s possible

    Manifesting brings opportunities your way.

    After that, it’s up to you to do the work. Seize the opportunities, capitalise on them, and see how the results flow.

  • Money always needs a purpose. What’s yours?

    your money needs a purpose

     

    Every dollar has a job.┬áThat’s the principle behind a budget.┬áIf you don’t have a purpose in mind for your money, you’re not going to have it for long.

    Likewise, without a concrete goal, it’s hard to bring in more money.

    For me, at least, I can’t seem to just make more for the sake of it. I need a reason. Whether it’s clearing a debt, saving for a SPECIFIC thing, taking a trip … there needs to be an end goal that I can visualise and focus on.

    I’ve had a lot of big goals that I had no idea how I was going to accomplish. But I did – every single time. Whether it was a round-the-world trip or buying a house, I had to take a leap of faith and trust that my strategy would see me through.

    I’ve been amazed, over and over, by what I can accomplish by simply DECIDING to achieve it. Once I put aside the doubts and what-ifs and just mentally commit to making it happen. Trusting that it’s possible. It’s often about letting go of attachment to a specific outcome, roadmap, or timeline. The pieces usually start to fall into place after that.

    It’s not magical thinking; it’s about locking in an intention, knowing that I’m capable of getting there, even I didn’t have every detail ironed out, and letting things flow from there. And when they do? I’m 100% positioned to capitalise on them and run with it.

    What about you? Does having a specific money goal to reach help accelerate your financial momentum?

  • 3 times insurance totally saved me in the last year

    3 TIMES INSURANCE CAME THROUGH FOR ME

     

    I’ve had a lot of reasons to be thankful for insurance over the past year. When insurance companies come through on claims, it’s so worth it.

    Getting a new (used) car through insurance

    Even though it’s a slight downgrade – a slightly older model, where the lights and wipers don’t automatically turn on/off when it gets dark/rains. Still well worth it. The old car had a few major issues after faithfully serving for many years – and then there was an accident that resulted in insurance writing it off entirely.

    Getting a new shed through house insurance

    Last year, the shed down in the back corner of the yard caught fire in the night. (It’s still unclear why. The best working theory is stray sparks from the neighbours, who often BBQ just on the other side of the fence from the shed.) It’s just lucky it’s situated so far away from the main house.

    Home insurance covered the shed replacement. Because the old one was an ancient, falling-down structure full of asbestos, they replaced it with a metal kitset shed. The whole painful process took six months from lodging the claim to completion of the shed – but it’s done! The new shed is infinitely more usable, too.

    Getting Spud minor surgery through health insurance

    Spud has always had a lot of issues with noisy breathing, reflux, his sinuses, nosebleeds, and constant colds/coughs. (Weirdly, no ear infections, as far as I can tell. Either that, or he’s such a trooper he just doesn’t let on.) A couple ENT visits and an X-ray later, we learned he has enlarged adenoids. After taking a wait-and-see approach for a couple more months, we went the surgical route. The operation took less than an hour and went super smoothly. Way better than expected! The difference was instant. Turns out that airway was more than 50% blocked by those supersized adenoids. It was, of course, quite scary to contemplate upfront. Now, I wish we could have done it earlier. Oversized adenoids is another fairly common thing, it turns out. This has been a huge step on my own personal journey, away from putting up with whatever life hands you, not making a fuss, powering through.

    It’s not the first time we’ve gone to a specialist, having given up on the general care system. I’ve talked before about Spud’s food intolerances. He’s sensitive to half of the top 8 allergens. I’m grateful that he does not have severe instant reactions, but intolerances are a real pain. They’re hard to pin down and others don’t take you seriously. Babies and toddlers can’t communicate! Using a mix of scientific observation and tracking, and my intuition, I was finally able to identify the trouble ingredients (dairy, nuts, fish and seafood). I may not have hard proof, but I completely believe in my conclusions and totally stand by them.

    The first specialist was sceptical. Some symptoms Spud presented are not typical by medical gospel. However, shitloads of anecdotal evidence in online communities and private groups say otherwise. And all our experiences count for something in my eyes. Anyway, we finally got prescribed hypoallergenic formula – and that changed everything.

    But we still struggled with some bad eczema flareups. So we went to the most recommended paediatric dermatologist. “It’s quite bad, you know,” she observed. No shit. But not bad enough for a GP to care. So she gave us a routine to follow – with very specific descriptions of how much cream to apply on specific days – and it worked a treat.

    Have you been getting your money’s worth (or at least, peace of mind) from your insurance?

  • The way you imagined it may not be the way it actually happens

    it might not happen the way you imagine it will

     

    I recently had a client – let’s call her Ana – bail on a project. This was a real blow. It was an expansion on something we’d done together previously – I was so excited! I even posted publicly about it once we agreed to proceed (and maybe that was the problem…) I was paid for the work I did do, but it was only a small part of the total scope.

    I couldn’t help but think back to another client – let’s call him Rich – where something somewhat similar happened. I way overestimated his project – it hardly needed anything from me. (Seriously. When does that ever happen?!) I charged him something like 25% or 33% of my original quote because I barely had to touch most of the draft.

    Both times, I was very attached to that sum of money I had quoted. I needed it for something- it was already earmarked in my mind for a purpose. And neither worked out!

    But Rich went on to refer so many more people my way, which has paid off dozens of times over. And hopefully this instance this will make space too for something else to flow in. Already I’ve had another former client come back wanting help with almost the same thing Ana did…

    Looking back, things have actually happened for me when I least expected them. Usually once I’d given up and let go of all expectation. Not when I was pushing for them, obsessing about them. Only when I finally freed up the space for them to flow.

    At work, I’m always trying to figure out if we are tackling the right problem. What are we trying to solve? It starts with the strategy, or you could be focused on answering the wrong question. There can be many different ways to achieve the same outcome. Define the goal but don’t dictate the solution or even the timeline.

    And I guess it’s the same in life.

  • Money & marriage: Navigating the awkward conversations and more

    money for couples - money and marriage

    True story. When I was in my teens, the most important advice my parents saw fit to pass on to me about relationships was to get tested … to check that my partner and I were genetically compatible.

    Honestly, there are so many more things it’s important to be compatible about in daily life. Like housework, and leisure time … and money.

    When a saver + spender come together, there’s so much to compromise on. The little stuff, like snack runs to the corner shop. The big stuff, like planning and paying for trips, through to saving for the future.

    And navigating through all the stuff is HARD. Talking about it, let alone managing it!

    When financial coaches Saver Street reached out to me about their new offerings, I was stoked to see how deep their program for couples went. They’ve got a free Money & Marriage Conversations Checklist┬áto kick things off, as well as a 5-week┬áMoney & Marriage course that dives into all the juicy stuff to help you get on the right track. There’s guidance on some of the most common financial issues facing couples, like:

    • Agreeing on big expenses
    • How to give gifts
    • Putting together a budget
    • Deciding who plays what role in the finances

    Each week there’s a┬áquiz for you to take individually as well as┬áprompts for reflection. Then, you come together to reconvene using the guides for discussion, and you can join the group coaching calls if that’s your kinda jam.

    I LOVE that Week 3 looks at how love languages and money intersect. I’m such a huge nerd for psychology and self-development; and so very very much of personal finance is mental and emotional. Our backgrounds impact everything, whether it’s how we view money or approach parenting.

    There’s essential insights to be had around spending personalities, and they get real and honest about combining finances (including when it may not be the right time/move for you now. Let’s face it, this is not the best idea for everyone!)

    And importantly, it all culminates with practical steps: building a budget and action plan, and agreeing on roles and responsibilities – who does what, with super specific, nitty gritty tasks from managing taxes through to car maintenance.

    If that sounds like something that’d be helpful for you, you can sign up for the Money & Marriage course here for 20% off today.┬á

  • 5 no-regrets purchases that make life with a toddler WAY easier

    5 NO REGRET PURCHASES - that make life with a toddler way better

    Voila! A list of things that are making life way better. Because toddlers are hard work.

    In comparison, it feels like we needed so many more baby products when he was younger (here were my top must-haves when Spud was little.)

    I got sick of hoisting Spud up to wash his hands. A ┬ábamboo step stool has now taken up permanent residence at the bathroom basin. Most importantly, it has saved my arms and back, and many splashes…

     

    With two dogs and a toddler around, the floors are in a constant state of disarray (emergency, even?). A dustpan and brush sometimes feel inadequate and it’s not always convenient or practical to whip out the vacuum constantly. Enter the BISSELL manual sweeper! It’s like a contained broom and it’s a godsend. The carpet sweeper ‘vacuums’ up carpet nicely, controlling pet hair, and it does a reasonable job of hard floors too. There are a lot fewer crumbs in my life now and I’m much happier for it.

     

    It’s not uncommon to see railway tracks chalked all over our driveway and the footpath outside our house, all in bright colours courtesy of Crayola sidewalk chalk. Great fun on dry days!

    Speaking of tracks, I nabbed Spud some secondhand wooden train tracks┬áfor Christmas and they were a hit. These are his fave toys at daycare. I was reluctant to double up at home, but really, he loves them – why deny him?

    The long days, short nights and 2 year sleep regression hit hard. Later, I figured out that granola for breakfast was probably causing a lot of the painful wakings (sleep and eating issues are still closely linked for Spud even at this age … and the traces of nuts in the granola were probably the culprit). As for the prolonged bedtimes, I resorted to trying chewables with magnesium to help support/encourage falling asleep. No idea if they actually helped, but now they’ve become a key part of the routine: vitamin, books, and bed.

    Next up on my wishlist? Bath crayons to keep bathtime engaging. Thankfully, you can buy anything online these days with a good internet connection (remember to shop around on broadband comparison websites). As a working parent, leisurely instore browsing is a thing of the past.

    What are you loving right now for your little ones?

  • Online banking hacked? It happened to me

    There’s a special horror that comes with the territory of the violation of your personal spaces. If you’ve been burgled before, you know exactly what I mean. That crawly feeling; the knowledge that someone’s been inside your living room, kitchen, bedroom … looked around, touched your stuff, helped themselves to things.

    It’s kind of like that when you learn that someone’s gained access to your online banking. It makes you realise how fragile the building blocks that enable your daily life are. Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale, when women were suddenly cut off from their bank accounts and could no longer access their own money.

    As a sleep deprived parent, I barely registered the strange alert that a new device had signed into my internet banking. That notification came at a really odd time in the wee hours – but mornings are chaos at home, and this was over the New Year break, so honestly, the whole day was chaos.

    When I realised what had happened and saw the missing money, I obviously freaked out.

    My online banking got hacked.

    Initially, the person on the other end of the phone at the bank sounded sceptical. Despite me explaining that yes, I used a unique password and no, it wasn’t written down anywhere or saved in any browsers; no, I hadn’t clicked on any links in emails and always type in the URL manually – it took quite a while for her to take me seriously. Frustrating.

    Fast forward a few days, and things got straightened out eventually. My cards and accounts were locked down and my online banking had a freeze put on it while I took my laptop to an IT dude for a checkup. My bank couldn’t recover the money from the receiving bank (presumably it was immediately transferred elsewhere), but I was refunded the lost amount.

    Does this make me super paranoid now? Ummm, yeah. Funnily enough, last year I interviewed for a job in the cybersecurity space. At the time, I talked about how it was a growing field that would be exciting to be part of, yadda yadda. (Here are some pretty terrifying stats on cybercrime – the FBI gets 900 complaints a day, and cybercrime costs the world economy nearly $3 million per minute. The mind boggles.) It didn’t really mean much to me personally, though.

    But an incident like this makes it real and brings it home. This stuff matters.

    Change ALL THE PASSWORDS

    For obvious reasons.

    Turn on two-factor authentication

    I didn’t actually realise my bank now has 2FA enabled for desktop banking.

    Keep some money accessible at another bank

    Luckily I already had this in place, though I’m resisting the kneejerk urge to spread my (limited) money around even more.

  • Here’s how much my maternity leave cost me

    how much my maternity leave cost me

    Can you imagine a guy telling his colleagues that the thing he’s most looking forward to in the new year is starting a family?

    I’ve seen this happen (incidentally, he a) left for another company early not long after, and b) is now expecting a baby too – but that’s by the by) and you know what, that really stunned me.

    I cannot ever, EVER imagine saying the same thing as a woman. It seems too great of a risk.

    I saw a tweet ages ago that went something like ‘in the old days, men could say they needed a raise so they could start a family”.

    I suspect if a woman were to pull that the reaction would be quite different. Even though if she was the breadwinner, she would need that raise WAY more than any dude in the equivalent situation.

    Who earns what matters. Here’s why

    For those who say it doesn’t who matter who makes more…

    • Let’s say he makes $40k.
    • She makes $80k.
    • The time she takes off results in a loss of 2/3 of the household income.

    If we reverse that….

    • He makes $80k.
    • She makes $40k.
    • The time she takes off results in a loss of 1/3 of the household income.

    I’m terrible at maths but even I can immediately see that’s there’s a huge, gaping difference there.

    Because yes, she’s going to need SOME time off to push a mini human out of her body and recover from that process … even if they elect for him to be the primary caregiver.

    I guess ironically, at some income levels this matters less. If you’re making a much higher income, your surplus makes it easier to save large amounts to cover those months you won’t be earning for.

    But for your average middle class couple, this is a pretty major consideration.

    How much my maternity leave cost me

    I was uber fortunate to have a very generous employer – the company I worked for while pregnant offers 3 months of leave at full pay.┬á (I’d still be there were it not for the mass layoffs that took place shortly before I was due to return to work.) That’s super rare, and they were definitely a market leader in regard to this benefit. Very few companies here offer any paid parental leave at all, much less at full pay and for that long.┬áMost people only get the 22 weeks worth of paid government leave that clocks in at something like $480 a week post-tax, maximum.

    I wound up taking about 7.5 months off, which included the 3 months of paid parental leave, and another month of annual leave that I’d saved up.

    That meant 3.5 months of lost income from my day job, which adds up to over $15k of takehome income.

    Add to that over $3.5k in missed superannuation contributions (between my contributions and employer contributions – again, my old employer was very generous on that front) plus any gains that amount would have made in the market.

    All up, my brief (by NZ standards) parental leave meant I lost out on nearly $20k. And if I’d worked almost anywhere else, that amount would have probably doubled, as I wouldn’t have benefited from any fully-paid leave. Straight up, I wouldn’t have been able to take that much time off to stay home with Spud.

  • All the baby gear I’ve scored for free on Facebook

    All the baby gear I've scored for free on facebookLike every other human on Facebook, I have mixed feelings about social media. Particularly since managing social media has been part of my job in almost every role I’ve ever held.

    But it has been a godsend since having a baby, and here’s why.

    I’ve been the grateful recipient of so many freebies that have saved me a ton of money.

    Here’s a list of everything I can remember that I’ve received:

    • Reusable cloth nappies
    • Hanging storage racks for nappies/toys
    • Baby books
    • Bags of toys
    • A change table
    • A bouncer
    • Bedside drawers
    • Curtains – that didn’t fit and that I regifted
    • A few tins of Neocate – the biggest game changer of all. Dairy-free, amino acid formula for which there’s a high bar to get a prescription (though some doctors may be more sympathetic than others). I was then able to say to our specialist, we’ve tried a few cans and it worked wonders, please prescribe it for us. More on our feeding journey and transition to formula here.

    How to get free baby gear on Facebook? Easy. Any parent-to-be or new parent should join their local Frugal Mumma and Pay It Forward groups sooner rather than later.

    I’ve learned about free playgroups, free counselling sessions, and discounted classes on Facebook. Going to therapy is a topic for a whole other post, but I’ve been having so many breakthroughs and working through so much childhood baggage.

    On top of that, I’ve found so much value and support in various Facebook groups. The dairy-free breastfeeding group. The fussy baby group. The Sleep Store group. An NZ due date group. And more!

    Yes, I’ve wasted a lot of time scrolling aimlessly through Facebook in search of freebies, as well as more generally. But overall, it has hands-down been a net positive for me during the past year.