Episode 6: The Art and Heart of Money: Freeing Yourself To Be Wealthy with Brian Burt
The Art and Heart of Money: Freeing Yourself To Be Wealthy
with Brian Burt
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Mark Lewis: Welcome to "Money, Mission, and Meaning". Passion at work, purpose at play, where we explore how we can integrate our personal values and professional skills to create pleasure and profit in the business of life. I'm your host, Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of Smart Energy Enterprises, Incorporated, see-inc, a beautiful future, now.
Today's show focuses on money, what it means to us, and how we can transform our financial lives by transforming how we relate to money. If you have issues around money, spending, investing, well just give yourself full permission to attract and be truly wealthy; this show's for you.
Our guest is Brian Burt, a financial coach with a Master's in Mathematics, and co-founder of an exciting new approach to financial abundance called "Financial Circles", that combines the human psychology of money with the mechanics of investment, by giving people both the emotional and technical resources to achieve their financial dreams. Join us as we explore the common emotional challenges people have around money, tools you can use to resolve them, and the role that money plays in living a life of purpose and fulfillment.
But first, a couple highlights from the show:
Brian Burt: People come to our courses and say, "I want to look at money in my life, and my goal and really want to start to figure this thing out."
Mark Lewis: What are "Financial Circles" really all about?
Brian Burt: Well it's really about creating a community that gives people everything that they need and want, so that moving towards their vision is actually fun, it's really clear, and their doing it with people that, a team, that they just enjoy being with, so it really becomes something sustainable, enjoyable, that actually works in their life.
Mark Lewis: So, welcome Brian. Thanks for being with me on the show.
Brian Burt: Thanks for having me.
Mark Lewis: So Brian, we all know that we're supposed to save and invest, and there are thousands of books that teach us the fundamentals of managing money and investing. But still only one in twenty is independently prepared for retirement, and US residents have over 750 billion dollars in credit card debt, averaging over $8000 per household. Why is that people don't use the financial knowledge that's already available to them?
Brian Burt: Well I think that money is such an emotional topic for so many people, even if they don't realize it. They're just so often caught up in either a pattern that they learned from one of their parents, or they're rebelling against one of their parents, or it triggers feelings about responsibility, authority, accountability, that sense of that hopefulness for the future, taking responsibility for one's life and really choosing a life from a conscious decided place. It really varies from person to person, but there are just a variety of pretty deep things that are totally outside of investing that get in the way of people moving forward.
Mark Lewis: So it's not necessarily the technical advice of knowing what to invest in, and mutual funds and bonds and portfolios, but more about how people emotionally relate to money and the choices they make? Is that...
Brian Burt: Well I do think it's both. I think there are emotional issues, and there's also a lot of confusion. Some people often find that they don't even know what to do, and therefore they're not even going to save. But underneath that, we believe that what's stopping them from learning, is something underneath.
Mark Lewis: Right, because it seems like almost every week I see a new book coming out on how to manage your money, and there're a lot of great strategies, but it almost seems like there are so many strategies that people don't know what to do. And rather than actually sit down and learn it, they just kind of postpone and avoid the situation. Is that your experience?
Brian Burt: Yeah, I'd say if you think of people in several, I don't want to say categories of people, but there are several currents that are common. Certainly the avoidance current is strong. There are also folks who just hop from strategy to strategy, trying the next kind of hyped 'big thing', and that can be equally dangerous.
Mark Lewis: Okay. Question: I know you're a numbers guy. You have a master's degree in mathematics. You studied mathematical economics; you've completed a personal financial planning program at UC Berkeley. You've been in the financial industry over a decade. What led you to become so focused on the human side of the money equation?
Brian Burt: Well when I was working in financial planning and delivering financial plans to clients, I began to see how the solving of the technical equation of what the right investments for their goals was such a small piece of them really moving forward towards their goal. And so I became very interested in the internal side of money, the psychology, and I started to go to these conferences, and I started to see that there's a whole world of "financial life planning" it's called, looking at deep authentic what do people really want out of life, and what are the strategies to bring them towards that, through the lens of financial planning, and just really felt like it addressed my interest in people, and brought it together with my technical background in financial services.
Mark Lewis: Right. Over the years, about how much, if you were to make a gross percentage, and I know this is tough, about how much of the financial challenges that people face do you think are due to their technical knowledge versus their emotional blocks to actually taking action on what they know?
Brian Burt: Well I think the root of the problem is 95% of the time is emotional block, emotional kink, something that's stopping them and a pattern that they may not be conscious of.
Mark Lewis: And so when you're working with people, how do you make the transition from talking with them about, well okay here's a particular emotional investment, and then actually transferring over into, "How are you facing these issues? How are you actually emotionally dealing with it?" In terms of that conversation, are people open to it? Do they tend to avoid it like they avoid the issue in the first place? How does that work?
Brian Burt: We haven't seen that. See we're so clear about what we do that when people come to our courses and say, "I want to look at money in my life, and my goals and really want to start to figure this thing out." I think part of it is also just presenting a positive atmosphere, and the instructors that I've invited into Financial Circles are really skilled at having people feel safe and happy and clear about where we're going. So that once we start to do the exercises, some of which can be extremely confronting, and people certainly do often cry and all sorts of emotions arise, but they really feel in a place that, "Wow, this is magic that I'm seeing all this, that's just been going on in my life."
Mark Lewis: It's such an emotionally-charged issue, even though we think about money as, you know, nuts and bolts and something beyond our mind, something that's an expression of the physical. It's such an emotionally charged issue...
Well, we're about to take a break. When we come back we'll talk about the breakthrough model of Financial Circles that Brian's pioneering, and the first steps you can take to jumpstart your own wealth expansion program. I'm Mark Michael Lewis, and we're speaking with Brian Burt. This is Money, Mission, and Meaning, passion at work, purpose at play. We'll be right back.
Mark Lewis: And we're back with Brian Burt, financial coach and co-creator of a new integral approach to wealth and abundance called "Financial Circles". So, Brian, basic approach of Financial Circles seems to go far beyond what people normally think of as financial planning. You integrate some of Ken Wilber's "Integral Philosophy", you use MLP's "Social Support and Teams", and you work not so much on... or not 'only', because I know you definitely focus on this... the mechanics of investing. But business planning, networking, sales and marketing. What's the basic idea behind financial planning that brings all these threads together? What are financial circles really all about?
Brian Burt: Well it's really about creating a community that gives people everything that they need and want, so that moving towards their vision is actually fun; it's really clear, and they're doing it with people, a circle, a team that they just enjoy being with, and so it really becomes something that's sustainable and enjoyable, and actually works in their life.
Mark Lewis: So you kind of take the individual battle that a lot of people have around money, inside themselves, their excitement but also their shame, their confusion, their embarrassment, you kind of take that and bring it into a social context where people can share their experiences, get support, get inspired, and work together with coaches and peers to face the issues and turn them from something scary into something like an adventure? Is that it?
Brian Burt: That's exactly right. It's we really... we first go through a full weekend of building the team, getting people clear on their visions, on their relationship with money, their path... And we say the teams fall in love with each other; it's really true, it's amazing, the bond that people go through. From there, and only after they've done that work, do we bring in, either for the financial planning track certified financial planners, insurance people and investment managers and all the various pieces you think of in comprehensive financial planning. And on entrepreneurship track, which is separate, for folks who are starting their own business, to bring in the sales and the marketing expertise, the business planning. So all of the technical expertise, some of which by the way can also get very juicy and emotional, but all that really... you need a foundation of trust and a clear vision before people are really ready for that conversation about a retirement planning spreadsheet.
Mark Lewis: So you essentially integrate both sides of the equation. Some people specialize in the financial planning side, and other people specialize on the emotional side, and attraction and abundance thinking, and how we relate to money. You bring them both together. But you make sure that there's a sequence, a foundation. First you're emotionally ready to deal with the details. And then you actually get into what specifically they can do to build a portfolio, not only right now but on into the longer term, the 10, 20-year, and all the way into retirement? Is that right?
Brian Burt: Absolutely right. We bring in a whole variety of pieces, so that financial planning process... on thing is it's something that's never ending. There's always, you know money is in our lives; there's always a place for, either planning or legacy towards the end of our lives, if not sooner, and so we just continue to bring in interesting topics so the people can continue to be fulfilled by this, and the Circle persists over time. So far, we're a new company, but so far the Circles continue to really bond.
Mark Lewis: So when the people fall in love they kind of stay in love.
Brian Burt: [laughs] that's right, that's right.
Mark Lewis: That's kind of nice. When you're partnering around money, and your money is separate, I suppose that's easier when it's together. So you know the reason I invited you on the show is just because of that type of integration, you know, although there're lots of great strategies out there to build wealth, they don't mean anything, one, if people don't first apply them, and two, if people get so emotionally caught up in the game of money that they forget to enjoy it. It kind of misses the point. They miss out on the majesty of life. You know this show is called "Money Mission and Meaning" and it's really about integrating both the physical tangible side of our lives with the mental emotional experience side of our lives, so that we can make our material lives more abundant and beautiful, but also increase the enjoyment and the sense of creative participation and interaction that we experience. I mean there're great teachers out there that give you the mechanics, but the thing I love about what you're up to is you provide experiences and tools that work on the mental and emotional and social sides to support them. So, I know you talk about five interlocking pieces to the human side of the financial puzzle, the financial circles, or sort of mental lock. Could you review those five pieces quickly, so the people can get a sense of those, of what you go through in the course, and also what they need to deal with on the human side of the equation, such that they can get current and get real with their own financial situation, such that they can create the life that they want?
Brian Burt: Absolutely. During our prosperity intensive, which is our introduction into Financial Circles, of a weekend course that really gets people clear about where they want to go, we think about five different pieces. One is for people to wake up to their current relationship with money. People, one way or another, everybody personifies money. Everybody has some sense of a relationship with it, as if it's some sort of actor in our lives, and not just a tool that we are using to create the life that we want. And also to people's unconscious habits, so that waking up to your current relationship with money is absolutely essential. From there, because of the possibilities that arise, people really get the sense like, "Wow! I can be excited about a different future than the one I've been conceiving, or the one I've been dreaming of feels much more real." So that's a sense of hope.
Mark Lewis: Oh so when they get clear on what they're actually thinking on an unconscious level, they can see it, and that creates the space for them to go "Oh but what's possible, I really could have this."
Brian Burt: That's right. And they go back to their childhood messages, money messages, and they just see, "Wow, now I'm conscious of something I've been doing my whole life and I've never seen it before." That raises lots of hopes for the future. From there we shift into people discovering the gifts, the deep gifts that they have for the world, and their deepest values. We start to activate the parts of the brain that, "What is it I really have to give to the world? What are really... when I'm in my deepest self, what are my values?" And it's a way... it's not about money, but it's just "what am I really about? When am I most satisfied in my life, and really noticed I was affecting people in a positive way?"
Mark Lewis: So that we can do something that we love? Something that inspires us as well as makes us money?
Brian Burt: That's right. It's our gifts to the world; it's our relationships to other people when we're at our best. We activate that part of ourselves, and from there we start to talk about a new vision for the future. So once people are really in touch with their deep values within relationships, and who they are, it's really the foundation so that people can say, "This is really what I want to do in five years, where I want to be." And then we do some very specific envisioning in the present, using all the senses to create a compelling vision for the future. So that's the fourth piece. And then finally, we basically wrap it up with a culture within a circle, for acceptance, love, and accountability. So we unlock... so often accountability can mean guilt and shame, and we really want the social web to pull people toward their deeper values, and there's no guilt or shame in that. And so when we start to say, "I'm going to do this this week", and sometimes we fall down, we actually want people in our circle to hold us accountable, and we want to do that without guilt or shame. So we create a very conscious culture for acceptance, love, and accountability, so that we can move forward.
Mark Lewis: Right. It sounds like the first thing you do is kind of clear the space, by getting real about what is, and what's possible, and what I love. Then you build a plan, and then you create a context in which people can really succeed, because how many of us make... "I'm gonna do this."... And then unless we've got people to hold us accountable, to remind us with love, with caring, but powerfully, remind us what it is that we're up to, it's just so easy for those commitments to sort of disappear and float off into existence; then you go, "Oh that's right; I did want that." So, kind of create a context in which, not only can they create a plan that works with their deepest values, but they have a support network to keep it going through time. Is that right?
Brian Burt: That's exactly right. And then going forward we can start to remember, so what was it that you committed to, and what was the value underneath that, what was the vision behind that? What's happened? So where do we go from here? The total acceptance of what's happened, i.e. "I've doubled my goal", or "I've totally blown off, away from it." And I start to remember, through other peoples' memories; they say, "Hey remember that? You talked about wanting this." And you start to say, "Yeah, I remember that. Okay. Now it makes sense. Now I learned something about something else that came up while I was taking the steps toward that."
Mark Lewis: Yeah, and it's amazing how relationships can do that. I think about, you know I end up with this task list that I've created for myself... I'm gonna do this, and do this, and I'm gonna do this... When I actually create the task list I was in this great visioning state, because I knew what was possible; I knew what was important; I was in tough with my values. But sometimes I wake up in the morning and all there is is this task list. I'm no longer associated with the values underneath it and I notice so much that when I've created those goals, when I've created that set of procedures and tasks with someone, as soon as I relate to that person, it's like the whole conversation comes back, the whole set of values comes back. Is that kind of, when you say, or we were saying earlier, you know, the team falls in love, or the circle falls in love and stays in love? Have you found that people end up taking more action and enjoying it more when they have that group support?
Brian Burt: Absolutely. There's a camaraderie in the teams that really extends past the course. In fact, I heard recently from a student who had a totally transformed experience about something absolutely unrelated to money, because somebody from their team said, "Hey, you remember this?" And unfortunately I can't give the details because of our confidentiality within the course; that definitely continues to touch people.
Mark Lewis: That's great. You know I think that's actually an important piece, the confidentiality. There's an old saying that if the more public your commitments, the more real they are, because when we say something publicly, there's something outside of us to remind us of what our commitments are. And there's also the respect of the people, the caring. When someone can look us in the eyes and say, "Hey, do you remember this? Remember when you said this?" It brings it back with such power, but at the same time, when we make our commitments public, we also run the risk of having someone judge us, or feel shame. And so is that an important part of the Financial Circles groups, kind a place where people can share their deeper emotions and their deeper commitments, without fear of someone else learning about it who's not in the circle?
Brian Burt: That's right. There are two edges to that sword, and we do handle both. One is that you are public within your circle, and that's your accountability. And of course we support people in going out and marketing their business and being more public. But there's a sense in which you're really public to your circle about "Here's where I really want to go and this is what I'm up to, and this is what I feel has been holding me back from that in the past." But then separately, a container, in terms of being able to share some of the... there's so much... people have so much shame, and secrets; it's probably the last taboo. People will more often tell you about their sex life on a plane than they will about how much money they make and how much they have in the bank.
Mark Lewis: Isn't that funny. [laughs]
Brian Burt: Yeah. So we have a very strong confidentiality agreement in the course as well.
Mark Lewis: And we're talking about this in the context of the course because I just love how you brought all of these separate pieces together, these threads that you've woven into a kind of tapestry that can support people, you know almost imagining a flying carpet, as silly as that sounds. But a tapestry is something that really brings together the various pieces, but it's not just about your course; I mean these are just the fundamental issues that people need to deal with, with money. And even if they're not taking your course, when you can deal with the emotional issues, when you can build a plan, when you can create a safe group in which to speak about these things, that really allows you to move forward.
We're going to take a break for just a moment. When we come back i want to talk about the interaction of purpose and money, and entrepreneurial spirit that's at the heart of Financial Circles. You're listening to "Money Mission and Meaning"; we're speaking with Brian Burt, of FinancialCircles.com. I'm Mark Michael Lewis, and we'll be right back.
Mark Lewis: And we're back, with Brian Burt, financial coach, talking about the human side of the money equation. So, Brian, it's clear to me that by working with our emotional relationship with money, Financial Circles addresses a real hole in the financial services industry as it is. Let me ask you, what is it that you personally want to accomplish through the Financial Circles program? What difference do you intend to make for your clients, and as the Financial Circles expand around the country, what's the difference you want to make in the world, the impact you want to have?
Brian Burt: Well I think there are two aspects. One is to have seen people who are just way off track, financially, having gotten bad advice, and just following a path that's obviously not serving them, and I've seen the pain that that's caused in terms of delayed retirements and sold homes and not being able to put your kids through college. You know knowing there are so many people that are so in need of good financial guidance and education and empowerment, that I'm really excited about the opportunity to create that. The second thing is about community. And that is, it's such a joy to be in a circle of people that know each other, that are supporting each other, and money can both motivate people to be in that conversation, and it can open so many doors around what we want out of life, what are the constraints that we've been living under, and it's a lens that touches so many interesting aspects of our lives, that I think it can really open the door to a community in terms of, just deep appreciation of each other and conversation, that I think out there across the country there are certainly a lot of places where a sense of community, a sense of a circle of people that really know each other and trust each other is something that people want.
Mark Lewis: It seems that the old truism, the more people that are around you, the more alone you can feel. There's a powerful lack of community in so many different ways and it brings me back to what you were saying earlier, that more people would be willing to talk about their sex lives than their financial statements. It's such a vulnerable topic, and to be able to create a community where people can really talk about that, where they can be honest about it, not just in terms of kind of airing their laundry, but in terms of giving support, in order to really clean up, or deepen, or expand and accelerate their financial development. It's such an intimate experience, that sense of community. And this show's called "Money Mission and Meaning", and one of the stimuli behind the show is that so many people think that money and spirit are like two different things, when really spirituality is expressed through money. How we relate to money is a deeply spiritual, personal, and emotional issue. And when we can build not only a sense of reality around how we're dealing with money, it truly is a powerful spiritual motivator, to get clear in all areas of your life. I really appreciate how Financial Circles is creating community, a place where you can bring that confrontation with this most physical aspect of our spiritual and emotional experience into a group of people. I really appreciate what you're up to and I want to thank you.
Brian Burt: Well thank you very much.
Mark Lewis: We're almost out of time, and it's been great, so, as a last question, what's it been like for you personally? To step out on this limb and take Financial Circles from a good idea into a working program with trainers and clients, and a repeatable system that you can literally spread around the world? How does that fit into your own personal life purpose, your vision for what's possible in your life and the life of others?
Brian Burt: Well it's certainly been a bull ride. Stepping forward with a totally, to my knowledge, unique idea, and then to generate so much interest, both customers and team members have said, "Hey, I want to join and help make this happen, and it's okay if you don't pay me. I'll just take a share of the future profits, and..." And I mean, just an unbelievable amount of support for this. It's exciting and daunting.
Mark Lewis: Yeah I've spoken with, actually four or five different people who have taken the courses, and they just... it's funny; they really just stop and breathe. They're like, "Wow, you know this has been an incredible set of insights and I really feel like I'm on track." That's gotta feel good. How big do you want Financial Circles to get? What do you see as possible for this thing?
Brian Burt: Well, I've been in financial services a long time, and people often talk about the "middle market" and that there's no solution out there for people, more or less with less than a million dollars to invest. So the number of adult Americans with less than $1 million; that's a huge market, obviously. I don't plan to reach every single person in the United States that way, or... yet some people have started talking about bringing this to work to Asia, et cetera. For me personally, I actually don't need it to be huge. I'm not driven by absolutely maximizing the profit. We're going to create abundance in a company that's touching people, and I want to really be powerfully giving my gifts and kind of feeling into what feels right for that. There's also a way in which the ethic may start to take on a direction of its own, bringing in people who want to take it as high as it can go. More power to them, as long as I get my weekends and my evenings. I'm clear on my life vision, and it doesn't involve absolutely dedicating the next 25 years of my life to turning this into a billion dollar company. For me, medium size, and it may become bigger than that.
Mark Lewis: Yeah, I know you a little bit, and I know that what's driving you around this is your real love for what's possible, and that quality is more important than quantity for you on this. But I actually think this is a brilliant idea. I think it's going to find a market; I think it will act as a type of solution to that middle market you were just talking about. And I look forward to you being able to look back years from now and watch what it's become and all the people who've been touched by your work and to recognize that it was the quality and thought that you put into it, and that's been evidenced in everything I've seen about the program and from you personally, that really made this all possible.
Well thank you, Brian. I think we've covered a lot of useful and thought-provoking stuff today. For more information on Financial Circles, and how you might benefit from them, go to FinancialCircles.com and sign up for their free newsletter with resources, telecourses... Brian, that's still free right now, that newsletter with the resources?
Brian Burt: That's right. We do plan to charge for that later in the year, and we'll probably even grandfather in folks who sign up now. We really look at the resources that we can provide scaleably, in terms of free telecourses and worksheets and exercises for people to do at home. Eventually, that's kind of our entry-level membership, and we've said for right now, as our way of getting the word out there, we're just going to give all that away. And we really try to just give away as much as we can. Obviously that doesn't include one-on-one coaching, and weekend live courses, but everything we can, we give away to SPARKED members, and so it's free, and you can sign up as Mark said, at FinancialCircles.com
Mark Lewis: Great. Well, thanks for coming on the show, Brian. I really appreciate it.
Brian Burt: Thank you, Mark.
Mark Lewis: If you want to learn more about money in general, or check out Financial Circles, or even tap into Brian's financial expertise for your own investment needs, again go to FinancialCircles.com. For text and transcripts of this show, and in fact all the other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, please visit www.PersonalLifeMedia.com. I'm your host, Mark Michael Lewis, CEO of Smart Energy Enterprises, see-inc a beautiful future now, and that brings us to the end of our show. Thanks for listening and join us next week on "Money Mission and Meaning", passion at work, purpose at play, as we interview cutting-edge business leaders who are committed to making a positive difference in the world, about the motivation and practical ideas that create pleasure and profit in the business of life.
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