It was 2012 and I was going insane. I wanted to record a new CD but I did not have the money. I could have funded it the way I had the past 19 years of my creative life—with a credit card—but I knew I couldn’t do it. Every time I thought about money I felt like I was drowning.
So what happened? I had been lamenting my financial worries to a songwriting group that I belong to, and a songwriter friend of mine, Cara Wick, who worked for a bank, gave me a book by Dave Ramsey called The Total Money Makeover. I think my desperation, and the fact that she worked for a bank, made me very open to reading it. But I didn’t. I brought it home and put it on the shelf where it sat for about three months.
So there I was, sitting at my desk with my laptop and recording gear, and I realized I didn’t want to record another CD at home and what I really needed to do was get into a studio with live musicians. But I didn’t have any money, and I was in debt up to my ears. I was angry and anxious and ready to explode. In that moment I took the book off the shelf and started reading.
Have you ever had the experience where a book (or anything really) touches you completely? I had that experience. From the very first page I felt like he was talking about me. About half way through I knew I was going to follow this program (he calls it the baby steps).
But I had gotten excited about new things before and when the excitement wore off I was back to where I started. The thing that kept me going was the fact that Dave Ramsey had a daily radio show and podcast. I started listening to it on my commute. People would call in with financial issues and he would respond using the principles he outlines in his baby steps. I was thirsty for this. No one ever talked about personal finances!
So I started working his program. When I told my wife I was going to do it, she was skeptical. Eventually she got on board and it changed our marriage. We NEVER talked about money and now we were communicating everyday about it and figuring out monthly budgets and celebrating when we paid off another card. Before this we dealt with money separately. Now we were together and it was great. By 2014 we were out of debt.
So did I rush to the studio to make a new CD?
I took a look at the songs I was going to record and didn’t really like them enough to want to spend the money. And the new songs I had written for the past two years? Some of them were okay. I realized that my problem was that I knew something was wrong with them but I didn’t know how to fix it. So I started taking songwriting lessons with an amazing Songwriting Teacher & Mentor, Jai Josefs. And I could afford it!
How has my music mindset changed?
- I went from always anxious about money (seriously, going food shopping and being scared that I’m going to overdraft my account does not produce creative feelings), to Financial Peace (another Dave Ramsey term).
- I don’t feel that desperation that the next CD or song or gig HAS TO WORK because everything is riding on it. It was an exciting feeling when I was younger, but it’s out-lived its usefulness.
- I’m able to see all of the other things that I want to change in my life, and discern what has real value. When I was buying stuff with a credit card, it was mostly about fulfilling an immediate desire. Yes, some of my decisions were strategic to my career plan, but I was basically gambling. I bet and I lost.
So now when I write a new song I’m doing it without all this weight on me. I’m enjoying myself more. I’m sticking with the hard parts of song craft longer and able to work through them. When we got out of debt my wife and I were both amazed at the tremendous amount of energy we had released. It really is an amazing feeling.
I’m excited about the future!