Momentum Podcast: 12
5 Currencies That Create Our Success
by Alex Charfen
The five currencies are what we invest to create our success, they're what we invest to create the future, and they are precisely what governs and creates our level of momentum. This took me a long time to figure out. You know, I often share with people I don't feel like I was born with the same operating system that other people were born with. I didn't pick up on social cues, I didn't really understand a lot of the social situations in school. I didn't really understand human beings that well, which was a challenge
Entrepreneurial Personality Types create new, change things, improve the world around us, and challenge the status quo. We have an obsession with making things better. We aren't like the rest of the world because we are driven by change rather than stability, progress over perfection and improvement over stagnation. While the world obsesses over budgeting and time management, for EPTs, there is far more to creating success then understanding time and money. There are five currencies that create momentum for Entrepreneurial Personality Types and create our future.
Full Audio Transcript
The five currencies are what we invest to create our success, they're what we invest to create the future, and they are precisely what governs and creates our level of momentum. This took me a long time to figure out. You know, I often share with people I don't feel like I was born with the same operating system that other people were born with. I didn't pick up on social cues, I didn't really understand a lot of the social situations in school. I didn't really understand human beings that well, which was a challenge.
At 21 I became a Fortune 500 consultant. I was working with another company in Florida. It was not going well. I met a guy named Richard Thall who became a very close friend and mentor of mine. He was a consultant who was already representing companies in the New York area, and I was living in Florida. He was going to an interview with Fuji, at the time, this was the biggest opportunity for consultants like us.
At the time, I wasn't a consultant like him yet. We went on this interview with Fuji where Richard was interviewing for New York to represent the company up there. We could possibly get Florida, and if we did, I was going to open up an office and become a consultant.
It was such a long shot, I didn't really think about it. Richard and I interviewed with Fuji and it went better than expected, but there was a catch. We got Fuji Media for Florida, but we didn't get New York. Within a short period of time, we didn't just have Fuji Media, we had Fuji Digital, and then SanDisk, the company who pioneered flash memory. In fact, Richard and I sold the first flash memory in the history of retail in an order to Office Depot. However, I was 21 years old, and I was immediately chucked in the deep end of the pool. I went from running a small finance company that I started in college to working with multinational organizations with tons of people. Then I had this new dynamic in my life where the person at the factory, the person who I worked with and the person I was consulting with, controlled my success.
Up until that point, people were important to me, but at that point, people became incredibly important to me. I was in a situation where someone else's success literally created mine. So I started obsessively watching the people around me and studying them. I found that I'd be working with somebody, and everything would be going okay, and then all the sudden, I'd get on the phone with them and they'd be sideways or confusing or frustrated or hard to reach. I didn't understand why. Maybe like you, when this would happen to me, I always took it personally. Then I started realizing that my taking it personally was actually egocentric, because that other person had an entire life of their own, and I wanted to figure out why and what it was that was making them show up in a different way.
The first thing I realized was when someone doesn't have enough money, they have a really hard time and they show up that way. In fact, I remember what happened. I was working with a regional manager from one of the companies we represented, and we had been having a great time working together and had created a lot of progress. We sold a lot of accounts. I got on the phone with him two or three times in a week, and each time he was increasingly frustrated, increasingly upset.
Finally, I asked, "Hey, what's going on? Is there something wrong? Because it feels like I've done something wrong." And he immediately apologized and said, "Oh my god, Alex, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel that way. We had some trouble with the house and some really big bills came in. I wasn't expecting them, and we're pinched for cash, and it's just been really frustrating."
I remember thinking to myself, "Huh, well there's an equation. When somebody doesn't have enough money they show up different." So money became what I would think about when people were showing up different. It worked for a long time. In fact, if you go to one of two variables, either not enough time or not enough money, most people present as having overspent those two currencies. Those are the first two, time and money. Now, I was young, and I thought I had it all figured out. I had figured out that money caused people to show up in the wrong way and time figured out Or caused people to show up in a challenging way. Whenever someone presented in a challenging way, I would ask about either time or money.
Like I said, it worked for a long, long time. Until this fateful day where I was up in New York with one of our most important companies that we represented. The person who was in charge of our contract was leading a discussion. He was agitated and frustrated and a little bit on edge. I was sitting there thinking, "Well, I've got this. It's either going to be time or money." So I started asking a couple questions about time, like was he pressed for time? Or did he feel like he had run out of time at one of the breaks? He said no, he didn't feel like that at all. I realized it probably wasn't time.
Then I asked him about money. He said it wasn't money. I had been successful in the past figuring out why somebody was presenting different with time or money, I continued to ask money questions because I thought for sure I would figure out what was going on. I was completely wrong. It wasn't time or money. It was the other three currencies, effort, energy, and focus.
What I found by asking him what was going on was that his wife had been ill and he had been taking care of the kids, and he was really worried. I found all of this out after I had really uncomfortable and pressing conversation with him about money. I remember it imprinted for me that it's not just time and money, and I started really looking at what affects entrepreneurs, what affects people like us.
I found that it's those five things, cash, time, effort, energy, and focus. And each one of them is individually unique. In fact, we put so much emphasis on time and money that we really leave out effort, energy, and focus.
If you look at the five biggest challenges that entrepreneurial personality types encounter, they are the five currencies. Let me share them with you. The first one is money and inconsistent income, that's cash. The second one is not enough time. That's time. The third one is working too hard, that's effort. The next one's drained and burned out, or feeling drained and burned out, that's energy. The last one is when we get overwhelmed and scattered.
See those five currencies, those are the five biggest challenges that we have as leaders. When we look at money, if we can turn around that currency, money means wealth, security, and certainty to us. When we look at the time if we can turn that around, instead of managing time we have increased freedom of time. When we look at effort, instead of putting in too much effort, if people like us learn how to work on our strengths, we go forward indefinitely. Instead of putting out too much energy, if we can optimize and feel energized and excited, it changes everything. Now, here's an important one, the last one. Focus. When we optimize our focus we go from overwhelmed and scattered to laser focused and in control.
In the world today, we talk a lot about managing money, managing time, budgeting, planning your time. But when do we talk about effort, energy, or focus? The problem for people like us, the challenge in perception is that we actually feel like we have near unlimited effort, energy, and focus that we can apply to move our lives forward. The fact is, our ability to invest the five currencies creates the success and builds wealth that we want. It directly controls our level of momentum and how good we feel about it. It will produce use stress versus stress so that the better we manage these currencies, the better we create momentum, the less stress we feel, the more healthy stress we feel. Finally, it will dictate how much you can do effectively.
Here's a challenge with the five currencies. We're not used to managing these. We're not used to considering them. In fact, we're not really used to considering the effort, energy, or focus because for so many of us, for the longest time, it just wasn't an issue. Can you relate, because I know I can? I remember when I was running a company big enough, and I had enough team members, and enough offices around the world where I finally ran out of, "Oh, I'll just put in more time." Or, "I'll just spend a little more money. Or I'll just stay up late and put a little more effort. Or I'll just make sure that I eat healthier and I have more energy. Or I'll just keep it all together and make sure I'm focused."
I got to the place where I couldn't do it all anymore. I had overwhelmed myself. I had overspent the currencies and I remember feeling like I was completely out of control. Because for people like us, when we overspend any one of these, the pressure and noise in our lives go through the roof. In fact, one of the fastest ways to get pressure and noise to go up for an entrepreneurial personality type is shown them that they're running out of time, effort, energy, focus, or most importantly, because we are those people that money has to be present in order for happiness or satisfaction or momentum to even be an issue, if we overspend cash, we are immediately stressed out.
In fact, I want you to just take a minute, maybe even take a deep breath, because I want this to imprint. When was the last time you dealt with somebody who had overspent their cash? If you're on the wrong side of a business deal with somebody who doesn't have enough money, you can almost immediately see situational ethics kick in. They're stressed. In fact, they make you stressed. When was the last time you spent time around the person you know in your life that doesn't have enough time? I mean, you know who I'm talking about. You can see them coming down the hallway. They're usually walking too fast. They're the person who tells you how busy they are, how much is going on. You think to yourself, "If they'd only stop doing that, they might have enough time to get things done."
How does that person make you feel? People who are overspent on time make us feel rushed, hurried, uncomfortable, anxious. Then, let's move on to energy. When somebody's burned out, or when they've used too much of their effort. When they've gone too hard on something, when they're doing too many things, doing all of the heavy lifting, you can see them walking up. They look tired. They look worn out. Just like when somebody uses too much of their energy. If you're launching a new product, starting a new business, hiring a COO, probably not the best time to run the marathon. But I've seen entrepreneurs do exactly that. In fact, what I just shared is a conversation I had with an entrepreneur about three months ago about the five currencies and why he was struggling to grow his business.
The last one, focus. When we get overspent on focus, you know who I'm talking about. It's the person in your life that has so much going on, so many things they're thinking about. They're usually starting two or three different businesses, or they're trying five or six different things, and they're always scheduled, and they're always going from one place to another. How does that person who has overspent on focus, who has just so many things they're trying to see, how does that feel to you? I know it makes me feel tense. It makes me feel unheard. It makes me feel less than present with that person.
So now I want to turn this around for you. Are you overspent on cash, time, effort, energy, or focus right now? Are you in a place where any one of these currencies is not abundant and well spent? Are you in a place where there's not enough money, not enough time? You're putting in the effort, but you're not getting the momentum? You're drained from your energy, but you don't know where it's really going, and there's so much to focus on, you're overwhelmed. Well, here's how I work with my private clients. If you're overspent on two of these, we're in a crisis. If you're overspent on three, that becomes our singular focus, and we're going to start there. If you've overspent on four or five, we treat it like an emergency and we get things back under control.
For people like us, we can't create optimal momentum when we overspend on our currencies because this is what you invest in creating the future. We are that small subset of the world that gets up every day and says, "How do we make things better? How do we change things? How do we create the future?" We envision it and then we demand it becomes real. You have to invest cash, time, effort, energy, and focus to do that. Where are you putting yours? Here's what I've seen over and over again. When we overspend on our currencies, we become irrational about how we use them. Cadey and I saw this all the time. We used to work with people who were in foreclosure and buy their homes.
We bought hundreds of distressed property deals and saved I don't know how many families from losing their properties and losing all their equity. It was so common for us to walk into a home and sit down at the kitchen table and see the stack of late bills, the stack of foreclosure paperwork, see that this family was crazy ... Or in crazy cash constraints. You know when foreclosure paperwork is there, you feel pressed for time. Your effort is completely gone. Your energy is drained, and your focus is all over the place. I can't tell you how often we'd be in that situation, look over, and there'd be the brand new box from a recently opened big screen TV.
It was almost a parody how many times we saw it. When you go into hundreds of foreclosure homes, it almost became predictable. I think this is why. When we overspend our currencies, we become irrational and we start leaning towards short-term momentum. Like as an example, when your home's in foreclosure, there's short-term momentum in buying the big screen television even though it's not going to make anything better. I've watched this over and over. An analysis of how someone's investing their currencies can show you whether they're overwhelmed or not because sometimes it just lacks logic.
We had a friend here in Austin whose business was failing and continuously volunteered for more work with an organization he was with. He became the treasurer, and then he was a social chair, and then he put in more time to the point where he was putting 10 or 15 hours a week into a volunteer position instead of investing it in his business that was going down by the day and eventually failed. Now, that might seem completely nonsensical, but when you think of who we are, we're momentum based beings. We lean in to momentum wherever we can find it, and when we're overspent on our currencies, and we don't have someone pointing out to us where we're missing, we might take our time and put it in a place where it just doesn't seem rational because that short-term momentum of volunteering with that organization, getting away from his business where everything was failing, feeling good about himself was the trade-off he made.
I know that at this point, he would not tell you it was worth it. And when we truly overspend our currencies, I've seen some bizarre behavior. Like when someone is so overspent on cash, time, effort, energy, and focus, their business is failing, and so they're doing their charity work instead, but then it affects the marriage, and the marriage starts having challenges. The marriage begins failing. Then that same entrepreneur goes and buries himself in his business because there's more momentum in a failing business than a failing marriage. So for all of us, sitting down and taking an inventory and saying, "Where am I on cash, time, effort, energy, or focus? Am I investing these all well? Are they abundant? Am I ready to go out and create more?"
For people like us, momentum is everything. We create momentum when we invest our five currencies and we create the future and make it real. When we overspend and over-invest, we become overwhelmed with just about everything. So today, at any point in time, sit down, take out a piece of paper, and write down cash, time, effort, energy, and focus. Give yourself a score of one to five. One being poorly invested and in trouble, and five being well-invested and abundant and see where you rank. Here's what I know about the most successful entrepreneurs in my life. If you sat down with the five currencies worksheet, they would tell you they were a four or five in every one of them.
They are painfully aware, dramatically aware, specifically aware of where they're putting their cash, their time, but more importantly, their effort, energy, or focus. It's one of the principles that I learned from billionaires. They limit what they tolerate, and they are passionate about where they invest. I want you to be as well because as entrepreneurial personality types, we can create the future. We can create as much momentum as we want. We can leave our dent in the universe, but not from a state of overwhelm and feeling like there's just too much.