Being a rebel isn?t easy. In fact, it?s downright hard.
I was born with an extreme distaste for anything related to schedules, authority, discipline, cultural institutions, expectations, and most of all, responsibility. I?ve always wanted freedom more than anything else, and I always figured, hey, that?s okay. The world needs every type of person, so I can fill that role. Little did I know what I was up against.
The source of all things
I was born into a seriously wacky family in the early 1970?s. Two hippie parents who did lots of drugs and dressed like Cher and Jim Morrison. My Dad took off when I was 3 because he is afflicted with the same disease that I have: rebel disease (otherwise known as a great fear of responsibility). So, I was raised by and large by my mother?s family. A huge Slavic and Italian Catholic family whose motto seems to be, ?If you?re not outdoing the Joneses, you?re doing something wrong.? They?re all very materialistic, and though super successful in their respective fields, they tend to spend way more than they make. Designer everything, big houses and fancy cars.
There?s a strange entitlement to the way they live. So much so, that one aunt has been left homeless for the last year due to her spending. Yet she still gets her hair done in salons and buys Starbucks coffee daily. 90% of them have been addicted to drugs and alcohol at some point in their lives. My mother?s best financial advice to me was, ?Marry rich!!!!!?, repeated almost daily. Thanks, mom.
Even though I had these crazy spenders teaching me financial ruin by example, luckily I also have my father?s Jewish side to thank for my natural inclination when it comes to money. Somehow my mind just automatically tracks every dollar coming in and out and I don?t even try! Yay to genetics!
My rebelliousness started to show when I decided to skip class in middle school. I felt like a trapped animal in school, so I?d just go to the churchyard and look at the grave stones for a period to get some fresh air. My grades were terrible. And since my mom had this ingenious plan that I would ?marry rich? someday, she didn?t seem all that bothered by it.
During middle school, I started making art and decided that would be my future. I mean HELLO, it was perfect. Artists didn?t have to go to academic colleges and have jobs. Yuck!
My high school boyfriend encouraged me to audition for the magnet arts school he attended, hoping to score me a future. True to the genetics passed down by my crazy Slavic/Italian family, when I was interested in something, I could excel in that area. So, I got in and worked my butt off. I got scholarships to my dream art school for college and attended.
College was ROUGH. My Dad was supposed to pay for my college education but had only saved for a state school. His exact words were, ?I didn?t save for you to go to HARVARD!?. Thanks, Dad. Not that I was going to Harvard, but it was an expensive private school, so I took out loans and was left with very little money to live on. I lived in an unheated basement in a house in Baltimore. I remember being so hungry, I would steal morsels of food from the refrigerator and pray that my roommates wouldn?t notice. I made money by working at the school library, waiting tables, and selling marijuana. But I was still so broke.
Living the high life
After graduating, I was going to be an artist of course, and sell paintings for thousands of dollars and live a bohemian life. It sounded like a great financial plan to me. I hadn?t factored in the general irrelevance of art to American culture at large, and the tiny percentage of artists who actually get noticed by the art world.
I moved to Manhattan, got a job as a cocktail waitress, and started making incredible money. I was strategic about working at the trendy, celebrity filled hotels and clubs. Many nights I would go home with $1,000, all made in one night! I rented a painting studio in Brooklyn.
Then, it happened. I was at work and saw this guy. I remarked to my fellow waitress that I was going to marry him. And I did. He was a rock star. Well, he looked like a rock star anyway. He was dressed in a beautiful Armani suit and his hair was bleached blonde and longish and crazy. It was love at first site.
At 23 I had it all. My partner-in-crime musician husband (who made $10 an hour at a bicycle shop), a 3-bedroom apartment with Jacuzzi bathtub, music and art studio, right by the Empire State building. I was painting on my time off. I was off work and sleeping when all the other suckers in town were going to work bleary eyed. I treated my husband to extravagant meals at the best New York restaurants. We?d dress up and go to the fanciest hotel bars like the King Cole bar at the St. Regis and pretend we were famous. My husband?s band had shows in the best downtown clubs. We were doing tons of drugs. Weed, ecstasy, coke, and my favorite, heroin. I was always careful to ?chip? heroin. Basically, that meant to binge once a month to avoid getting addicted. No problem! I had been doing that through college, I was too smart to be a junkie. We were outdoing the Joneses in every way and living my dream rebel life. And I was financing it ALL. Even the $5,000 I had managed to save to buy a house with someday, I lent to my husband for the printing of his first album.
Losing it all
But, as the restaurant business goes, mine was falling out of favor with the celebrities after a few years of glory. My income dropped significantly and we were forced to move way uptown into a much smaller apartment. Then 9/11 happened and we got into a major depressive funk. My husband decided to ignore my rule of not calling the drug dealer when you run out of heroin, and we ended up with a never-ending supply of it in the house. We had both become addicted.
The one lucky part of this time was that I was ?discovered? by an art director who worked at one of the biggest magazines in the country. She was a customer at the bike shop and loved the flyers I had designed for my husband?s band. She hired me to be her assistant and taught me the basics of graphic design. I was working in the famous Time & Life building. It was extremely uncomfortable for me to be in a corporate atmosphere. But hey, at least I could feel good knowing that I was a heroin addict and therefore not that uncool! I did very well hiding my addiction. At this point, waiting tables was no longer an option. I had a full-scale panic attack when I returned to my nightclub job after September 11th. I just couldn?t do it anymore.
Soon we were in dire financial straights. I was paying for food with a credit card and cash for heroin. We were running out of money and something had to give. I made my husband see a doctor who gave us withdrawal medication and we kicked our heroin habit and moved up to the country to a sad looking house that we could actually afford.
My husband continued to spend just as my mom?s family does. Eventually, I got tired of being destitute and kicked him out. During that time I borrowed a down-payment on a house from my parents and purchased a home in the Hudson Valley. After a year, my ex-husband was promoted to manager of the bike shop and was making good money, so stupidly, I took him back. But within a few months he filled our garage with motorcycles and leased an Audi without my consent. He also became an abusive alcoholic which is why I finally left him for good.
My life was in financial shambles at that point. I was over $20,000 in debt. I had rented out my house and moved to yet another basement in a house that was very sad. I continued to work as a graphic designer and took a full time job at a huge newsstand title as an art director, so I was digging my way out slowly.
My self-esteem was so down in the dumps that I dated one loser after another and they all treated me like crap and used me. I started drinking heavily and would find myself on many occasions alone in my house on the bathroom floor crying over the fact that I was near 40 and alone and basically broke. One too many of these situations and I had hit a rock bottom of sorts and realized that I?d better get it together and start making smart decisions.
Finding my way back
Cue my old friend from college who contacted me on LinkedIn and started talking to me. This guy was the exact opposite of me. He was ?normal?. He had a good, steady job straight out of an Ivy League university and had money saved! He was nice to me. He was more than nice to me, he cared about me.
To my mom?s great glee, during this time I was dating a multi-millionaire hedge fund guy. I mean MULTI, like close to billionaire, and he was somewhat famous in New York. But after a couple of dates it was clear that he was just like all the other guys I had dated and was waving all kinds of red flags that I recognized all too well.
Also during this time, I was about to have surgery to have my gallbladder removed. I emailed 3 guys: my ex-husband, the multi-millionaire and the old college friend, to let them all know about my surgery. From my ex-husband: basically nothing. From the multi-millionaire: ?call me when you?re feeling better?, from the college friend: ?I googled this and it looks like it isn?t too bad of a procedure, will someone be there with you??.
I was in love. I dumped the multi-millionaire and ended up marrying the college friend. This was the first non-rebel decision of my life and probably the best one ever.
We married and moved to Paris for his job. He helped me pay my parents back all the money I owed for my house. We rented my house out and traveled the world. Even though we both made good money (I had started a graphic design business from home), we weren?t rolling in it. But because we had no expenses due to our expat status, we saved an incredible amount of money. We?ve traveled the world and stayed in the most amazing 5 star hotels and lived in the most beautiful homes paid for by his company. It?s almost the rock star life, but without the drama!
So this is the happy ending, right??? No.
Looking over the cliff again
The rebel girl returned and now in the form of an alcoholic. I hid it really well. I had very few consequences and drank often in the middle of the night so my husband wouldn?t see me drunk. When he?d go away on trips, I would be drinking from morning until night. When I drank around my husband I became nasty.
I realized that I had to do the next right thing and quit drinking. I had to sit my rebel side down and have a long talk with her. Look, I said, we can?t go on like this. We must find moderation or we are going to end up broke and alone, again. So she agreed to go to AA. We have managed to find a balance by working at home and on our own schedule and terms, but also making each day totally different from the last to keep us happy and feeling free. I?ve learned that no is a complete sentence and that acceptance is the key to happiness, not wanting what you don?t have.
The next right thing
I now have a hefty retirement fund (what?!) and we have a second home and invest in the stock market (whaaaaat?!). We are technically millionaires (not like that other guy, but technically). We?ve done it by saving, saving, saving and budgeting and always spending less than we make. I?ve learned all of this from my current husband. I drive a 6 year old used Volkswagen (that I love) and we have a modest house in a nice part of our city. It?s exhilarating knowing that I will be okay for retirement and can live within my means and still have wealth.
I suppose the point of my story is that even a rebel can find financial stability by realizing that balance and moderation are key. It applies to everyone and everything. As I?ve learned in AA, doing ?the next right thing? takes you to great places, always. And being a ?rock star? isn?t all that it?s cracked up to be.
Kate Jett is a pen name for a creative professional living a new life in the northeast. The stories are real. The names have been changed.
?…and your financial stability is built on a fault line.
Does anyone remember the earthquake that shook the East Coast from Georgia to Massachusetts in 2011?? The one where the epicenter was in Virginia?? Everyone was shocked, except those who knew that Virginia (and the East Coast in general) is on a major fault line.? Apparently, so was my marriage, and, incidentally, my finances.
You go from being happily married, thinking you are financially stable, planning on buying an amazing house with your husband, to living in your sister?s guest room, having fled your home and friends because your husband has fallen out of love with you.
On top of it all, the stress of trying to save a marriage that you didn?t know was already in ashes nearly killed you.
So now what?? You have to deal with the emotional trauma of what you thought was an amazing marriage falling apart. You have zero retirement options.? Why?? As someone in academics, you have never had a full-time job in your entire life.? And, you?re 40.
Facing the facts
When I arrived at my sister?s house, one of the first things we talked about (and everyone talked with me about), was money.? How am I going to feed, clothe, and shelter myself?? What am I going to do about retirement?? What am I going to do about health insurance?? This was incredibly stressful to me.
There were some days when I just couldn?t take it and would burst into tears (again). Otherwise, I would just say that I wasn’t able talk about this right now, and walk away.
Well, now I am several months away from the initial split. Finances are something that need to be discussed and figured out.? Yes, I will be getting ?maintenance?, which is the same as alimony. But that is only for a few years and I will be taxed on it. That means it’s not as much as it seems.
Then there is the issue of retirement.? I am entitled to half of our assets.? I was thinking, ok good, this will be helpful. He?s had a 401k for a while.? Guess again, honey.? At mediation I found out there was less than $10,000 left in that account.? $10,000.? That’s a good amount for a basic savings account, but that is NOTHING when it comes to being able to retire, like, ever.? How did this happen?? Well, that’s a story for another day.? The point is, I have ZERO retirement set up, because Social Security is also a joke.
Financial security?? What the hell is that?
Now I have to start getting my ducks in a row, not only because he never did, but because I no longer have that joint income.? I will admit that I am afraid and somewhat ashamed to go to a financial planner for help.? Why? The state of my finances is abysmal.
You know how people avoid the dentist because they don?t want the dentist to give them a hard time about not flossing?? This is how I feel about going to the financial planner.
I am going through the worst time in my life, and I really don?t want to hear about how I should have done a better job with money.
Will a decent person/financial planner (I?m hoping that?s not an oxymoron) shame me to my face?? I hope not.? Hopefully, at worst, she will roll her eyes internally, while smiling and comforting me, and telling me that it will be tough, but doable.
I am absolutely terrified that I will be told that I will never be able to retire unless I somehow get a serious job in the near future.? The other unappealing option being that if I do retire, ever, I will be on food stamps and supplementing my ?income? by teaching Tai Chi at the community center indefinitely.? Nothing wrong with teaching Tai Chi.? I do teach it already, but I don’t want to have to do it in order to be able to buy food.
Just like Gloria Gaynor: I will survive
But here?s the reality.? It is the same as the dentist.? The sooner you go, the sooner, yes, you may get bad news, but the sooner you can start planning.? True, it is possible you will have the financial equivalent of getting your gums scraped in that first visit.? However, the earlier you know where you stand, the faster you can start working toward some semblance of financial stability.
So suck it up, Buttercup.? My life blew apart this year, despite doing everything in my power to keep it together.? I may not have any control over the direction my marriage went, but at least I can gain control over my financial future.
This article is part of a series that chronicles the real life journey of Lillian Epps, a woman navigating a recent divorce. The stories are real. The names have been changed.?Photo by?Jonat?n Becerra
They sell plastic.? Yet they are one of the most beloved companies in America. ?The Container Store started out as a single store in Dallas with only $35,000 in capital. Kip Tindell worked tirelessly to build his investment into the big name retail chain it is today. Fast forward to 2017. Today, The Container Store brings in $795 million in revenue, spent 18 years on the Fortune 100 Best Companies list, and offers fantastic wages for staff that feel “valued and respected”. It is safe to say that he has succeeded.
But how was all of this possible? To find out, we spoke to Kip Tindell himself.
Kip is a believer in?“1 Equals 3”, or more specifically, one great person is equivalent to three good people.
By creating an environment where employees are well-trained and treated as humans rather than assets, productivity and profits soar. It all starts with the training. While the average retailer provides 8 hours of employee training, The Container Store provides 273 formal training hours.
He goes on to explain, “I’m not an advocate of paying mediocre people well. I’m a big advocate of paying great people well, and if you pay somebody who’s getting three times the productivity twice as much, everybody wins.”
Employers win because they pay two salaries for the work of three people. Employees win by getting much higher pay than the industry average. Consumers win because they are being helped by capable, motivated and well-trained staff. The Container Store recognizes the benefits of investing in their people and offering incentives in the right places.
In fact, a well-trained staff forms the basis for Kip?s next key to success: ?Man in the desert?. ?Imagine you are stranded in a desert, about to collapse from heat exhaustion. ?Suddenly, you see a man in an oasis. ?What should this man offer you in your time of need? ?This question can be directly linked to how retail staff can make or break a business. ?Many people would be content with water and shade. ?But businesses cannot thrive with customers who are merely ?content?. ?Instead, the man could offer you a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes, or a satellite phone to tell your loved ones that you are alive. ?It is when a salesperson exceeds expectations that people become lifelong customers.
Kip knows that if someone comes in with a poorly organized closet and walks out with a few shelves, chances are the closet will still be poorly organized. ?On the other hand, if the salesperson takes the time to truly understand and solve the problem, the customer will feel proud of their purchase and will share their experience with others. In other words, every happy customer is working for you as free advertisement. ?In fact, it is better than an ad because people trust their friends and family a lot more than a stranger on tv, the web, or a billboard.
Kip?s third and final key to success: ?Communication is Leadership?. ?Kip believes that everything can be solved with proper communication, so he communicates everything to almost all of his employees at all times. ?It seems obvious, but it is very easy to overlook how often you are keeping someone informed. ?The amount of information necessary and relevant also has to be balanced, so that the person isn?t overwhelmed with things irrelevant to their jobs.
In his words,
?Nothing makes you feel more part of something than when you know everything?s communicated to you. If everything?s not communicated to you, you feel excluded. ?You don?t really feel a part of it.? ?
Lack of communication can be easily misinterpreted as a lack of compassion. ?When managing teams of people, it is essential to keep everyone feeling appreciated since this is when we do our best work. People don?t mind putting in extra effort when they feel successful and part of a larger purpose.
The three keys to success all share a common theme: treat everyone as you would treat yourself. ?
There is a reason that ?the golden rule? is repeated over and over to every kindergardener, and it?s not because Charlie won?t share the Legos. ?It?s because humans are instinctively social creatures. ?There are benefits to treating your employees as people and going the extra mile for your customers. Kip Tindell has figured this out and made these conscious business concepts essential ingredients of The Container Store culture and brand.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity
I grew up in the land of yerba mate. In Argentina, the herbal drink yerba mate was served everywhere you went. The indigenous people of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay enjoyed yerba mate long before the Spanish arrived. Over the years, mate became the drink of choice for many in South America.
Mate is the first thing people offer you when you visit. “Un matecito?” Family mornings start with mate. University students depend on it for long nights of study. Artists and musicians love their yerba mate muse. Conversation and insight are born around mate.
Mate brings the outdoors, the sierras and the forest, inside. And a circle around a fire, a Spanish guitar, or a philosophical discussion, can bring out yerba’s best flavors.
The caffeine-like substance in mate, or mateina, is a pleasure at any hour, especially when it is served traditional style: in a single gourd and with a “bombilla”, or metal straw. The gourd is passed around and shared with good company. Mate is a cultural drink, a form of giving and a receiving.
I have friends in Argentina that keep a hot water thermos in the car, always ready to brew. On my last visit, my childhood friend and I prepared to hike on a gorgeous autumn day. She packed a gourd, a bombilla, yerba, and hot water. This is truly a drink to enjoy at any time of day or night.
The benefits of yerba mate
YERBA, or Iles paraguarensis, is the name of the green, aromatic herb used to make mate. The drink evolved from jungle plant, to indigenous medicine, to South American tradition, and finally to the fashionable drink we know today.
Yerba is also a veritable powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This is an herb that leaves green tea in the dust. Yerba has higher polyphenol and antioxidant content. And it possesses multitude of health benefits. ?
Can this simple beverage help save our planet?
One company is out to prove just that. Guayaki has built a model that places sustainability at the core of their business practices.
Harvard graduate Chris Mann and four of his pals stepped out of the traditional corporate path and created a new, ecologically sound company. They brought yerba harvesting back to the forest. Their mate is grown organically, like it was at the beginning, in the shade and under the canopy, for potency, clarity, vitality and well being. Guayaki Yerba is also a provider of local jobs that do not disturb the forest. Native people, yerba?s original tenders and consumers, are paid a living wage to plant and harvest the herb.
What drove their unique business model? Chris Mann said,
“It was while at Harvard that I realized, everything I was interested in is outside the system. …When asking professors what about environmental degradation, what about native people?s compensation, the answer always was: that’s outside the economical model, those are externalities.”
Guayaki was started in 1996 by two university buddies, Alex Pryor from Buenos Aires and David Karr from California. They were soon joined by Chris Mann, Steven Karr and Michael Newton. United by their love of mate and holistic living, they imagined a company that valued sustainable practices and respect for indigenous workers. Twenty-one years later, they?ve secured 60% of the Yerba mate market in the US. ?
This company, started with seventeen credit cards and a small loan, is now flourishing. They new goal: to protect and restore 200,000 acres of Atlantic rain forest and create 1,000 living wage jobs by 2020.
Guayaki is succeeding not despite their sustainable practices, but because of them.
Guayaki and other companies like them will continue to thrive because of our support. They are one of the many enterprises opening the doors to the economy of the future. They are sustainable, democratic, inclusive, and profitable. They represent the new economy.
Chris and his team recognize that business can be used as a force for good in the world. We can make changes by voting with our dollars and supporting companies Guayaki that care about all of their stakeholders (employees, suppliers, the planet and shareholders).
Your money makes a difference. The companies you decide to support will be the companies that flourish.
We need to create the motive and define the goals we want to see in the world. This isn?t a matter of benevolence or generosity. It is a as a matter of survival. Let?s live the change we want to see, so that we can protect our beautiful planet to future generations.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity
“What I did was start investing in what I love and what I believed in?
Paulette Cole is CEO and creative director of the trendsetting Manhattan furnishing store ABC Home. But she?s more than an entrepreneur, she?s also a visionary. Her company lives and breathes the mission statement of using beauty, art, and wellness as powerful tools. Her aim is to heal the planet by transforming shopping into responsible retail.
Beyond furnishings and decor, ABC Home stores offer an oasis of all things bed, bath, baby, and beauty & wellness. ABC is also home one of the hottest NYC restaurants, offering an array of ?fine dining experiences. ?Her business model teaches consumers about the art of making their homes both a refuge and a creative, sacred space. To Paulette, shopping responsibly is a form connectivity: it brings together people, purpose, and planet. She?s the ultimate pioneer in eco-chic.
How did one woman build an empire inspired by eco-friendly shopping and indigenous design in a world that revolves around the bottom line?
?This is a story of beauty, wellness, wisdom, and love?
It all began in the 1980?s when Paulette set out to expand her family?s carpet business from an upscale design store into a mission driven business. ?From its inception, ABC Home followed the belief that every product sold should resonate with the heart. During the early days Paulette said, ?I didn?t really have a template to follow, so I trusted my intuition.?
In 2003, ABC Home made the decision to sustainably source all of their furniture and introduced the concept of ?Good Wood?? products made from trees that have been harvested from responsibly managed forests. Later, that idea would manifest into the Goodwood Plant a Tree project. For each Goodwood furniture purchase, a tree is planted through the Climate Poverty Reduction Program, an effort led by Professor Wangari Maathai?s Green Belt Movement. ?
By 2004, ABC Home was entirely dedicated to selling sustainable products like reclaimed salvaged goods, organic upholstery, fabrics, and vintage and antique pieces.
Beyond selling goods, Paulette wanted the company to do good. ?The goal was to keep world?s wellbeing in mind with every decision the company made. That meant only sourcing from businesses that were chemical-free, used wildcrafting, and were in alignment with organic principles. They went so far as to drop all chemical cleansers from the store and use only recycled paper, soy based ink, and biodegradable packaging (all while saving money along the way.)
Ultimately, these strategies resulted in a business that today educates, heals, and inspires consumers. Not only has ABC Home created a community and sanctuary for beautiful products brimming with integrity, but it has curated a living theater for art and wellness. As often as possible, Paulette wants the store to be a source of ?connectivity to a healthier place of wellness and prosperity.?
?I don?t think the world needs ABC to be another Billion dollar brand?
Like many large businesses, ABC Home was urged to ?grow big?. Paulette was not swayed by the prospects of scaling. She remained steadfast to the original business strategy and protected the uniqueness of the brand. Her tenacity defines her strength as a woman and CEO. ?The brand she built was not solely driven by the bottom line.
Today, sustainable stores face many challenges. ?More than ever, Paulette sees capital wanting to invest in vision, but also demanding a ?sure thing? that will bring competitive returns. ?Remaining dedicated to the brand?s mission while making profits is a delicate balance and not for the faint of heart. ?Building a business with ethics in mind means looking beyond profit and towards environmental and social responsibility. ?Paulette advises entrepreneurs, ?you?ll have to be willing to invest in the sustainability of that mission even if sales are swaying.?
?It?s the butterfly effect?
With ABC Home, Paulette wanted to give people the opportunity to connect with sources that they didn?t know were available. ?For instance, women seeking a pink sari at her store wouldn?t have to worry, ?whether that pink dye was low impact color or vegetable dyed, or whether the women who were weaving it are weaving it under fair trade circumstances.? ?Curating positive change in commerce starts with aligning your own vision and values with your daily choices. ?The food we put in our mouths, the clothes we wear, and the products we apply impact not only our own personal health, but the health our planet and communities, too. ?
Entrepreneurs, business owners, and people everywhere can begin the journey of building a healthier economy for the planet. Creating both a strong business and fruitful life hold the same principles: it?s all about combined efforts. Paulette sees an opportunity to redefine the concept of design and integrate it into a brand that helps people and planet. ?She urges consumers everywhere to step up and align their beliefs with what they purchase. ?If we do this consistently, it changes the way the world does business. Paulette already sees a Green Industrial Revolution in the works as more people opt for sustainable shopping and business. ?This process is a group effort though, one where the consumer?s voice is only heard when amplified by many. ?
How do we accomplish this task and what is her advice to accelerate conscious capitalism? According to her,
?Speak loudly even if your voice shakes…The consumer has to demand more.?
In the end, Paulette Cole transformed a mere family owned business into a revered sustainable shopping empire, one that millions of people admire. ?Her work is a living masterpiece and clearly defines a new era of design. ABC Home is the ultimate shift in paradigm and a business that continues to inspire truth seekers and entrepreneurs everywhere to voice their desires and vote with their dollars.
Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity