12/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Key #2 To Your Sound Financial Future

As a country, we are 'in' when it comes to fast. We are devotees of fast food, the fast lane, the fast track. So, when we get in crisis, we want the solution, pronto. Yesterday would not be soon enough. One of the most challenging aspects of the present global crisis is this: there is no speedway fix. What can we do? In the meantime, we get a daily dose of information that doesn't look good. For example, consider the 700 billion buyout, little tidbits are emerging. Apparently, 70 billion has been allocated for bonuses for the incompetents and crooks that got us in the mess in the first place. A bit excessive, wouldn't you say? To make matters worse, guess who's picking up the tab? You and I.

Now, I don't know about you, but I can think of a whole list of things to use this money for that most definitely would not include giving this kind of tip to the big money waitstaff.

This kind of stuff can really get your blood boiling. Thinking about these matters this morning, as I put the pots and pans away in the cupboard, I noticed my stew pot. Now, since you and I are in this friggin' stew together, let's see what we can recall from the kitchen, which might be transferable to the wallet.

I don't know about you, but my experience is that a hearty stew takes time. You've got to gather, wash, and prepare your ingredients. You've got to plan when you add them in the correct order. This applies to baking, as well. Say, you are baking a cake. If you throw some of the ingredients into a bowl all together, mix, and then toss on top the baking soda, you are not going to get the same result as you would if you added, mixed and baked in the correct order. And then, you've got to set the timer, and endure the time necessary for the baking.

If this sounds like a review of your seventh grade home economics class, I assure you, it isn't. The fact is that good economics shares a principle with the kitchen transformations. Wealth gets down to alchemy. And alchemy takes time and heat. So, what do you remember about alchemy?

Alchemy as a Key to Your Sound Financial Future.

Back in middle school, at least at Jason Lee Junior High in Tacoma, the science textbook devoted a brief chapter to chemistry's ancestor, known as 'alchemy.' We were told that the alchemists, in their misguided silliness, were attempting to derive gold from lead. I believed the text. After all, it was written in a schoolbook; ergo, it must be so. (Not unlike listening to politicians assure the American public that the state of the economy is sound, before some really nasty truth was exposed.) In my case, it took another twenty years for me to discover, while on a trip to the Holy Lands, that the alchemists were up to something much deeper. Apparently, alchemists projected onto matter (lead to gold) the process of human transformation. They were searching for the phases it takes for human consciousness to awaken. They were toiling away to discover that inner treasure that awaits those willing to do the work of personal transformation which in turn can awaken the planet. Eckhart Tolle had nothing on them!

It turns out that transformation of anything, including our finances, begins with a leaden state. Life is not moving in a productive way. Not unlike today. In fact, enduring transformational stories often symbolize this same process through stories of dying kings. The old leadership runs its course. A famine's on the land. Nothing new is growing. Something has to be sacrificed. Eyes dart to who's in charge. Index fingers point. You'll find more than a tribe or two that sacrificed its dying king for new leaders. In very short order, the top dog's head rolls.

Now, the head, be it the king's, the president's, or our own, has to do with thinking, including outdated attitudes and judgments. We can look to inept leadership, and cry: "what were you thinking?' (And, don't think I haven't!) But, as Truman put it, ultimately: "The buck stops here!" The question is what have we been thinking? Because to get to the bottom of a problem, we have to find what's been hidden from us. On not only national, but individual levels, with money problems, this means locating what's driving emotional spending? Because these unconscious drives, unconfronted, are 'cooking our goose!'

Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience you are willing to look in the face" We cannot meet a better life, a more sound financial future, without facing the fact that sooner or later we have to face the habit of living beyond our means. Not only as a country and world, but as individuals. By working on our own leaden thinking and self-limiting beliefs, coupled with the necessary heat to confront what we are doing that is no longer effective, we might just discover the gold. But first, the audit.