Don’t Pay Your Bills

August 16th, 2013 by Steve Pavlina

What if you really want to quit your job and go independent, but you’re worried about paying your bills?

Today I’m able to enjoy the best of both worlds. My bills are easily paid from my passive income streams, and I get to do work I love and enjoy tremendous freedom. But when I was first starting out, it was often an either-or situation. Sometimes I had to not pay credit card bills, legal bills, utilities, rent, etc. Many times I just didn’t have the money.

Obviously not paying bills creates consequences. My credit rating was trashed for many years. I had to sell off a bunch of my stuff for food money. I lost my office. I got kicked out of my apartment. I had to declare bankruptcy. But I wasn’t willing to get a job to remedy any of that. Better to lose an apartment than check into a cage.

I never stiffed individuals, but I certainly stiffed some corporations. They took a risk on me and lost. It was their risk to take. I doubt any corporate employees lost sleep over my unpaid accounts.

Eventually I learned what I needed to learn. But in the beginning, I was too inexperienced to earn enough money without a job to cover my bills. I picked the wrong strategies for earning income and got dismal results. So I didn’t pay all my bills, and I accepted the consequences of that.

A bill is just a number. It has no meaning other than what you assign to it. You may determine that not paying a bill is a deplorable act of dishonor. To me it’s simply a learning experience — a lesson. It’s a small oops.

If my bills ever get in the way of my path of growth, the bills lose.

Do you know how many bills I didn’t pay in order to pursue the path I’m on? Dozens, maybe hundreds if you include all the late notices. At least $150,000 of bills were never paid. That was many years ago, long before I started blogging, and of course I had to deal with some consequences.

Negative consequences can be great teachers, but don’t assume that they’re punishments that must be avoided at all costs.

Not paying a bill gets you a slap on the wrist. My wrists have been slapped many times. Wrist slaps are nothing to be afraid of. You get used to them. If you’re committed to a path of growth, expect your wrists to be slapped many times.

Most of the time when I didn’t pay a bill, the first wrist slap came in the form of an overdue notice. Ouch! Those RED ALL CAPS LETTERS make me quake in fear. Or I could just toss it in the trash and go on about my day.

Sometimes I’d get phone calls from collection agencies… up to 10 of those per day. A good solution there is to not pay the phone bill too. :)

Initially I truly did find these consequences stressful. But when it became such a flood because I was so ridiculously in debt that it just didn’t matter anymore, I discovered a newfound freedom on the other side. I stopped worrying and just accepted the consequences for what they were. The fear was much worse than the reality. I realized that my overdue accounts were being processed by a corporate machine. And the psychology employed to try to get me to pay was all based on fear, shame, and guilt. Collection agents would try to make me feel like a loser for not paying. Once I realized what they were doing, I stopped letting them treat me that way, and the debt collectors became much less powerful. Sure they could mess up my credit rating, but they couldn’t make me miserable or worried or stressed without my permission.

Eventually the whole thing became like a game to me. All this fuss over a number in a database? When collection agents would call, I’d ask them about their personal lives, or I’d come up with silly answers to “When can you make a payment?” When I got kicked out of my apartment, I moved to a much cheaper one. When I didn’t have much furniture, I used a large cardboard box as a table. I realized that my stuff was vulnerable to loss, but my attitude didn’t have to be so weak and timid, despite my screwed up financial situation.

This was an amazing time of growth for me. I learned to be a lot less attached to money and possessions. I learned to stand up for myself and my right to make mistakes without being treated like a loser for screwing up. Those lessons have stayed with me ever since. Now that I do have some money flowing through my life, I don’t fear losing it. Money has no power over me like it once did. I’m not afraid of going broke again.

Earning money also became much easier. Since I was already broke, I decided to focus on doing what I enjoyed, expressing my creativity, and making a contribution without worrying about how much I’d earn. Ironically, that’s exactly the kind of attitude that can generate abundant income. Every year since then has been financially abundant (almost 15 years now). Go figure.

One reason employee culture often leads people to be so afraid of wrist slaps is that such cultures are often fear driven. That’s how people are kept in line and conditioned to do work they’d rather not do. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to have interesting connections with long-term employees because so many of them are afraid of their own shadow. It’s like talking to someone via one of those prison visitation phones. Some are scared of being reprimanded for placing the wrong type of item on their desks. Last year I wrote up a mock version of such a conversation in an attempt to point out just how absurd the employee mindset sounds to an independent.

My independent friends never seem to ask, “But how will I pay my bills?” My independent friends know that if they can’t pay their bills, the bills won’t be paid, they’ll deal with the consequences, and life will go on just fine. But my employee-minded friends have often been conditioned to believe that not paying a bill is the worst sin imaginable — a massive failure to be avoided at all costs.

Am I suggesting that you become wildly irresponsible and spend money like a crazy person? Not at all. But don’t be so afraid of betting on yourself and taking some risk. You’re going to lose some of those bets. That’s okay. Just dust yourself off, and try again. How else are you going to learn if you don’t make the attempt? And you get more than one attempt — a LOT more!

So the answer to the question “What if I quit my job and can’t pay my bills?” is pretty straightforward. If you can’t pay your bills, don’t pay them. Rest assured that if you don’t pay some bills, the universe will not actually explode.

Is this against the rules? Yes, it’s against the rules.

If you don’t pay your bills, it obviously means that you’re a dishonorable, rotten scoundrel, and you’re surely going to hell. But I’ll be rotting there right along with you, in that extra toasty domain of hell reserved for rule breakers. You should be able to find me if you look for the bonfire of overdue notices, with a bunch of crazy folks dancing around it in celebration of their freedom. The rising smoke from our bonfire will probably annoy all the obedient collection agents playing their harps in heaven, and whatever RED LETTER NOTICES they send us in response can be used to keep the fire going. ;)

P.S. Thank you, WordPress, for including bubble-help with the names of the colors over the color squares. It makes it possible for a color blind person like me to know which color in the palette is actually red. :)


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