Losing EVERY dollar I have


Nicole Walters Podcast

The Nicole Walters Podcast

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Let me tell you about what I learned after losing every dollar I had. In this chat we’re talking about the American Dream – the American Dream that was dreamt FOR us and the American Dream we actually want. Friend, we’re kicking off Season 4 with the truth!

We all want more options in life but what I’ve learned is that in order to have more options, we have to be bold in our decision making.

The truth is, you know what you need to do to get your American Dream. Friend, let’s start making bold decisions together.



Hey friends, I am thrilled to welcome you to the new season of The Nicole Walters Podcast. And as I mentioned before, all of our chats are going to be about moving forward boldly. And I know you’re going to hear all these new year, new you things in the next coming weeks and I want to let you know that we’re starting now.

Why don’t we have to wait for a magical marker of time in order to be our best selves and move forward and get the things we want and live the life that we deserve?

And I gotta tell you, after the journey that we’ve had over the past year, with starting over fresh starts, and talking about the learnings that are allowing us to move boldly, it’s time for us to actually do it.

This chat that we’re about to have is about the true American dream. So friends, you may or may not know, but I am the child of African immigrants. My parents were both born in Ghana, West Africa. My mother in a seaside town, that was city like, if you will, if you’re familiar, it’s called El Mina. And it My father was born in Wasa ecoupon, which is a village up north and you know, I jokingly call it a Discovery Channel village, because the depictions of Africa always are fairly consistent, you know, online and inaccurate often, but truly he grew up in a dirt floor, you know, small home, you know, that some what might refer to as a shack. And really didn’t have anything, no running water, no electricity. And he grew up very humbly, and both of my parents actually met when they came to the United States and my mother was 18. And my father was, I believe, 24. And they met here, you know, because they came here for better options and a better life.

And what’s interesting is that, I often think about what the American Dream probably meant to them. And whether or not you are the child of an immigrant, or you’re an immigrant yourself, or your first generation, and you’re born here like me, but you know, grew up in an immigrant household, or if you’re someone who just grew up with old school parents, or southern parents, or parents who, you know, had big dreams for you and had to work hard for them, we all know what it’s like to have a vision of what we think our life should be.

And in the spirit of, you know, this new season and speaking boldly, it kind of sucks right now. Like, everything is expensive, mortgage rates are out of control, for those of us who have gone through transitions our life, you know, like me with divorce or, you know, you with, you know, having a new baby or layoffs or you know, financial things, everything feels like it’s harder to do, and dreams feel like they’re harder to reach. Sometimes it feels a little scary to even make them and I don’t know about you, but there are parts of me that worry about what it looks like for my kids. And, you know, wanting to grow my family, what it looks like for my kids in the future. And honestly, what it looks like for me, you know, I’d love to, you know, buy a fancy pants home here in LA akin to the one that I used to have when I was, you know, in my previous marriage. And I have a great home now really, like God is very good, I’m cared for but it’s not like, you know, ritzy ditzy or anything like that, you know, and that’s fine. But when I tell you the idea of spending millions, which is what it costs to live in a home that’s actually fairly reasonable out here in LA, just doesn’t seem reasonable.

I have friends who are raising whole families in one bedroom apartments. And having grown up like that, myself, I know that it is possible to still have so much love and to achieve so much and accomplish so much. So there’s no shame in being someone who doesn’t have much but gosh, where’s the space to dream? Where’s the space to dream and I don’t know about you. But the dream that was sold to me growing up was that the American dream was a house and it was a dog, probably a golden retriever, you know, 2.5 kids getting a good corporate job, you know, that pays you a reasonable salary that allows you to take some vacations, have a savings account, you know, if anything comes up you’re able to pay for it. To have a reasonable late model car, you know, that doesn’t break down all the time you’ll get your kids into after school activities, and then know that you can retire at a reasonable age probably somewhere in your early 60s with a cute retirement party and you know, be able to move to Florida. Does that sound familiar? 

I don’t know if it’s just my old millennial self, but that’s what I thought life was supposed to give and it’s almost become a running joke amongst my girls, you know, who are 20, my older ones 21 and 24 that like, they don’t even know if they want to get married, definitely don’t know if they want to have kids, if it’s not a flat no, and they never expect to have a home. And I don’t know about you, but that jaded existence, you know, of saying that, what is the point of our living right now is heartbreaking. And I try not to get caught up in it because and y’all know, because we talk about it here, you know, we really want to be people who are able to feel like we have some control over our future.

What I want to speak to here is this idea that what we always have control over is how we want to design our dreams. Because this classic American Dream concept, I don’t know if it ever really existed. Because that dream concept is rooted so heavily in money. And as someone who has had it, has lost it, has grown up with none of it and then had so much of it, and then had a lot less of it. Right? Like I mean, I’ve really been at all the stages. And I gotta tell you, the American Dream is really just about options. It’s about having choices. And that’s where we start really feeling like our life is beyond us.

Do we have a choice around when we can have more kids? Or if we can afford more kids? Do we have a choice around the neighborhood we can live in? Do we have a choice around what type of car we want to drive? Do we have a choice of, you know, if we want to stay in a certain employment or not, do we have a choice around what sort of cancer treatments we want to select for our child if they’re on the table, because we’re not limited, you know, by the financial aspects, and we have access to that information.

And what I want to empower you with because this is something that I’ve really had to embrace is that choices only come when you’re willing to make bold decisions. If you want to have more choices, you have to be willing to get uncomfortable.

It’s so interesting because the mindset around not having options is a learned one. And as women, as marginalized people, we are constantly told that we have less options than we actually do. And that is a form of control. People want to feed us our choices so we select things that suit them. And I grew up seeing this in my home, because whenever my mom had company coming over, which was infrequent. I think that the idea of having people in our home gave her so much anxiety because our home was small. It wasn’t really well decorated, well appointed, we just weren’t wealthy, we just didn’t have we didn’t even have enough seating to really have company there, we had a couch and a chair, you know, and sometimes we could pull around extra dining room chairs if we needed seating, but it just, you know, it’s a small apartment. And whenever we’re having people over, I remember it being an event. And I always knew if someone was coming over and it didn’t even have to be anyone fancy. It could be like one of my dad’s friends or, you know, a couple of times, he may have had like teachers come over. Or, heck, it could have been the landlord popping by to collect a check, you know, whoever it was, the routine was the same. I’d wake up to the sound of the vacuum cleaner running as my mom made and attempted to, you know, catch any types of hair or dander or whatever it was, in our fairly stained old carpet around our apartment. And that I’d hear all the dishes going at the same time that I would hear ladles hitting the side of, you know, the pots of the pans on the stove because my mom was cooking a full like three course meal. I’d see her pull out trays, you know, from cabinets, and I would hear all the rustling and jostling and she was pulling these trays out and she would start pouring an assortment of chips and nuts and all sorts of different snack items that had a very distinctly Ghanaian, African flair to it. But you know, we’re pretty good noshables, you know, that we could have there and should always slice some oranges. And then, you know, pull out an assortment of beverages, ginger ale was always on the docket, she might offer a beer two, which I always felt was kind of weird, because I didn’t realize that not everybody drinks. I mean, but, you know, in Ghana, that’s really, it’s actually kind of considered elegant to always offer someone, you know, an alcoholic beverage, you know, that’s kind of a sign of, you know, wealth and doing a little bit nicer things.

Whereas in America, you know, it’s kind of what do you want to drink, you know, water was never on the menu, almost he asked for it specifically. And what would always happen is she would start, you know, pretty early in the morning trying to get the house together, if you will. And by the time the person finally arrived, she was wiped out. She was already tired. And one of the things I always thought was odd about that was people coming over is supposed to be a joyful celebration, right? The best part is when the doorbell rings. And we know we’re about to get to the fun. But the feeling I always had and I could detect on my own mother was that she felt like her options and her performance came before the joy even arrived. It was do all the work and then by the time we’d reached the moment where we should be celebrating or enjoying the company or creating a memory, she was exhausted. She was exhausted, she was miserable. And I can even sense an anxious dread coming over her that she would now have to engage. And she did great either way. You know, I remember my mom always being you know, smiley, and you know, but she never really had much to say. And I always found that to be odd, you know, because when I would see my mom in her most comfortable moments around friends or, you know, at larger parties where there really wasn’t a place for her to stand so she just had to have a good time, she was loquacious. She was dancing, she would have a drink in her hand, she was having a good old time. So I knew she had it in her but yet in her own home, she didn’t even know how to embrace the option of peace.

And it’s not lost on me that I witnessed this happen a couple times a year throughout my life in our small apartment. And when I reflect on my own behaviors, around feeling like I had limited options in my home outside of keeping it tidy, keeping it organized, cooking for the people there and keeping my family entertained. I realized that I was raised to think that service was my biggest value add to the people around me. And couple that with being a Christian, being a woman, being a black woman, you can understand how it’s very easy to feel like our biggest gift to the world is productivity. And you can also see how you lose your options when you only embrace the ones that you are told.

And being transparent, in my previous life and my previous marriage in the way that I was living and doing my business before, I felt so trapped, increasingly trapped every day. And I know that’s hard to believe because I was living a life that people would dream for. I flew on private jets. Again, I had that incredible home, I had staff. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t buy, right. So they’re in, I was living the American dream, right rags to riches, you know, an immigrant child who now has all these things. But I was so damn lonely. Like, and I felt trapped. I felt like I could not, I remember that I would stay up late at night, after everyone went to bed to just get like a moment of peace.

And what do I mean by that moment of peace, I mean, quiet where no one was asking me for anything, a moment where I felt like I didn’t have to entertain or help anyone. And I’ll go into that in a second. A moment where I felt like I didn’t have to check email, I didn’t have to watch a show that was like a family show, kind of a show that I wanted to watch. And I’m saying all of this knowing that if you’re listening as you know, a mama or a sister or you know, even a single girl, you’re hearing and knowing what I’m talking about, right? Just having that moment to myself for myself but then also realizing that I felt like I didn’t get enough of that time. And I didn’t quite know how to shift it.

And it wasn’t until sort of the final years of my marriage that I realized that I did know how to shift it, I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to have to do the thing that I knew would be required to get more choices, to have more options. Oh I feel teary just thinking about it because I remember the discomfort of sitting in that place.

So I was sitting on my gorgeous blue velvet couch. You know if you ever watch my show, you’ve seen it, you know? And I loved this couch, it was custom designed. It was super comfy and it was beautiful and it trapped all my dog hair on it. You know and I’d cozy up on this couch at night and I’d watch you know a show and I’d be watching this like Bridgerton, or something, you know, and all I could think about was, tomorrow, I have to wake up and go to work, you know, and tomorrow I’m back at the routine, and boy am I really blessed like, I would literally look around my house sometimes in awe, because I grew up with nothing. I slept on a couch, you know, until I was 12 in poverty but here I am dozing off on a couch, wealthy, and still feeling trapped. Like, I don’t like my options, or this isn’t the life that I selected for myself.

And a lot of that had to do with the lack of love that I felt in my home. And when I say love, I don’t even mean just romantic or partner related love, I mean, a lack of understanding and appreciation and worth, which, you know, some of that is my own job, you know, but also, just generally feeling like my life is going to keep repeating itself in the same format over and over and over again, until I decided to move and make something different happen.

And so I was thinking before I decided to come here and chat with you today, how many times have you sat there and known and said to yourself, I need to quit this job. I need to quit this marriage. I need to quit this friendship. I need to leave this thing because I cannot remain here. Like there’s parts of me that are dying off. You know, there are things that I know that are better somewhere else. If anything, sometimes it’s not even about the quitting or the leaving of where you are, so much as honoring the call of where you’re supposed to be. And when I tell you for years, in repeating the same cycle of seeking that moment of peace in the evening, I would spend so many of those hours sitting there saying to myself, I’m not happy. And I’m exhausted, and there’s so much good in my life, and there’s so much joy, but I need to leave, like I need to not be here. I need to pursue peace, you know, and better balance, you know, around the joy in my life.

And what that looks like is a divorce, you know, that I need to be able to boldly say yes to myself. And not in a selfish way I think a lot of times when people hear that, and they say, Well, if one of the options that you’re seeking is more of you, that’s not okay. And on many levels in our society right now, there is a lot of selfishness, there’s a lot of self-centeredness. But I’m talking about the saying yes to yourself so that you can say yes to others. I needed to create more breathing room for me, so that I could keep serving in the capacity that I was serving.

And I was so scared. And I know that for those of you who tune in every single week, and we have these chats, and for those of you who have read the book, you know that chapter one of my book is all about how the American dream is about options. And how I came to learn that after watching my mother suffer. And I want you to know that if you’re sitting there saying to yourself, I feel like my American dream is slipping through my fingers and all I want are more options. I just want more choices, whether it’s around work or around my partners who I’m with in a relationship or around my friendships or where I live or whatever else, I have to let you know, I watched my parents suffer. And I remember thinking, why aren’t they choosing differently.

And in the book, I tell some stories of, you know, things that I could see my mother saying no to every single day that she didn’t have to but, you know, one thing I don’t share is that my mom is the type of woman who literally would set herself on fire to keep people warm. I mean, she would go to parties she was invited to and spend her entire time on her feet, serving and helping and cleaning and tidying up and, you know, chasing after kids and you know, cracking jokes and serving drinks. I mean, she just spent her whole time working. Even in an environment she was invited to in order to have rest. The only option she saw for herself was work. The only option she saw for herself was people pleasing. And the thing that I’m constantly reflecting on is that we all have options, and it’s what are we choosing to engage in. Because a lot of us focus on the fact that we may not feel like we have the option that we deserve, which in this American dream for me it would be an option of lower mortgage rates, better down payment options, right. But realistically, you know, I do still have options who says I have to stay in LA?

Right, who says that I have to live in house, you know, who says that? I can’t have a nomadic lifestyle? You know, there are lots of choices. It’s just that do I want to boldly consider them. So, you know, when I was sitting on that couch feeling miserable, remembering how my mom would go to these parties and work so hard and act like it was her only choice, because her highest value was how do people view the way that I serve them? That was where she found her worth. And I say this to you hoping that some of this resonates with you, because some of you are bending over backwards to serve other people that wouldn’t spend five minutes doing that for you. And I’m talking about our kids, you know, because our kids don’t, you know, they don’t owe us anything, but I’m talking about the grown adults in your life. And that includes your job, you know, are you bending over backwards to serve this thing that doesn’t serve you because you think you lack options. And I want to encourage you to look around and see what your other options are, including the ones that you’re not willing to consider, because they’re too bold. Because they’re too scary. But you know what, they’re still options. You’ve got to take out a piece of paper and write them down and consider them. Because what isn’t an option is staying in the same place.

Because what I can tell you is that the last thing you want is to put into the type of high pressure, push or shove moment, where you have to go.

And I say that as someone who if you’ve listened to, you know, some of our chats from last season, that’s what a medical situation is. That’s what a difficult-to-bounce back from financial situation is. That’s what it looks like when you find out your kid needs to go into rehab or has been diagnosed with cancer, you know, that is that push or shove moment, that calls you to be bolder than you desire, and possibly before you’re ready.

But one option that you always retain, is your choice around when to move, as long as you are considering your options before you do it.

So friend, as we’re going into a new year, before the new year actually arrives to us, one of the things I want to encourage you to do and I’m going to do it too, is to make a list of all your options even if they’re the ones that you absolutely don’t think are real options. Is it that you’re going to get a divorce? Is it therapy? Is it taking time apart? Is it learning more about yourself and figuring out what you can bring to your marriage? Is it looking at applying at other jobs? Is it taking some time off to not work at all for six months? Is it actually building that side hustle and seeing if you can make a little cash and when I say building it, I mean actually building and selling and working at it. Not just hoping and dreaming and playing around.

Make that list. I don’t want to see a goal list of just lose 10 pounds, right? I don’t want to see a goal list of you know, get in the gym more, eat more vegetables, drink more water, all those things are good and great but realistically, how bold is it to write down the same thing you’ve been writing every single year and taking no actual steps towards it.

You know what you need to do to get your American dream. You deserve more options, and you have plenty in front of you. So let’s go after it together. The real American dream is about options. So let’s start making good choices together.

In this episode, we chat about:
  • What I’ve learned about the American Dream from growing up in poverty, earning a lot of money, losing a lot of money, and everywhere in between
  • Why the real American Dream isn’t what we think it is,
  • How to achieve your American Dream, and
  • What you MUST DO to get there

Resources and links mentioned in this episode:
  • Grab my New York Times Bestselling memoir, Nothing is Missing, HERE!
  • Send me a DM on Instagram and Facebook!
  • Book a 20 min call to see if working together is the right next step for you!
  • First time here? Go listen to Episode 1 of Season 1 to get the backstory! Listen here!
  • I love reading your reviews of the show! You can share your thoughts on Apple here!

More about The Nicole Walters Podcast:

If you’re looking for the strategies and encouragement to pursue a life of purpose, this is the podcast for you! Week after week Nicole Walters will have you laughing hysterically while frantically taking notes as she shares her own personal stories and answers your DMs about life, business, and everything in between.

As a self-made multimillionaire and founder of the digital education firm, Inherit Learning Company, Nicole Walters is the “tell-it-like-it-is” best friend that you can’t wait to hang out with next.

When Nicole shows up, she shows OUT, so tune in each week for a laugh, a best friend chat, plus the strategies and encouragement you need to confidently live a life of purpose.

Follow Nicole on IG @NicoleWalters and visit inheritlearningcompany.com today and click the button to join our betterment community. Your membership gives you access to a world of people and tools focused on helping you build the life you want.