I met DC based blogger, facilitator & coach Leslie Stein on twitter a few months ago, and then in person when she visited Vancouver in the fall. Was blown away by her amazing Penny Project and cajoled her into writing about it for you.
She’d love to hear from you so be sure to leave her a comment. Prepare to be REALLY inspired! Happy reading!
I’ve learned an incredible amount in the last 3 years.
There have been lots of reasons for this. Classes I’ve attended, people I’ve met, the place I’ve traveled, the challenging work I pushed myself to take on.
But of all the places & all the things, I have to admit that the largest part of my learning came from a place I never expected.
The little 1-cent jobbers most people ignore without a second look. You’re probably wondering, “What could you have possibly learned from a penny?!”
Believe it or not, I’ve picked up some pretty huge life lessons.
I guess it all started on December 29th, 2006 when I randomly found a $20 bill in the crosswalk on my way home from work. I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions, but this $20 bill got me thinking (after I finished my happy dance & spent it on getting a pedicure).
I mean really…were people just tossing $20’s in the street?
(I think I may have pinpointed the source of our economic woes!)
Long story short, I decided to start picking up all the change I found in 2007 to see how much I’d end up with. So I started picking up pennies…or really any money I found on the ground, but mostly pennies.
I was pretty shocked at how much I was finding.
- By June I had about $15 and a handful of friends also bringing me their pennies.
- By September I’d started a blog about my found money adventures and been filmed to be in a short movie about pennies
- By the end of the year, my little band of change collectors & I had amassed over $85 in total.
All the while this Penny Project was going on I was having a series of meltdowns about why my life wasn’t turning out to be a ’10.’ I wanted to be happy like everyone else.
Why couldn’t I find someone to date in DC? Why had I been a bridesmaid 7 times and never a bride? Why…why, why, WHY?!
I was having these meltdowns via telephone with my mom, who also happens to be one of my closest friends. Every time I called, I kept asking her why my life wasn’t a 10.
Finally one day, she said, “Are you so sure it’s not?”
Um yeah…I think I’d know if my life was a 10.
Her theory was that I had a lot of good days. Let’s call these days ‘7s.’
And every once in awhile, I had a REALLY good day, which we’ll call ’10s’. Mom could list off several of these days without trying too hard.. like the day a friend of mine took me to The Grammy’s. It was hard not to call that a 10 even when I was pouting on the phone with mom!
She said that for my life to be a 10, maybe all I needed was a series of 7s and a 10 every now and then.
I wasn’t buying what she was selling.
Then one day on my way home I found a $5 bill. I was so excited I could barely contain myself (I’m pretty sure I screamed and completely freaked out the lady walking behind me).
(I know $5 isn’t much…but pick up grimy pennies out of the gutter for a few months and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for a fiver!)
Anyhow, I got home and added it to my spreadsheet and saw that I had broken the $20-mark for the year. I had been secretly challenging myself to see if that would happen…with months left in the year I had already bested my $20 find.
It was a nice moment.
Over the next few days on my walks to work (2+ miles each way…lots of time to think and scan the sidewalk for pennies) I compared my life to the Penny Project.
I started thinking about my mom’s comments and equated my findings to the scale we’d been talking about.
- Finding paper money of any kind…that is definitely a 10, or what I would call a “peak experience.” Major excitement,possibly some screaming.
- Finding a quarter…gotta give that a 9. That’s 25 pennies. All at once. Definitely a week-maker.
- Nickels & Dimes, those are 8s. Seeing silver definitely makes me smile. It’s not a huge deal…but damn it’s exciting to see a shiny thing on the sidewalk and realize it’s more than 1 cent!
- Finally, our friend the penny, comes in at a 7. You can’t buy anything with it. Most people get so annoyed with them they just leave them on the sidewalk if they drop one.
But since starting my project, I’d grown to appreciate the little buggers and definitely got a warm fuzzy when I saw one.
It wasn’t enough to make me think finding one made a red letter day (I found one almost every day on the way to work…usually several) but each one definitely made me smile and think of the spreadsheet and my friends who were also looking for pennies (by now it was up to 30 or 40 people).
As the year came to a close I tallied up all my pennies & other money. In 2007, I found a total of $32.76. And with all the money my friends found & contributed, the total was up to $85.56. Not bad for abandoned coins and the occasional paper currency.
As I looked at the totals, I thought back to my mom’s “new math” and heard her saying, “Maybe 7+7+7=10.” Was it possible she was right?!
Sure there was a few quarters and dimes (and that very exciting $5 bill) in the total…but mostly I’d accumulated a whole bunch of ‘7s’
And when it was all said and done, they added up to MORE than my original $20…which I thought of as a ’10’.
Crap! I love my mom…but I really hate having to call and tell her she was right.
So here’s what I’ve concluded from this rather ridiculous experience – Happiness is here…you just have to see it.
Figure out what the 7’s are in your life.
Most people don’t need help w/ the 10’s…marriage, birth of a child, graduation, promotion… the good stuff we celebrate with parties. But few of us ever consider the 7s.
When I started to really pay attention to them, I found there were a lot more than I had realized. Silly things.
Like the fact I totally love getting the mail. Don’t know why, I just always have. Even if it’s junk mail or the mailbox is empty. There’s that moment of anticipation before I open the mailbox that maybe, just maybe…today’s the day I get something really, really good!
I also rate as 7’s:
- a good cup of coffee
- sleeping in
- wearing my pink galoshes in the rain
- my cat purring
I could go on and on…but the point isn’t to list all my 7s…it’s to inspire other people to think about theirs.
What are your life’s pennies? Do you take stock of them and put them in your emotional piggy bank or just overlook them as unimportant because really…what’s a penny gonna get you?
As silly as finding happiness in pennies sounds…it really has made a huge impact on my life. And in fact, it’s made an impact on some other lives as well.
Since starting this project, hundreds of people have donated found money, opened their wallets, written me checks, or just emptied their pockets and handed over the contents.
When we hit the $500 mark earlier this year, we donated the money to the first annual Young Women’s National Conference, promoting self-esteem for young girls 14-17 years old (http://www.ywnc.net).
All those pennies paid for the financial literacy panel at the event!
Of course, I still don’t have life completely figured out. There are still tearful calls to my mom wondering why I’ve now been a bridesmaid 9 times and am on deck for number 10.
But the tears don’t last as long because I can look around at my warm cup of coffee, the keys to my mailbox, my purring cat, and all my pennies to see that even without having EVERYTHING I want, my life really IS a 10 after all!
(For more information on The Penny Project or Leslie’s other initiatives, you can visit her website at www.fullcircleinspiration.com. Go ahead and leave a comment telling us what you thought of Leslie’s post and PLEASE do share your own 7’s in life – we’d be delighted to hear from you!)