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America’s Next Top Model Financial Lesson No. 1: Invoke what Makes You Tick

America's Next Top Model offers some really cool insight about how to organize your life: First we must find our essence. Then we must fund our essence.

I will be the first to admit that getting caught up in an America’s Next Top Model marathon is out of character for me.

It was a Sunday mid-afternoon and my curiosity and boredom made it an attractive choice. I had never had interest in watching the show before—one can easily surmise that I do not keep up with the latest fashions or the inner workings of the industry itself.

But over the course of two hours what was merely background noise to my Sunday coupon clipping became a show worth watching. Beyond the glitz, the glam, and the ridiculous photo shoot concepts (think bird costumes and models portraying crime scene victims), the hosts were having mini-therapy sessions with these women that reaped impressive results.

Time and time again when the photos were coming out bland and the photographer was not getting that “model” look, one of the hosts stopped the shoot to talk with the model with the goal of extracting their essence. I am assuming top-rate photographers and reality television hosts figured out long ago that if they can find what makes a person tick, then it will radiate from their presence; as a result, gorgeous photos will be delivered even under the most bizarre of circumstances.

The essences varied radically from girl to girl: some were models solely for their child, others were propelled by their religion, and one girl seemed to want to “get off the farm”. But as soon as their essence was discovered and invoked by the model, you could tell a difference.

Suddenly, their eyes came alive.

From then on out whatever Tyra Banks threw at them — underwater shots, dangling mid-air on tiny wires, working with scoops of numbing ice-cream in their hands, wearing meat as clothing — the woman was able to shine through and progress to the next round.

I have not become an ANTM fan and will not be following future seasons.

However, I connected with the photographers and hosts and came to the conclusion that for any of us to meet our goals — financial or otherwise — we must first find our essence, and then we must fund our essence.

Organize Your Life by Finding Your Essence

We need to figure out what makes us tick, or as my first post-college boss said, what gives us a fire in our belly.

To organize your life by your essence, ask yourself the same question they do on ANTM: why are you doing whatever it is that you are doing in life?

Really think about this question.

As your mind comes up with all kinds of answers that dance around the actual one, whenever you feel an emotional wave of some sort for a particular answer then you might have stumbled onto something.

I organize my life by what propels me forward: achieving financial independence. To be free from fear and to have as much control over my circumstances as financial independence can allow is a worthy goal to me.

If I take this dialogue a step further, I go back to my childhood when I once wrote down exactly the road map I felt compelled to follow in my life: ‘Become rich so that I can give my money away to others in need’. While this childhood dream needs some adult tweaking, I know that if I stray too far from it, I am straying away from my purpose in life: to help others.

Organize Your Life By Funding Your Essence

Money is certainly not the end all be all, and you do not need lots of it to be happy.

But most everything in life takes money — spending it, saving it up, or growing it for the future.

Sometimes it may feel like dealing with money is pointless. As one reader commented in the past, even if you get yourself out of debt you still have monthly bills to pay so what is the difference?

Let me tell you:

:: People get out of debt so that they are in a position to help others.
:: People get out of debt so that they can travel the world.
:: People get out of debt because they want a better future for their children.

If you work towards an end goal but have no real reason for doing so, then chances are good you'll lose interest because the potential outcome has no tug on your emotions.

But if your organize your life by finding your essence and allowing it to propel you forward as your reason, then you have a fighting chance.

For example, getting out of debt is a huge accomplishment and something I wish for everyone. But instead of that being the end goal in sight, include your essence into the equation.

Now the goal might sound more like “I want to get out of debt so that I can achieve financial independence, pursue writing, give freely and generously to others, provide for my children’s future, live free from fear, etc.” (fill in your own essence).

Every winner and finalist on ANTM was able to invoke what makes them tick in the blink of a camera lens once they figured out what it was. The surroundings no longer mattered to them — whether other competitors were ogling during a photo shoot, the weather turned ugly, the photographer was overly critical — the intensity was there because it came from inside. So let your essence — what really makes you tick — propel your financial decisions. You might be surprised with the outcome.

If nothing else, you will feel more alive and purposeful in your approach to life.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.


Tuesday 9th of October 2012

Who would have thought ANTM and finances had so much in common? Great comparisons -- and a great way to find drive to save and pay off debts!


Thursday 11th of October 2012

Thanks Christa! My mind loves to put together seemingly uncommon things (especially when it comes to money and writing:)).


Tuesday 9th of October 2012

I haven't watched the show much, but it seems to be the same for the reality show I do watch: Kitchen Nightmares. People get caught up cutting corners instead of making life delicious.


Thursday 11th of October 2012

Hi Joe!

We also love Kitchen Nightmares. I think there are a lot of people who stumbled into restaurant ownership who end up on that show. It seems to be a lot harder than people would think to run a restaurant, let alone a kitchen.

Ben troy

Monday 8th of October 2012

Nothing matters

That's it. Just those two simple words with the infinite power to change our entire lives.

Now, I can hear many of you reacting in defiance against this principle. And that's OK. You'd get lots of agreement from society at large for the insistence that some things do matter. What about war, disease, injustice? Don't these things matter?


Thursday 11th of October 2012

Funny you should mention those words. When I find myself getting stressed out, I tell that to myself and it calms me substantially. It is nice to remember that in the end, most things do not matter.


Monday 8th of October 2012

Beautifully said, I don't even want to add to this because you summed it all up so perfectly. Definitely some food for thought for the beginning of a new week!


Thursday 11th of October 2012

Thank you so much for reading Shannon!


Monday 8th of October 2012

Great post! I too have been known to get caught up in an ANTM marathon from time to time. Good to know there are valuable financial insights to be gleaned and it isn't a complete waste of time ;)

Amanda L Grossman

Monday 8th of October 2012

Thanks Rebecca!