10 Things I Learned After Losing a Lot of Money: Dorothée Loorbach (Transcript)

Dorothée Loorbach at TEDxMünster

In this talk, Dorothée Loorbach unmasks our relation to money and reveals her personal life-changing learnings from her six months project of becoming financially carefree again.

Here is the full text of Dorothée’s talk titled “10 things I learned after losing a lot of money” at TEDxMünster conference.

Dorothée Loorbach – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT

I used to be successful according to society. I had left a well-paid job in marketing to become an entrepreneur. And very soon I could buy anything I wanted. Not anything in the world; anything I wanted which was a lot still.

My impulse purchases included a brand new car and a house. My entire life was just about fun and I can say I created some amazing memories. But it was just fun. I wanted more. I wanted joy. I wanted to do something that would last, something that mattered.

So I started working with students, and this was fantastic. For the first time in my life, people would come up to me and say “Thank you. You’ve changed my life.” And that was so valuable to me that I would do it for just a little bit of money. If they wouldn’t pay me enough, I would even do it for free a lot until I reached the point where even a small financial setback could ruin me as an entrepreneur.

And of course, it did.

In the middle of summer of 2016 when all schools are closed and I wouldn’t have any income for another two months or so, I received five envelopes at the same time from the tax services, demanding that I pay for my glory days immediately. This cost me everything I had — all my savings, all the money that I had and all I had left in an instant was just a few coins that I found between the cushions of the sofa and in my coat pockets and in my car and €3.97 in the bank.

Two days later, my daughter would come back from staying with her father. She would come back on her birthday and I couldn’t afford to bake her a cake. What I wanted to do was just to crawl into bed and cry which I don’t like and just hide under the covers until it would all just go away, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have time because I only had 48 hours to prove to myself that I was better than this, that I was a good mother.

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So what I did was the most terrifying and the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life. I decided to expose myself publicly as a failure. And I thought that the best place to start would be rock bottom. So I gave away my last bit of money and then I had absolutely nothing and then the only way was up.

I called it the Money Project. I published a video on Facebook stating that I had failed gloriously as an entrepreneur, that I was totally broke and that I was determined to change my situation, to learn anything I could about entrepreneurship and business money and enhance my financial intelligence. And that I was determined to become free of financial stress within six months, and to go from nothing to a fortune or at least discover what the secret to doing that was and to become a successful entrepreneur.

And I would write a book about it and this book I would sell right away for €10 a copy and that day I didn’t dare look at the responses on my timeline because this was quite scary. But that Thursday I sold 64 books and I had a fortune. Until this day I’ve never felt more rich in my entire life because this meant I could now bake a birthday cake and she could have a proper birthday which she did.

And then I read, I blogged, I blogged, I interviewed. I learned anything I could and I succeeded. Within six months I was free of financial stress and I could say that I was a successful entrepreneur. And all this time I had been thinking that this money project — what I called it — was about money of course and business. But deep down it was about something completely different: it was about value and about life and I will share with you what I learned about life.


Lesson number one: money is important. Quite a cliche but I was raised in a way to believe that money is not important. And I inherited this conviction somehow — I can’t blame anyone in particular but somehow there it planted a conviction in my head that people with money are not nice people. So when I had money I would spend it as soon as I could and then when I found my purpose working with students I just didn’t ask for it. I didn’t care. I just wanted to change the world which I had no impact on whatsoever with €3.97.

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And I also learned that money doesn’t make you a bad person; it just makes you more of who you are. So if you’re a jerk with a lot of money you’re probably a jerk when you’re broke as well. And if I would have more money I would simply give more but if I have to worry about money every day all day I can’t even take care of myself and I have nothing to give.


Lesson number two: money equals time. As soon as we start working, we start exchanging time for money which is a problem because we can always make more money but we can never make more time and I started to exchange my time for far too little money I could barely survive. And at the end of the month there was nothing ever left to invest in my future.

So I would have to spend all my time to make just a little bit of money and I would probably have to do that for the rest of my life because there was nothing left. And for the rest of my life I would have given away the one thing that means the very most to me which is time: time with my loved ones and time for myself.

So I decided that it was time that I value my time. I would spend it more consciously and when it comes to work, I would have to exchange it for more money so I could spend less time working and more time actually living.


Lesson number three: money equals value. It took me two years to discover that the Money Project is not about money; it’s about value. And I’ve always seen myself as a confident person but I didn’t value myself because the way you treat yourself is a reflection of the way you see yourself. And I’ve been treating myself like crap which I found it terrible example to set for my daughter.

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So changing my rates was not enough. I had to change the way I see myself. I had to start seeing myself as a person of value and that was not easily done, it’s a process and I’m still working on it. So I still — on a regular basis I still have to remind myself it’s okay; you’re worth every penny. And even now I find it hard to say this out louder. I get a bit embarrassed so I’m still learning. I have to keep practicing.


Lesson number four: what people say doesn’t matter. “You’re a cheap whore, you’re a fraud, how can you do this to your child”, just a few of the comments that I received. The hateful ones were on my timeline on Facebook. But the quiet ones they hit safely in my inbox confessing only to me that they had screwed up too, that they too had found that purpose and wanted to change the world and worked really hard 80 hours a week just like me and barely surviving but no one could know. So they didn’t go public because they were too ashamed to be a failure.

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