I was listening to Troy Carter, music manager and CEO of Atom Factory, on the podcast How I Built This, when he said something that rang so true to me:
When asked if he worries about going broke again now that he's a successful founder and investor, he said, "When you grow up poor, you suffer financial PTSD. You always have that fear."
I get that.
I am not nearly as successful or wealthy as Troy Carter, but I am also a long way from my days of being homeless and hungry. Realistically, there is little chance of me ending up on the streets again.
Yet I have never felt more than one or two two steps away from those streets despite my success. In my heart, I honestly believe that a bad break here or there, and I could end up living in my car again, hungry and cold, looking for a bright streetlight in a deserted parking lot to park my car for the night and try to sleep.
It's not a realistic fear, but it's a very real fear nonetheless.
I've always thought about this constant proximity to doom as the cliff.
The cliff is the place where you have nothing. No money. No home. No future. No hope. The cliff is the end of the line. The place were unbelievable misfortune and unknowing misstep have taken you against your will.
Springsteen understands the cliff. I imagine that many who survived it do.
It's the perfect way to describe the fear of falling back into a previous life of poverty and despair. The nagging, persistent, endless shadow of a time when all seemed lost and the regret of a life wasted was inescapable. The constant need to gather and hold. Seize every opportunity in fear that it might be your last.
It's the reason I rise every morning with relentless determination to move forward. Get ahead. Prosper. Out work and out perform every other person to ensure that I can keep a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator.
It's the reason why it all may never be enough.
While I don't wish financial PTSD (or an understanding of the cliff) on anyone, it's always so good to hear someone speak of it - especially people as successful as Troy Carter and Bruce Springsteen - and feel a little less alone in your crazy, nonsensical mind.