Crying on the bathroom floor, Patrice Washington had a surreal moment of clarity. It was 2009, and she had just lost everything in the Great Recession: her real estate business, a spacious house in California and all of her belongings. Now she was in Louisiana, lightyears away from her SoCal oasis.
She looked to God and asked, “Why me?” After all, Washington was a smart woman. She built her business straight out of college. She got her real estate license at 21, when most people have no idea what their next move is.
But that day, forehead against the cold linoleum, Washington learned the difference between knowledge and wisdom. She was smart enough to make money, but applying wealth to her life had to be an act of wisdom—of overall wellness.
“As I went about the next several years looking to rebuild my life, it was not about budgets and credit reports,” she says. “I was looking at it through this lens of well-being. I’m like, I want to be well mentally. I want to be well physically.”
In this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, Washington shares the secret to wealth-building: Money comes when you embrace your purpose. It’s the premise of her latest book, Redefine Wealth for Yourself: How to Stop Chasing Money and Finally Live Your Life’s Purpose. She tells listeners exactly how to do that in a moving conversation with SUCCESS People Editor Tristan Ahumada.
Decline opportunities that pull you off your path.
What happens when you land a lucrative gig that has nothing to do with your purpose? Most people experience one of two things: They take the higher-paying job and feel disconnected from their career or turn down the money to pursue a passion project.
Washington faced a similar decision in 2010. She got an offer to work with Steve Harvey but turned it down to volunteer at a financial education nonprofit.
“Now, this is a season where my family could have used the money greatly,” Washington says. “But I really was like, I don’t want to say yes and disappoint [Steve] and not be fully committed, and I don’t want to do something that distracts me so much from what I feel I’m being led to do.”
That calling was financial education. After losing everything in the recession, Washington felt obligated to help people struggling with their finances. Harvey was shocked by her response, but the decision paid off. People came to know Washington as America’s money maven, and she promoted her second book on the Steve Harvey Morning Show four years later.
Following your gut pays less in the beginning. But if you stick with it, you could be wealthier and happier in the long run.
See traditional work for what it is: a wealth ladder.
Choosing your purpose over a paycheck isn’t easy. It’s also not the most accurate picture of building wealth organically. Quitting a 9-to-5 to start a business sounds attractive, but most people don’t leave their job for a project that isn’t cash flowing. Instead, they pursue their passions alongside paying work.
“I know we have to eat,” Washington says. “I know we have bills. I was volunteering at the time, [and I] took odd jobs, but nothing I would commit to – just enough to help with groceries or help with [other] things so I could focus on the financial education [path].”
Some finance gurus preach entrepreneurship and nothing else. They tell people to have faith in their plans and quit their 9-to-5 job, sink or swim. But any paying gig is an asset. It provides a stable income while you launch a business, which means your 9-to-5 is not the enemy of progress. It’s a ladder to wealth.
Embrace who you are, not your earning potential.
Deep down, you know there’s something valuable inside of you. It could be a talent you’ve had from birth or a skill you developed at work. It could also be life advice that helps someone reach success faster.
Unfortunately, too many people ignore those strengths, Washington says. They don’t find them headline-worthy or something people would reward in the market. She knows because she had the same mentality for a long time.
“It wasn’t so much that I had to go find my purpose,” Washington says. “It was that I had to finally accept it.”
Washington’s advice is to never diminish your gifts. Start your blog, YouTube channel, Substack newsletter or whatever gets your expertise out there. Don’t be dismayed by a small audience or customer base because changing lives builds wealth, even if you have to go one by one.
“I’ve spoken in front of…I think maybe the largest audience was 10 or 11,000,” Washington says. “Even to this day, my heart’s posture is still, ‘If I can be a blessing to one person, then it was worth it.’”