If you want to be a millionaire, you need to master your emotional intelligence with money. Become a Zen millionaire by listening to Japan’s bestselling Zen millionaire, Ken Honda in today’s episode. Learn that money is like ice, if it’s not handled properly, it melts away. Make your money like air. Learn how to have the emotional intelligence to only notice it when you need it. Join your host, Victoria Wieck as she talks to the bestselling author of Happy Money. Find out how you can make peace with your money today!
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An Interview With Ken Honda – Japan’s Best Selling Zen Millionaire
We have an amazing topic of discussion, one that I’m very passionate about. Also, to discuss this topic with me is a super amazing guest. His name is Ken Honda. You’re going to learn a lot about him, his work and his passion. Every week, I try to help you navigate some of the challenges that we have in our society now as entrepreneurs, moms, dads or human beings.
Our topic is about money which is a complicated topic and some of us have different ways that we can make money, earn money, use the money for whatever purpose. Ken wrote a couple of books and he sold over 8 million copies, which is an outstanding number in its own right. Without giving you everything about his background, I want to welcome Ken Honda and also have him discuss a little bit about how he became this expert and how he can help us. Welcome to the show, Ken.
Victoria, thank you for inviting me. I feel so happy to be invited to your show.
Your latest book is called Happy Money and it is about the Japanese art of making peace with your money. Before I forget, I want all of you to go check out his website, which is simple KenHonda.com. There, you can learn a lot about this deep and complex topic that our society makes difficult and complex. It could be simple. He’s going to go in and simplify it. As the expert, did you have a particular relationship with money? Did you struggle with money or did you have too much of it at one time? How did you come up with an understanding that there was a problem with how we process our relationship with money?
In Japan, I have published more than 200 books. I wrote a few books on my life but to make it short, I was born into a happy family. My father was a successful tax accountant. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I learned so much about money before going into grade school because my father believed in money education, which is very unique in Japan and probably in North America as well. Nobody talks about money.
I got all the money ideas, knowledge and skill by the time I was twenty. I started my business when I was twenty. I never worked for anybody else in my entire life. I became financially independent in my twenties and I retired for four years. During the four years of semi-retirement for my baby girl, I had this inspiration to write. I never wrote anything in my life. I was a Law major student and I did accounting consulting in my early twenties. That’s how I made my business and money.
I thought I was crazy thinking about writing a book, which I did. It was a few pages of a booklet like an essay. My friends loved it and I printed the copies and stapled them every day. By word of mouth, the words got out and people wanted more. I self-published my booklet for about 3,000 copies which disappeared in a week. I printed another 5,000 and another 5,000.
By the time I had given away my booklet for about 100,000 copies, a publisher called me and then I started writing books on happiness and money. That’s what got started my career many years ago. Since then, I have published about 200 books and sold about 8 million copies here. The first English one is Happy Money and now it’s out in 40 different countries.
In that short life story, there were so many great nuggets that we can now analyze here. Number one, you’re absolutely right. I don’t think of any society that I can think of and I’ve traveled to so many different countries, millions of miles of travel myself. I have been in these countries and talked to people that we do not educate our young people, financial literacy and the relationship between money. We focus on math and they think that kids are going to grow up and figure out the relationship with money and how it applies to life. What does it mean? How much do you need it?
They go to college and they are confused. They get influenced by the first kid that has a few thousand bucks and they rule the campus. It’s interesting that your father taught you financial literacy at a very young age, which obviously helped you. You understood the genesis of how to make money and what you do with it and what happens when you don’t accumulate what you need.
That was interesting so any of you who are reading this might want to take some lessons on that. I’m not saying your kid needs to be like a CPA but having a little understanding of that. The other thing I thought was impressive about your story is that you never worked for anybody in your life. That’s the other thing. I went to school in South Korea when I came here. Not a whole lot changed about instilling in our children the spirit of, “I can do it. I believe in myself.” It’s all about getting a degree, becoming a lawyer, doctor, CPA or whatever for your financial security. They don’t take into account your emotional freedom.
I was an artist. I was a painter. I wanted to paint. I wanted to be like Van Gogh. Every time it’s career day or somebody asks me, what do you want to do when you grow up? I would say, “I want to be like Van Gogh.” Kids will laugh at me. They would feel sorry for me. My parents were angry at me because they thought like an artist doesn’t make any money until they die. It’s a losing cause. “Why am I supporting that lost cause as a parent, teacher or society?”
Money management is like dieting. Are you willing to look at your body size and confront where you are?
I did make money when I worked with someone but I was suffocating inside. The money I was making caused me the emotional pain I had because I felt like I couldn’t express myself. In order to make more money, I had to keep my mouth shut and I started losing my voice. That’s really toxic. This idea that you’re about making peace with money, you’re writing about money somehow causing your happiness, I wouldn’t say that money is caused your happiness but when you collect it, understand it and you do it in the right way then you can make peace with your money. Is that the premise of your book?
I teach about money IQ and money EQ. The book, Happy Money is about money EQ, which not many people teach. I shared the same stage with Robert Kiyosaki. Those people are teaching money IQ, which is financial literacy and the one I teach is money EQ, which is emotional health with money. Unfortunately, some of us have very high money IQ but we don’t have money EQ. That makes us all feel miserable and seeing movie stars and all those hedge fund managers with high money IQ ended up being broke because they make decisions based on their emotions. Now, money EQ has to be learned as much as money IQ.
How hard do you think it is to learn for people who have never heard of it and who have been conditioned all their lives? Maybe they’re 50, 60 years old and they have conditional lives. All you need is to learn how to do money IQ and make that money no matter what it takes. How hard is it to unconditioned yourself? Do you need to necessarily walk away from money IQ to get too emotional health with your money?
Money is a symbol of many things for some people, money is a symbol of security. For some people, money means power or love. You have to look deep in yourself and then if you realize that you have some emotional issues around money, “Are you willing to face and heal it if necessary? That is my question about how long it will take or how hard it is. Take a look at yourself. It’s the same thing with dieting. Are you willing to look at your body size and can you confront where you are?
My question wasn’t necessarily how long does it take in terms of time. Before you can even learn to confront your own problems, you’d have to admit that you have a problem. A lot of people who have a high money IQ or making a ton of money don’t think that they have a money EQ problem. They’re miserable, going through their fifth divorce and they’re making everybody around them miserable. They haven’t talked to their own kids or their parents and yet they don’t think that it’s their fault. They don’t think that they have an emotional problem. What I’m saying is are there phases of this journey of understanding money EQ and working on that?
For a lot of people, money can be icy, cold and solid. When it melts, it becomes water. Unless you control it right, it becomes a drought or flood. Either way, if you’re making too much money, it could wash out the entire family. If there was drought, which is no income, it also gives your family a hard time. When you’re free of money emotionally, now it becomes air. That means money is there but you don’t even notice it and don’t care as much.
For you, Victoria, you don’t pay much attention to money because it’s there when you need it. For some financially independent people, money is like air. You know it exists but you don’t care and worry about it. “Can I sniff all my air? For tomorrow, I have to save it.” You don’t complain to your friends and neighbors, “You’re sniffing my air.”
I never worried about money, not because I have plenty of it but I always thought that I was never going to have any. As long as I wasn’t going to have a lot of it, I might enjoy my life. I decided that as long as I’m going to struggle my whole life trying to make enough money to feed my family, I might as well enjoy that journey. I might as well do what I enjoy doing. I’d rather paint or draw to make a little less money but I enjoy it so it’s not resentful than make me try to go to some Corporate America where I’m picking orders all day and I’m still making not a whole lot more money but I was miserable.
I then pretty much pursued my happiness, at least in the one facet of my life. My backstory when we first came to America, my parents got all their assets frozen. He found himself with $30 and there was no money. I didn’t get to see my parents most often because they went to work at 6:00 AM in the morning. They worked two jobs each so they came home at night. I had to raise my younger sisters and brother. When I grew up, the one thing that was not negotiable for me was me abandoning my children for some paycheck.
I decided to be at home or be a present mom. Hiring nannies and all that, even though I could afford it, it was not an option. For me, happiness was being present at home. I built my company around their school schedule. I got up at 6:00 AM LA time is midday Europe. I called all the department stores in Europe between 6:00 and 8:00. When my kids went to school, I dropped them off and then I worked during the day, East Coast on but then when I picked them up at 2:00, I didn’t work. By then, you had to figure out, “I’m never going to be rich, which is I’m working essentially part-time but this was enough to sustain me.”
Eventually, like your books, you became a successful author by growing your community organically. There were a lot of people everywhere I showed up because my message was authentic. I was very vulnerable but I showed it. I told them, “I’m not a business person. I’m not a great designer but I have dreams of doing this. Is there any possibility that customers might like anything here?” I would carry on my sketchbooks and that’s how I ended up selling the $1 million worth of jewelry. We’re both saying that if you seek happiness, the EQ first and then you try to achieve the IQ portion of it. The hard money can come as a result of it.
Let’s move on to the next topic here about you say making peace with your money. Is there necessarily a tension between having money and having peace? Why are many people that have so much money feel like they have to chase more of it? We’re now living in an area where the millionaires are chasing the billionaires and the billionaires are chasing the trillionaires. It’s never enough. Is there a human DNA that does that to us? Is it physical? Do you think it’s all emotional EQ?
Make everyone happy by giving more than necessary.
Have you played with a cat? When it wants something, the cat is going to go. I enjoy playing with my cats. We are that way. One time, I sat down with a millionaire and my original question was, how old were you when you started feeling, “I’m wealthy?” I thought he would say, “25 years old when his company became public.” I was expecting that answer and he paused for a moment.
He said, “I don’t feel I’m wealthy at all.” “But you have a public company with a thousand employees?” He said, “I don’t have a private jet.” Later on, I had met somebody with a private jet. I asked him the same question. He said, “I’m not wealthy yet,” because he said, “My friend has a bigger private jet.” There’s not enough unless you call it.
You’re saying that it would be nice to have a number in mind. That happened to me. I remember I tried to make $2,000 a month and I made a lot more than that. I had a horrible year. I made less money than my employees. I was moping around and unhappy. My husband said to me, “Do you remember you had a business plan when you started your company?” I said, “Yes.” “Do not forget it.” I opened it. He said, “What does it say over there?” I said, “Goal is $24,000 a year.” He said, “Last year you did $300,000 and so this year you’re going to make $140,000 or something. Even with that, you’ve done 5, 6 times more than what you thought you could do.”
You’re right. Having a number and reminding yourself how far you’ve come and that what you would have been happy with a few years ago. That’s neat too. I have another question. You were saying money cannot make you happy. There are a lot of other factors. I know you’ve had your own businesses your whole life, by definition, you would know the entrepreneurial spirit. If you’re selling physical goods as I do.
I’ve been buying some stuff and then I’m having to ship the things. You’ll have some good years and years and bad years. You wrote 200 books and some sold better than others. What happens is you never know when a rainy day will come. You don’t get a paycheck unless you create that yourself. You never know when the rainy decade will come for you. I’ve never learned to spend money. I don’t have other people that could help me out. I was always also somebody who didn’t live my life to try to impress other people. I saved my money for a rainy day but a lot of people don’t do that.
I hang on to it because they want to show their success. As you said, for some people, it’s a status symbol and for other people, it’s power. How do we find consistent ways to ground ourselves when we make money and have the blessings and the gratitude of having excess or a little bit more than what we thought we would? Do you think it would be a good idea to pay it forward to other people or do you think that helps in terms of you being happy?
Yes. Once again, you have to find your own balance. Some people say 10% is good enough with tithing and some people say 20%. My mentor, John Gray, who is the author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus tips people 30% sometimes 50%. I was shocked but when I went to a restaurant with him, I remember the chief waiter came running.
He makes everybody happy by giving away more than necessary. He seemed very happy about giving very big tips to everybody. You can be generous with your money. You don’t have to wait until you become a billionaire. This generosity around money is tied in with your happiness. The more generous you are, the happier you feel but you cannot go bankrupt by giving way too.
Once again, you have to find the right balance that feels very comfortable for you. If you feel comfortable about giving away a lot, go ahead. If you don’t feel comfortable, wait and save enough amount that you feel safe and then start sharing something. I advise anybody to share something so donate a dollar or quarter in a box at the cash register when you feel anxiety around money. That’s a good reminder that you have more than enough. Unless you do that, you cannot have felt that there’s abundance in the world. You feel tight and then squeezed along the way. You have to choose which world you’re living in. Is it an abundant world or a scarcity world?
I was reminded often by my mother-in-law and my grandmother of this one phrase and that is, “There was this man who used to complain all the time about how he didn’t have any shoes and he had to walk in the snow until he met a man without any feet.” I’m not saying, as you said, you go bankrupt or make any significant donation but every time you give, it will be a reminder that you have something to give.
Even if you’re complaining, “I didn’t have a great year last year so I’m going to get less this year,” you still have something to give and that is how you remind yourself with optimism. That gets me right into another thing that I’m curious about that I commend you for, you have built this community called Arigato Living Community. I used to have a show in Japan.
I learned a few little Japanese words, not a lot. It’s a very complex language to learn but in English, it translates to Grateful Living Community. Tell me a little bit about why you founded it and those of you reading, Arigato Living Community, information about that could be found on Ken’s website, KenHonda.com. Tell me a little bit about you founded it and what’s your vision with that community.
You can be generous with your money today. You don’t have to wait to become a billionaire.
Thank you. I teach about money EQ, as I told you. With this teaching, I always explain visible assets and invisible assets. Networking and trust among people are some of those invisible assets. Instead of making $1 million in your bank account, you can become a best friend with a millionaire, which I did in my twenties. It’s the same thing. It’s almost like you have this bank allowance. You don’t have the money yet but you can borrow up to $1 million. Instead of making yourself money, you can become friends with investors and happy millionaires. Becoming friends with other people is the key.
That is a concept I started in my Japanese community. We have about 15,000 to 20,000 membership online and offline. In this community, people just share knowledge, experiences and friendship. In my community, people get married because they met through my network and they make a lot of friends. I thought it’d be neat if I started something like that in English. We have about 600 members now from twenty different countries.
Once a month, we meet and I teach money EQ stuff but at the same time, I want to learn from other people. I’m so curious about a friend learning from a friend like Azerbaijan, Poland and London, which we cannot meet one another with the circumstances. I’m very excited to meet my international friends that way. That’s my Arigato Living Community.
I’m smiling all the way because what you’re doing is important and it’s a healthy community coming from Japan, a lot of people may not realize how small Japan is. It’s smaller than California, yet you have many people living there but it’s a small place. For those of us who come from these small countries, there is this undying curiosity about other places. That’s why I travel millions and millions of miles and make friends all over the world. I physically visited places like Bahrain and these places and made some amazing friends.
More important than that, your comment about learning from other millionaires. I have done this. I always tell people not to try to do everything by themselves. Try to learn from other people that have succeeded and try to learn from other people who didn’t succeed. Even the people who didn’t succeed still have seen all the troubles you cannot see right now. They have seen all the landmines and all the dangers. Some of them didn’t make it but they’re alive enough to tell you about it and avoid them.
There are people who created this amazing business life and things for themselves and they’re willing to share it with other people who don’t have it yet. Creating a community like that where people can meet online and hopefully, we’ll be able to do that in person as well and have some great conventions and stuff. That community helps bridge the gap between the money IQ and EQ. I love that you’re doing that.
I’m going to do my part in populating that message of Arigato Living Community because we need it here in the States. From the definition point of view, it’s being thankful, living and breathing air and connecting with amazing people that willing to share their knowledge and resources. Any other thing that I didn’t cover? I know that we’ve covered a lot of bios. Happy Money that’s in English and it’s by Simon & Schuster. I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy. It might be life-changing for you because it would be life-changing.
I will make a confession. I do have more than enough money. I was hoping to make $2,000 a month but I’ve had a journey with money. I grew up so poor so when I first came here, I went through a phase where I felt so guilty for having money. I felt guilty that money came easier for me than other people. There was a lot of that guilt associated with money.
I had to work through that and stop beating myself but many of you might be struggling in different ways. Ken’s book, Happy Money, the relationship making peace with your money, it’d be a life-changing thing for you. You will still learn a few things about it that are going to give you happiness. I highly recommend that. Ken, any word of wisdom that you want to share before we close this episode?
Thank you. Lastly, I want to recommend one small practice that I enjoy. I learned it from my mentor, Wahei Takeda, who was called the Warren Buffett of Japan. He was one time a major shareholder of more than 100 public companies in Japan. He said, “A secret to money is arigato in and arigato out.” This means when money comes in, you say, “Thank you.” When money goes out of your life, when you spend money, also say, “Thank you,” to the money. By doing this, you can start the cycle of appreciation.
The next time you receive a check from your company or who you’re working for or from clients, say thank you to the money and thank you to the people who pay you the check. Next time when you spend money, say thank you to that money and thank the person that you’re paying to. Enjoy that. It doesn’t cost you anything. It makes you feel so good.
Think about Christmas time. How many of you are running around looking for the perfect gift because there was so much joy in giving than receiving. That’s a deeply thought-out thing that most of us don’t think about. Thank you for sharing that wisdom with us. I highly recommend you read Ken’s books and listen to his teachings and join any community that he has.
You can tell from this episode how authentic, genuine and happy Ken is. We all love to have every day blessed with such happiness. Thank you so much for joining us for this episode. Until next time, stay healthy and be happy. Remember, always sign off by saying happiness is a choice and I hope you make great choices.
Thank you, Victoria.
About Ken Honda
Money and happiness expert Ken Honda is a best-selling self-development author in Japan, with book sales surpassing eight million copies since 2001.
His latest book is called “Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace With Your Money” (June 4, 2019, Simon & Schuster). Ken studied law at Waseda University in Tokyo and entered the Japanese workforce as a business consultant and investor.
Ken’s financial expertise comes from owning and managing several businesses, including an accounting company, a management consulting firm, and a venture capital corporation.
His writings bridge the topics of finance and self-help, focusing on creating and generating personal wealth and happiness through deeper self-honesty. Ken provides ongoing support through mentoring programs, business seminars, therapeutic workshops, and correspondence courses.
Ken is the first person from Japan to be voted into the Transformational Leadership Council, a group of personal and professional development leaders. He is fluent in Japanese and English; lived in Boston, Massachusetts for two years; and currently resides in Tokyo, Japan. Learn more at KenHonda.com.