Jennifer Risher’s WE NEED TO TALK: A MEMOIR ABOUT WEALTH, featured in Leadership Story Lab’s newsletter.

Read the full Jennifer Risher interview here!

“I recently received my copy of Jennifer Risher’s new book, We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth in the mail and I’m excited to dig further into this topic. Why? Because, as a storyteller, I’m always interested in understanding why some topics are easy to discuss and others are stigmatized.

What do we miss out on understanding because we’re too nervous to ask questions or bring up “taboo” topics?

“Wealth doesn’t look anything like what Hollywood is selling us,” says Jennifer as she sets up her reasons for why she wants to “demystify” wealth – explaining further that it’s easy to normalize any living situation when everyone you know lives more or less exactly the same way. This same thought could be applied to almost every other major issue we talk about (or avoid talking about). What you consider to be “normal” (experiences, worldviews, lifestyle, etc.) may never be challenged if you only discuss them with others who are exactly like you.

There are a few reasons why I think we need to work harder to understand each other.

#1. The more a topic is forbidden, the bigger its appeal.: We have a natural tendency to be curious. This curiosity can be detrimental when it leads us to chase the phantom version of something we don’t understand. Story vacuums are created when we see the outline of someone’s story, but we don’t allow them to fill it in themselves. Furthermore, once a narrative is established, it can be very hard to undo. We may start to assume things such as “my wealthier friend can’t relate to my life” or “if I had more money, I’d be happier.”

#2. Comparing two opposites is an easy way to draw people into a larger conversation. Wealth has an evil twin: poverty. You can’t talk about one without mentioning the other, and, consequently, the vast income inequality that we’re facing. By highlighting opposites, we create a platform to discuss changes that should be made.

#3. Shutting down a topic kills an opportunity for connection: Jennifer Risher explains, “Even with people who have a lot of wealth, money isn’t connecting us. When money is a barrier to those connections, that’s a problem. Our silence around money just makes it more powerful than us. We aren’t able to see reality.” Whenever you avoid conversations, you can put up barriers without meaning to. There is a lot we can learn from someone who has a different perspective from ours.

This topic of wealth is particularly interesting to me right now because my research partner and I have just finished conducting 22 interviews with first generation wealth creators. I have been fascinated by the findings and I can’t wait to share them!”

If you enjoyed the interview, check out Leadership Story Lab’s website, and also look into Jennifer’s book itself here.