When we think of martial arts, we often think of physical discipline and self-defense. However, martial arts apply to other areas of our lives, including our finances. In this episode, Alexandra Dotcheva explores the discipline of martial arts and the Black Belt mentality as it relates to developing self-esteem, self-confidence, financial planning, and decision-making. Born and raised in a musicians’ family in Bulgaria, Alexandra came to the US in 2000 after earning a bachelor’s degree in Music from the National Academy of Music in Sofia. She also has interests in martial arts, fitness, finance, and investing. Her mission is to help people overcome self-imposed limitations that prevent many from realizing their goals, finding peace of mind, and acquiring prosperity. Tune in to learn more about martial arts concepts and how physical and mental discipline can help us make better financial decisions.
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The Black Belt Mentality: Making Life Your Dojo With Alexandra Dotcheva
I’ve been having a lovely conversation with my guest, Alexandra Dotcheva, who has an amazing background. I feel like I’ve only skimmed the surface talking with her and reading about her beforehand. One thing that came up in our conversation that I missed while looking at her extensive background is learning martial arts. Alexandra, you said you studied it for a long time. You practiced it. What is your background and how does it impact your life? How does that play a role in your personal and professional life?
I practiced martial arts for almost twelve years. It was a dream of mine when I was in the second or third grade. I grew up in a former socialist country, Bulgaria, and we had a movie theater close to our apartment. We saw all sorts of movies, primarily from socialist countries, communist countries, and other countries, but the Chinese martial arts movies were fascinating to me. There were also some bullies at school at the time. We all grew up around some not-so-pleasant people from the start, and I wanted to be able to deal with them appropriately.
I was dreaming of being a karate kid. I was practicing in our shared bedroom with my parents. My parents and I slept in the same bedroom for a long time. I was practicing secretly until I revealed this to my dad, who was not happy about it at all. That dream got squashed early in life. When I came to the States when I was 30 years old, I got the chance to enroll in a martial arts school. I loved it. I earned a Black Belt in Shōrin Gōjū-ryū Karate, and I have a Blue Belt in Aikido as well. That was great to accomplish later in life. It’s helping many other aspects of my life with confidence and whatever you can think of.
I love that you shared how it has impacted your confidence. I would love to learn more about that because first of all, that’s at the core of so much of your work, your writing, your history, and all the things that you’ve done in life and learned from. I’ve been drawn to learning martial arts. I haven’t taken the time to set that up in my life yet, but I was thinking about it primarily as a way to defend and protect myself.
Especially when I’m traveling alone as a woman, I felt having a lot of self-awareness, which martial arts can give you, having more strength, and knowing how to use my body. I would love to know where confidence fits into all of that. By confidence, do you mean emotional confidence, physical confidence, or all of the above? What does that look like for you? What did you experience while you were studying and practicing martial arts?
In every way, it can help strengthen your confidence, but it also helps to learn multiple other important skills, such as respect for others and self-respect. Self-respect comes afterward, depending on what state of mind you enter the dojo in the first place as a beginner student. People go to martial arts for different reasons. Some people who grow up in ghettos or in bad neighborhoods decide to do martial arts for self-defense, and also to stay out of trouble by learning self-control. This is one of the most important benefits of martial arts, learning self-control in the first place, emotional, physical, mental, and any way of self-control. Once you control yourself, you can control everything else around you much more efficiently.Self-respect comes after respect for others. Click To Tweet
For me, it was a dream from childhood, but I also struggled with a self-inflicted lack of self-esteem and self-confidence for over two decades. When I saw the opportunity to enroll in martial arts school, it was a lucky coincidence. I moved into an area that had the school just half a mile from the house. I felt that was my chance. That was something I wanted to do when I was nine years old. They had adult students. After several classes, the teacher decided that I might turn out a pretty competent fighter because I had enough vengeance, rage and anger in me that needed an outlet based on my perceived failures or successes that weren’t the way I wanted them to be at the time.
Martial arts was a great way to let that anger out, build some fighting skills, keep a good physical discipline, meet some interesting people, and build self-confidence. Because it lasted twelve years, it involved many other benefits and gains from the whole experience. I ended up changing school a couple of times because of relocation or because my standards improved. I sought a better school eventually from the one that I started.
I have described extensively in my blog and my book, the longest teachers I had which I’m forever grateful for, I learned from them with their personal example and how they set up their dojo and everything the old-school way. There is a lot to talk about in martial arts, but to me, truthfully it was an anger outlet, a confidence builder, and the fighting skills, which I wanted to have as a female.
I had not thought about some of those benefits, especially the anger side of it. It makes so much sense as you’re sharing it. I found myself reflecting on that because I’m not somebody who generally experiences a lot of anger. Then again, anger, like any emotion, can be nuanced. Frustration could fall under anger in some ways, resentment, and all of these tougher emotions that many of us learned to repress. Did you find that martial arts was bringing that to the surface for you? Were you learning about not just how to deal with anger, but what exactly anger was like for you?
For me, it was a little bit the opposite of what you were saying. I was not able to repress my anger for a long time. Martial arts taught me to control it, come to terms with it, and understand that most of it were baseless, but that took a couple of years of training. That’s where self-control, self-respect, and all that stuff come. At an intellectual level, you know it’s not good for you, but internalizing and believing that you can do much better than getting angry at everything and at everybody takes a whole different process of learning.
When you build up this physical skill and confidence that you can fight your way physically out, if need be, contact sparing is a great way to build self-confidence outside of learning all the other drills and everything. Your perspective on anger then changes. It’s a gradual shift that you don’t immediately appreciate as it happens, but years later, when you reflect back, you say, “That helped.”
Thank you for sharing this because it’s reigniting my interest in it. I was thinking about this a few days ago, how I had hoped in 2022, that I would start taking martial arts. It kept getting pushed back as a priority. What you’re sharing here makes it sound so incredible and appealing. That also leads me to another thing in your history, which is music. You grew up in a musician’s family in Bulgaria. Is that right?
Yes, that is correct. I played violin for 26 years.
Were all your family members musicians? Is that what you mean by a musician’s family?
My father was professionally a double bass player his entire life. My mother still is the most renowned music critic in Bulgaria. I grew up in this family. One of them was the playing musician. The other one was the critiquing musician. It was an interesting dynamic in the house. I started violin at age six. There was not much negotiation around it. That was part of why when I was in the third grade, my dad was angry and he exploded when he heard that I had been practicing karate because heavens forbid, I break a finger or hand. His fragile little violinist will be out of shape for 3 or 4 months.
That was unacceptable because I had to pass a competitive exam for the first 4th and 8th grades for the specialized music school where I was for twelve years. There was an exam every year. It was competitive and there were some high expectations there. You had to be in top shape at all times. I started practicing six hours a day when I was in the seventh grade. Before that, it was between 3, 4 and 5 hours a day.
As a teenager, you practice for 8 to 9 hours. It’s truly like the sports people. You are in your room and practice, and then compete or give recitals. You’re hoping to get into a great orchestra one day after you finish your academic studies as a Bachelor’s graduate or become a soloist or a great teacher of music. Because the competition is so high all over the world and my parents had a problem with me that I had to leave Bulgaria because of the corruption, poverty, low perspective for a job and self-satisfaction, I practiced a lot. Music taught me great discipline. That’s what brought me to the United States in 2000 eventually.Once you control yourself, you can control things around you more efficiently. Click To Tweet
That discipline is interesting too, and hearing about how the violin played a big role in your day. I’m curious how much of that was what you wanted to do. Especially as a teenager, that’s a lot of time. If you’re passionate about something, it comes easily. Was that the experience that you had? As you touched upon something that was part of your family life, was it more the expectations of your father and your mother, and the hopes that they had for you? Where did your decision-making and schedule come into play in terms of your preferences and desires, especially as you were simultaneously starting to feel interested in martial arts?
The interest in martial arts was early in the 3rd or 4th grade, then it had to fade away because the violin took prevalence. When you practice for long hours, you learn to like it because you can see how other people succeed. I was exposed to great recordings of world-class violinists and other musicians. That was inspiring. The problem was that my practice wasn’t the way my dad wanted it to be. Because you don’t listen to your parents when you grow up, I think fast. I wanted to learn as fast as I thought. Paying attention to detail at the time wasn’t something that I grasped fully the importance of.
As I grew up in my mid and late teenage years, I developed a sense of guilt towards my dad who was so adamant about me learning it the right way. He dedicated a lot of time to me, especially when I was younger. He let me practice on my own because he got tired of my stubbornness, or he trusted me that I could overcome the challenge of not paying enough attention to detail. He was wrong because I didn’t overcome that challenge.
I wasn’t aware of this sense of guilt at the time. Several years later, I analyzed it. It manifested itself in a hard-to-overcome stage fright, which lasted quite a few years and messed me up well. That’s where the whole crash in self-competence and self-esteem started peaking and piling up again. It felt out of control because it felt subtle and unimportant until I realized it was important.
By then, it was way too late to fight it and try to reverse it in my then limited perception of me and my abilities to change my mindset. I was so young and many of my peers and classmates had already accomplished more than I had, even though we started the opposite ways. I started strong when we were children. They succeeded more than I did gradually. Once I realized that and it hit me hard, that stage fright catapulted me to uncontrolled levels because self-control was not something I was capable of at the time. It truly reflected that in my career for a long time.
It’s so interesting to hear about these evolutions. Many things are coming up as you’re describing it. First of all, I grew up with a musician. My father is a pianist. Music was important to him and he tried to encourage my sister and me to lean into that as well. She tried the violin when she was young. I remember witnessing her struggling and not understanding it.
My dad wanted it for her so badly but she never grew into it. She ended up playing the trumpet, but it seemed like she felt she had to do it. It probably only lasted a few years. In contrast for me, I practiced flute for all of my middle school and high school. I don’t remember when I stopped playing, but it’s been a long time. As I’m listening to you, I’m thinking about how similar to my sister, it felt almost like I had to do it. It felt like a way to bond with my father, to please my father.
I had some personal interests, but I felt I was going through the motions. I’m glad that I did it because playing music brings out a different part of your brain. It reminds me a bit of learning a language. That combination of holding an instrument and your fingers moving and your brain’s processing the notes and you’re taking in all the little details from the conductor and performing too. I’m not sure that I experienced stage fright because I was in a band. I was rarely spotlighted. I usually could blend in. On that note, I probably could have had opportunities to be the principal player.
I remember I was getting good enough to take on that role, but I suppose stage fright may have played an impact. My confidence wasn’t quite there. There was one other girl I remember who played flute, and we were close in our level, but I would always let her take on the principal roles. I don’t know in hindsight if that was confidence, self-doubt, or a lack of interest and passion, and I rather somebody else take it on that probably wanted to do it. I’m not sure. It’s fascinating to listen to you and reflect back on those experiences. It felt like once I give myself permission to not do it anymore, that’s when I let it go. I’m curious, do you still play the violin? Do you still have a passion and interest in it?
I haven’t touched the violin since I became a nurse in 2011. Either practice or you don’t practice. By then, I had been a violinist for 29 years because I decided to become a nurse after 26 years of playing the violin. During three years of nursing school, I played in the orchestra of my job while I was in nursing school. I dedicated myself to a full-time nursing position because I wanted to overcome that stress and novelty as fast as possible.
I thought I would cheat through the five years of getting used to it. I didn’t cheat through it. It took me 6 or 7 years because I’m a slow learner honestly, reflecting back. I listen to classical music every day. It’s still part of me, but I don’t play it anymore because I felt that I had enough dedication for 26 years, between 7 and 9 hours a day. I was missing a lot on other aspects of life because I was so limited as a musician. I knew nothing else. I wanted to catch up on everything I had missed while I was a musician.
As far as your reluctance to not take the principal position in your band, in classical music, the principal player plays lots of solos for flute. That is exposure and responsibility, and that can cause insecurity and stage fright. You probably had the passion. Maybe somebody didn’t tell you, “Challenge yourself. Why not? Challenge yourself and learn that little thrill of adrenaline and how to control that. It’s a great opportunity for later in life.” Maybe if somebody had told you that at the time, you wouldn’t refuse the principal position so many types.Martial arts is a great way to let anger out. Click To Tweet
It’s harder because you have to make that fast decision. If you don’t have the proper influence and encouragement, it’s easy to miss the opportunity because you don’t see it as an opportunity. You see it as a way to fail and expose yourself. The things that you don’t do so well will be clear to everybody. Truthfully, nobody’s life depends on that. You might as well take the challenge. There was no adult person to say, “Whitney, try that. Try to see what happens. You’ve got nothing no lose.” You didn’t do it.
That encouragement was there. It was there from my father, but he was probably more relaxed about it. I’m sure he would have been thrilled and so proud, but perhaps he could detect that I didn’t seem that drawn to doing it. I also had incredible instructors. I was reflecting on this, for some reason it came up. I was thinking about my band teachers and how they had so much passion. They wanted nothing more than students to lean into it.
It was a requirement at certain stages of my education. Everybody had to learn an instrument. Once you signed up for a band, you were committed to it and we would do performances. My instructors were passionate about it. I remember going through phases. There were times that did feel good, but other times I was losing that interest and maybe holding on. I was one foot in it.
You were practicing for hours a day. I probably did the bare minimum because something else was pulling my interest or I didn’t have that discipline you’re describing. It’s interesting to think about discipline because you need some guidance there or a reason behind it. It’s not that I didn’t have it within me to be disciplined. Perhaps I didn’t have the motivation to be disciplined. I’m curious what your beliefs around discipline are. How do you make that happen? How important is it to grow into something like music or nursing even?
That depends on your age and your priorities. When you are in your teens and early twenties, you don’t understand that you don’t have the time to mess around. It hits you when you hit 30 or a little bit later than that. That’s what happened to me. I was 32 years old. I had already earned my Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Classical Violin here in the United States. I defended my monograph in 2007.
In 2008, when the financial crisis hit, I got pretty sobering news over the phone about two of the most talented, younger than me violinists from my professor’s class in Louisiana. I got my Master’s and Doctoral degrees from LSU, Louisiana State University. These two young men proceeded to earn Master’s degrees in prestigious schools. In 2008, they decided to stop being violinists. A mutual friend told me that over the phone.
One of them was going to pursue Medicine to become a surgeon like his parents. The other one was going to pursue Finances to sell real estate to rich people. That was a slap on the face because these two always scored great positions in orchestras. They were talented from an early age. It was obvious that they would go far. “If they were doing this, where was I?” That was the question I asked myself. I went into it for 1 week or 2, and nothing made sense anymore. That was 2008. I was 32 years old.
The discipline part and the lack of discipline, getting a grip of your situation, your perception of yourself, where you are in life, and how much you have to show for, hit you suddenly. It’s a crossroads. It’s rock bottom. To me, it didn’t only happen professionally at the time but also personally. That’s a whole different story, but the two things clashed in an unfavorable manner.
From then, there was only one way and that was up. The other way is underground, but that was not an option. You go up. You rebuild your self-discipline. You take what you have learned. I learned a lot about playing the violin for long hours and working hard. That was good, but my mental discipline wasn’t so good. The physical discipline was great. The mental discipline was not so great. Part of the incorrect focus was focusing on my failures and what I didn’t achieve the way I wanted.
This had to be trashed from my mind because I wanted to achieve some more. I had to find a way to proceed with my life that was going to make me more useful and helpful to people than when I was a musician. There was a colleague in the orchestra that was also a registered nurse. It was pretty amazing being a violist and a nurse at the same time, I had never met anybody else like this. I went to her and knocked on her door and said, “How did you do this? Tell me how you did that because I think I need to do something similar.”
She had me at her house with her family for two hours. She introduced me to the preliminary classes, how you sign up for that competitive college in Upstate New York, 1 of the 10 most competitive colleges up in North America, the St Joseph’s College of Nursing. She even let me borrow her 1,200-page Anatomy and Physiology textbook, and a similar size nursing basics textbook for me to read before the classes started. I took these books and I started reading them from cover to cover. I read them four times before the classes even started as I did with all the other textbooks because I had zero scientific bases, let alone in English. I was completely behind with everything as you can imagine.
I was sitting in class with people who are 18, 19 and 20 years old, and I was 32. It was an interesting thing to see. I thought at the time with my limited mindset, “That’s a cultural thing.” If you haven’t learned enough by the age of 30, what do you expect to learn from now on? That was another cultural limitation I had to overcome. My parents were petrified when they learned that I was changing professions, “Are you crazy? Do you know how much suffering you’re going to go through with people’s sicknesses in the real world? Do you know what a hard profession nursing is?” I said, “I don’t. I would like to find out.”You have to unlearn self-deprecating mental habits. Click To Tweet
Up to that point, I was 32 but I had no clue about the real world. They didn’t like to hear that at all. Because they were across the ocean, they couldn’t do anything about it at the time. They were also against my martial arts study that started two years prior, but again, they were across the ocean, so there was not much they could do about it. I realized this distance allowed me options. I started taking advantage of that, but it’s hard to change professions when you’ve been stuck in one area for almost three decades from childhood and nothing else.
I realized that if I didn’t do it then, getting into a profession that was in high demand and guaranteed me a job all over the world, I would have deep regrets in 20 to 30 years from 2008. I got scared of poverty. It dawned on me that the regrets that I would have 30 years from 2008 would be so big that the regrets I had up to 2008 would be pale in comparison. That’s what inspired me to rebuild my discipline and dedicate myself to something completely different, just jump and take over.
That’s an amazing story because when you touched upon regrets, life transitions, and cultural limitations as well, I wonder how many people are facing that and thinking, “It’s too late to change.” It’s also similar to what you said to me about the music in terms of needing someone there to encourage and guide you. The way you’re telling that story, it seems like you heard of somebody else that you knew, this other musician, who was also in medicine and real estate, which is part of your story as well. We haven’t gotten to that yet.
You mentioned that as a crossroad and it sounds like a turning point. Did you have some other guide in your life before this woman? This woman played a big role in getting you there, but you had to make that decision to pursue something and seek out that guidance. Was there anything else that played a role, or was it that the story plus having the right mentor with you was the perfect combination to get you through this big transition?
There were two people, one of them was going to real estate, selling to rich people, finances, and the other one was going to be a surgeon. That’s what made it scary because it’s not just one person making a drastic change. There are two people and they’re both talented. That’s what was overwhelming, “Not only him but also him. What am I doing?”
There was no guidance at first. The nurse in our orchestra guided me. Before she guided me, I experienced a hell of a week in the orchestra. You feel you have no basis under your feet. There’s a vacuum, but there is an even bigger vacuum between your ears. That’s a horrible feeling. You lose all connection with yourself. You lose purpose, motivation and everything, because everything you’ve done after that point, several years of your most productive life are in vain. You wasted your entire life and nothing else. That’s not a pleasant feeling.
It can send you into depression, which it did, or it can motivate you. That happened later. You grasp the magnitude of the change you need to make with yourself. It’s not just the little steps. It’s the motions you have to go through to accomplish that next big goal to become a different type of professional, but you have to unlearn some counterproductive and self-deprecating mental habits. That was the biggest challenge.
I knew from the start that was going to be the biggest challenge, which is why I embraced it first and foremost. I figured my mindset stopped me from being a great violinist. This mindset needs to be erased like yesterday if I want to make any progress and turn my back to all mental mediocrity that I had allowed myself to exercise on myself in order to succeed in the next profession. That was the hardest part.
I couldn’t verbalize it that way. When you’re overwhelmed and you’re in the eye of that storm, it’s hard for you to put it into words. This is what crushes many people. If you can verbalize it at the time, it’s easier, but you can’t. You embrace your ignorance and desperation. These two propel you to the next level because you have no other choice. I also personally crashed because I had a husband who then decided we were no longer compatible, and that had to be dealt with too. Having hit rock bottom, you have nothing to lose.
It’s pretty remarkable hearing that story because you’re describing rock bottom, but simultaneously, doing something extraordinary. I misunderstood you earlier. I thought you were referencing one person that studied both Medicine and Real Estate. I thought that was incredible. I’m listening to you, I’m thinking, “You are that person. You became that person.” Not just 2-in-1, but the martial arts and the music.
The things that you have studied and dedicated your life to and the way that you shift through these challenges and go from those low points. The title of your book is It Really Is Simple. Did you feel this was simple on some level, or did you learn to lean into the simplicity and find this simplicity over time after you started to go through these life transitions?
Option B is the correct one. Experience brings you there. The title of the book, It Really Is Simple, A Holistic Approach To Self-Confidence. The experience brings you the simplicity. Once you have straightened up all of your life aspects, the moment you realize what’s important in life, and you bring everything under control so that you’re as independent and self-reliant as possible. That’s where you become self-confident, which comes with a great deal of responsibility, accountability, and everything people hate. It’s everything most people try to avoid.Experience brings you simplicity. Click To Tweet
You don’t avoid them, and then you become successful, self-built and self-reliant. It’s easier. When I started this new consulting business out, I started having connections with the book because lots of people demanded my knowledge as a consultant and coach, as a result of the book. Now I know how to handle this and how to structure it much faster and much easier based on my experience with my three real estate businesses and my nursing career. Many years ago, that was not the case at all. I was from scratch. That’s how the book came to exist. How to start from scratch when you’re in a midlife crisis and build yourself up again responsibly, legally and ethically preferably.
How do you define holistic? When I see that, two things come up for me. I have this knee-jerk reaction and think of holistic as a form of wellness and often rooted in Eastern medicine. A bigger definition that I’m generally more in alignment with is seeing holistic as the whole and incorporating everything, bringing everything into consideration, and finding balance. How about you? What is the definition for you, especially in terms of this book?
My definition of holistic is significantly more detailed. Originally, you associate holistic with health, mental, physical, and spiritual health. As a nurse, I’m biased toward health. I’m a health maniac from all directions that you can imagine. I have dedicated five chapters of the book to health. However, I place equal importance on spirituality, career, finances and relationships. You can’t have one without the other. These five pillars of life to me are essential to optimize and keep at a high level at all times under your control if you want to be holistically self-confident.
It seems that a lot of people don’t have that in control. I’m sure that comes up a lot through your conversations and coaching. No wonder people are drawn to that. One thing you said earlier was you have to unlearn self-deprecating mental habits. I feel that’s worth revisiting. It was something I was thinking about through a quote that said something along the lines of, “Self-deprecation is a comfort.”
I’ve been reflecting on that because the more I think about it, the more I notice a lot of people talking poorly about themselves. If I look at that through the lens of comfort, as the reason that they’re doing that, do they find some comfort pointing out their shortcomings, pointing out negative things about themselves? Maybe that explains why that is this habit. For you, how does self-deprecation play a role or perhaps keep you away from living in more harmony? How can you move away from self-deprecation to create more balance and achieve these five pillars in life?
I was doing this and self-humiliating myself. That was an attention-seeking strategy when I was younger. I know this now. I didn’t know it then. It’s a completely useless attitude. It contributes zero to your personal growth and prosperity. It’s a false sense of comfort. The sooner you get rid of that mindset, it’s the biggest favor you give yourself and everybody around you. You’ll learn to prioritize the people you associate yourself with or don’t associate yourself with.
The ones that are listening to you whine are as big losers as you are at the moment. Once you are winning that situation and removing yourself in that type of thinking, you will begin associating yourself with better people that contribute better to your personal growth, and respect you for who you are for your ambitions and aspirations, and who desire to grow personally, professionally and in any other way.
The company is important. People who self-humiliate try to do this no matter where they are. I see this all the time. I remove myself from these situations. Instead of listening and offering this warm shoulder for them to weep on, I give them options. Some people you can help, others are beyond. If you don’t recognize you need help, you won’t accept it. You want to complain just to complain or you want to complain because you won’t find something better.
There are stereotypes about cultures. For Eastern Europeans, they’re happy when they’re sad. There is quite a bit of truth to that because, in my culture, it’s popular to compete who can complain and express more misery about their lives. It’s a friendly, competitive edge in most conversations in my culture, which is truly not productive at all. That also took time to get away from that psychologically. Even in the United States where most people don’t complain or didn’t use to, now that’s switched too. We have a generation that complains all the time and expects everything to be served to them.
That’s not a good mindset. It’s an attention-seeking behavior. That’s all there is to it. It’s not helpful. It wastes time in a useless thought process. It clutters your mind. When you have cluttering thoughts, petty thoughts and self-humiliating thoughts, these cannot coexist in your brain with positive aspirational, inspirational thoughts. It doesn’t work that way. Your brain doesn’t process these things with the same intensity.
It’s your choice because your mind doesn’t care what you give it. It grows what you give it. It’s like soil. You plant something on the soil. It’s going to grow it, whether it’s a wonderful fruit, an orchard, or a whole bunch of weeds or toxic poisonous plants. Your brain is the exact same way. It doesn’t care what you give, it’s going to grow it. You better take charge of your thoughts, your thought process, what you give your brain, and what you feed your mind every day. It’s going to grow from there.
That is such key information because that point you’re making about attention also resonates a lot. I’ve been reflecting on self-deprecation. I see it a lot on social media and in content that tends to go viral. Lots of people are seeing and commenting on it. That’s likely because misery loves company. It gets attention. People are drawn to drama. They’re drawn to bad news. That’s huge in our media. It’s how we can share what’s going wrong for somebody else. People get drawn to that because either they can relate to those things going wrong, or it makes them feel better to see things that are worse for somebody else.Self-humiliation is a false sense of comfort. Click To Tweet
To your point, if you’re absorbing all of this negativity, all of that lower vibration, you are taking that in and you’re feeding it more within yourself. I love the idea of thinking about yourself as a plant. If you’re either not taking care of yourself, not getting enough water, not putting the right nutrition in, or filling yourself with lifeless content, you can’t do much from there except rot away.
You can rot away at a young age, mid-age, older age, you can be born old, or you can stay young forever. There are lots of choices there, but the right nutrition for the mind and the body is the same thing. Mind and body can’t exist without each other. That’s another part of the holistic approach. With holistic self-confidence, it’s not just your mind, body, and spirit. You have to have material security in life, but not provided to you by somebody else.
This is an important thing to touch also. If you are not financially independent, you won’t be mentally, spiritually and physically healthy for a long time because of the anxiety of the dependence of insecurity. This is an important thing that many holistic teachers don’t touch on. I don’t blame them. The reason they don’t touch on that is that there are many horrible health problems around the world, especially in the United States, chronic health conditions that make a commodity and asset to the healthcare system. These practitioners try to at least strengthen people’s health, mentally, physically, and emotionally the best they can.
The holistic approach to self-confidence is not only limited to health. Health tends to be taken for granted so much because it comes to most of us for free in life. The things we get for free, we take for granted. Ironically, those are the things that we can’t replace. We can’t replace the things that came to us for free, our health, our minds, our freedoms, and lots of loved ones. You don’t pay for these things but can’t replace them. We take them for granted. It’s a strange trap of mindset. When you think holistic, you think more of the health aspect. It’s a huge aspect. I admit I’m completely biased towards it. That’s why I dedicated most of the book to it, yet the other four aspects are as important.
I love the way that you phrase that and have us shift our mentality about our finances. I want to come back around to that. There’s that idea around the best things in life are free and we can’t replace them, but finances are a big part of our well-being and finding that balance, stability and simplicity there. I’m curious about your financial philosophy. How has that grown and shifted? How is that message shared in your book?
The financial philosophy developed because when I became a nurse in 2011 finally, after nursing school, I thought I would be coasting on the profession. I would have a beautiful security job financially. I was earning more money per year than I ever did yearly as a musician. No kidding about that. However, I saw that lots of my colleagues were broke, even though they were earning paychecks much higher than mine because of their seniority. I couldn’t comprehend that for 2 or 3 years.
I quickly learned that I had to also learn to start my own business. I first delved a little bit into website creation and search engine optimization. I came across my mentor, who is a self-made millionaire who started from scratch, him and his wife. I read six of his books. I bought his real estate investing course online and information product. That was a three-month course with a personal coach over the phone every week for half an hour. That drilled all these math assignments, financial calculations, property evaluations, and everything.
Financially, I have learned that you can’t rely on the job as we saw how many layoffs and how much insecurity. Look at what happened in the last few years. You cannot rely for retirement on 401(k) as evidenced by the financial crisis in 2008. In the last few years, people lose their retirement. A great way to lose your retirement is to put your money into a 401(k). It’s a profoundly ignorant way to invest because you have no control over this money. You end up taking much less when you are 65 and you expected that you all withdraw from that investment. I started my businesses to become financially independent.
This is what I am at now. I can work. I cannot work. I don’t have to work. I have multiple streams of income that are unrelated to a job, but I don’t agree with many statements that say, “You shouldn’t be an employee. You should do business. You should start your own side hustle.” For one thing, being an entrepreneur is a whole different ballgame. You learn different things. You learn most about yourself and your risk-taking ability.
Many people go into business because they can’t take the stress of the job. They hate their boss. They hate their colleagues. They don’t realize if you’re the business owner, you have 5 to 10 times more responsibility than you are an employee. Leaving the job because you hate the job is not the motive to start a business. This is where the crisis is with all these young entrepreneurs whose venues are sponsored by their parents and friends, and who have no clue what they’re doing.
I support that you should be able to do both. You should be able to work for somebody else and run your own business, whether it’s a small business or a corporation, where you not only provide a great product to your clients but also provide jobs and food on the table for many families who work for you. That way you are even more useful and helpful to society. There are many benefits to either philosophy about how to earn your finances. The most important part is what you do with your money whilst you earn it, whether through business, a job or both because you need to learn to invest your money and make it work for you.
That’s the most important aspect of finances. You can become an investor without working hard if you’re smart and savvy about it. There are probably limitless options and ways to multiply your money nowadays. The sky is the limit, but as far as educating yourself, putting the time, taking the risk, and increasing your risk tolerance because the higher-yielding investments involve more risk, and you need to know how to handle the risk. The lower-risk options involve less revenue. You need to understand all these things.If you don't recognize that you need help, you won't accept it. Click To Tweet
The whole financial aspect has these two sides. One is your career, which people confuse with finances because many expect to become rich when they work. The job of your employer isn’t to make you rich. It is your job to make your employer rich if anything else, but your job is to learn and to be helpful to others. That’s the spiritual satisfaction of being useful to society. Your responsibility to yourself is to make yourself wealthy by learning how to multiply that hard-earned money that you have in your savings account.
Instead of buying yourself status display items that bring no value into your life, you invest this money, multiply it, and create streams of income that are unrelated to a job and there is a lower tax because they’re not earned income. There is a lot to learn about finances, but it’s a huge portion of your holistic confidence and esteem if you know that.
You have many more choices in your life. You can improve your health in many ways if you have financial options. It impacts everything, your education, and your children’s education. It is important. If somebody tells you, “Money is not important,” they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re insincere, ignorant or both. I don’t buy this anymore because it doesn’t work.
I couldn’t agree more. You said many powerful things there, and there’s a lot to digest here. I’m sitting here thinking. You’ve inspired me in many ways throughout this conversation. You’re lighting things up within me. Coming back to the beginning of the conversation about martial arts and talking about finances, for me, the two are happening or evolving around the same time. That makes me wonder where the tie-in with martial arts and finances there is for you, if at all. It all seems to be connected. Are there ways in which martial arts has impacted your financial mindset?
Yes. Preparing for the Black Belt test, you’ve got to understand that I was learning under a national champion in Shōrin Gōjū-ryū Karate. His name is Master Hanshi Greg Tearney and his incredible wife, Master Hanshi Judy Modafferi-Tearney. She was the first Black Belt woman in Central New York at the time she earned her first Black Belt. They’re both 10th Dan national champions in kata and sparring. They’re extremely competent martial artists. They instilled in all of their students the Black Belt mentality, which is perseverance. That’s the main lesson you take here.
Martial arts help with everything else in your life because they strive to teach you that the real dojo is life. It’s not the four walls between which you practice with your peers and train on each other. Life is the real dojo. What you learn in martial arts, all these mental tactics, self-control, discipline and perseverance, you have to persevere through the sweat and pain.Life is the real dojo. Click To Tweet
It is applicable in your financial endeavors because there are risky situations. There are moments when you make mistakes, when you lose your hard-earned money or part of it, depending on how dumb you are when you start with your particular operation or how knowledgeable you are. Getting through these defeats and humbling moments determines your further success and growth financially. If you give up early, you remain poor. If you keep learning from your mistakes, with brutal honesty and doing better next time and even better next time, you become wealthy. You make yourself a millionaire even if you start from scratch. That’s how it works.
It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. By any stretch of the imagination, you need to put the patience, the sweat, the risks, and some sleepless nights. Once you overcome a couple of things and harvest from your efforts, that only encourages you to keep doing it unless you become arrogant, then go back to your old mental habits and lose everything. I’ve known people who have done that. I’ve chosen not to be one of these people from the beginning.
I proceed pretty conservatively with my growth, yet I constantly keep educating myself because there is also this difference. I’m conservative financially. Are you conservative because you are prudent and knowledgeable or because you are uneducated and you don’t want to take risks? You want to be able to make a difference with this too. Martial arts connect to everything. It’s a way of life. Perseverance and self-control are the things that propel you with every other aspect of your life. You learn this if you have good teachers that wanted to succeed and you’re pursuing higher belts and real accomplishments in martial arts.
I didn’t expect this feeling that I have to be part of the outcome of this conversation with you. You have given me many more reasons to start off with martial arts as soon as possible. That leads me to one of my final questions for you. Where do you begin? I feel like I’m almost in that similar place even though I don’t feel I’m at a crossroads in my life. I feel I could relate to when you were first starting to feel interested in Medicine and you started to dive into it. For someone like me who wants to start off with something new like martial arts, where do you begin?
You go to 10 or 12 schools. You sit through 2, 3 or 4 classes for 3 or 4 hours in each school. See which one is more of a social club and which one is a real martial arts school. You set your goals for yourself and pay the fee. Start going to classes. Martial arts for women are the most amazing things. They emphasize the anti-bullying policies for teenage kids that struggle in school. For females, they emphasize domestic violence, abuse on the job, and all that stuff.
That would be in much lower percentage in real life if more women knew how to fight well and defend themselves. I have had to use my actual martial arts and physical skills to defend myself. In most instances, my demeanor is such that you look at me and it’s going to be a big problem if you mess with me physically because of the way I carry myself in the street or at the gym, because I’m a fitness maniac to maintain my physical shape and growth too.Getting through defeats and humbling moments determines your financial success. Click To Tweet
It creates many changes in the way you carry yourself in daily life. I am a strong believer that every woman must know how to defend herself. It is no argument. It’s a way of life. People look at me like I’m telling them something weird and out of line, when to me it’s the most natural and normal thing. If you’re a female, you’re considered the weaker part. You need to be able to fight well.
Nothing else makes sense to me at this point after having practiced it for so long. I’m old and I don’t carry around fear that something can happen to me if I know how to avoid and not get into a bad situation in the first place. If worse comes to worst, I’m going to destroy them. I’m not going to sit there and wait to see what happens.
It’s a Black Belt mentality and mindset that your life and dignity are non-negotiable. You learn that through at least five years of dedication to martial arts. You’re not going to go there and take 2 or 3 self-defense classes. That is not going to build your mindset. If you’re contemplating in starting, there is no reason why you shouldn’t start. If you’re procrastinating, that will take so much longer for you to start.
Some schools are more expensive than others, but if you prioritize on them, you should be able to find a way to pay for your martial arts school. When I was starting nursing school, I was poor. I was limited financially, but I decided, “I might skip meals, but I wouldn’t skip karate classes.” That’s a decision I made immediately when I saw that I was going to be limited financially for at least 1 or 2 years.
It scared me because that was an insecure time of my life. I told myself, “You will not stop karate. You may not eat lunch, but you will not stop karate.” I ate lunch every time. I never was hungry or poor, but that mindset is probably to find more ways to earn income. That’s all. I wasn’t limited. I was living within my means. Rationing my food didn’t kill me.
Go ahead and start your martial arts school. Find a good school though because many of them have low, poor standards for advancement. Make sure that you go to a good school. If you want, take an experienced martial arts friend with you to point in some direction to tell you, “This school is crap. This school is great. This school can be better,” and give you some advice. You can do it yourself, but shop around a little bit. It’s your money. It’s your time and start from there.
Thank you so much. This conversation has brought some things to the surface for me and helped me clarify and get some new priorities. I wish that I could clear my day and focus on the martial arts research, but I’m adding that to my list for later because I needed someone like you to say these words and help me clarify that priority. I’m deeply grateful because I did not anticipate that being something that would come up. I’m in awe of the lessons that you’ve learned and what you’ve shared with us. It makes me excited about this wonderful book that you’re offering to the world. Where can someone get their hands on this book if they’re feeling as excited and eager as I am?
Before I share that, I wish you to please start tonight. Dedicate half an hour to researching martial arts schools. Don’t start at the end of the week because then you will start who knows when? Dedicate 15 minutes to half an hour to your research on martial arts if you’re passionate about it and start now. Look at the locations. Don’t procrastinate. You want this. You can do this. You’re capable. You will be a fantastic martial artist. It’s a great experience. You’ll meet some great people. Promise me, you’ll do that.
I am adding it to my list and schedule. This shows you how magnificent of a coach you are to even take that time from me. Imagine other readers who may be feeling the same way and taking this advice. It doesn’t even have to be martial arts, but what could you take away from what Alexandra shared? Dedicate that 15 to 30 minutes tonight even if you don’t feel you have that time. Thank you so much.
You deserve the best for yourself. Do the proper research and you won’t regret it. I promise you. The book can be found on my website, HolisticSelfConfidence.com. It has an eBook version and a paperback version. The eBook is purchasable worldwide. The paperback is purchasable in the United States. We’re working on the worldwide for the paperback, but we’re trying to find the most affordable options for people. Now, they have to pay more for the shipping than for the book itself, so we are offering it as an eBook. It’s much more affordable. In the US, if you like to hold the book and turn the pages, if you are as old-fashioned as I am, you can purchase the paperback in the United States from the website.
For anyone who’s similar to Alexandra and me, and loves to read and take in information, you might want to read through this a few times. Alexandra, I don’t want to use just ‘thankful’ and ‘grateful.’ I wish I had another synonym for those words because I feel honored for you spending the time with me and sharing these things. I feel deeply moved by what you’ve shared specifically with me, but also your story, the path, and the twists and turns of your life have been a complete delight to listen to. Thank you for being here.
Thank you so much for having me. I truly appreciate your thoughtful questions in this conversation. I’m hoping to have been useful to your audience.
I have no doubt. It’s been my pleasure.
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About Alexandra Dotcheva, DMA, RN
Born and raised in a musicians’ family in Bulgaria, Alexandra Dotcheva came to the US in 2000 after earning a bachelor’s degree in Music from the National Academy of Music in Sofia. She earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Violin Performance from Louisiana State University in 2007 and decided to pursue a career in nursing in 2008.
Alexandra Dotcheva has been practicing as a registered nurse since 2011, with a strong passion for educating patients on acquiring optimal health. She also has interests in martial arts, fitness, finance, and investing. Her mission is to help people overcome self-imposed limitations that prevent many from realizing their goals, finding peace of mind, and acquiring prosperity. By sharing her own journey to achieving control over the most important aspects of life, Alexandra’s goal is to inspire others to turn away from various forms of fear and self-doubt and go after their dreams instead of leading lives subdued to conventional ways of thinking that have long been proven outdated, inadequate, and damaging to a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
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