I have a confession to make.
I’m a hippie.
I meditate. I like tofu. I practice yoga. I even liked the Grateful Dead at one point in my life.
I have another confession to make.
I love money.
I enjoy all the things that money allows me to do. To travel to the places I want to go. To grow my business with it. To make a big impact in the world.
For years I thought the two – being a hippie, and loving money – were irreconcilable, mutually exclusive. I thought money was evil, and that people with lots of money were inherently greedy.
And guess what? When I was a full-blown hippie, living in the mountains of BC, I was chronically poor.
There’s a short exercise that I do in my social enterprise workshops. I ask my students to take out a sheet of paper and a pen, and I ask them to write down the first 3 things they immediately think of when I say the following word:
Then we go around the room and I ask them to read what they wrote down. A few answers like ‘exchange’ and ‘value’ and ‘opportunity’ usually make it on the list, but invariably the most common responses are words like ‘evil’, ‘corrupting’, ‘greed’, ‘immoral’.
I point out to them that money on its own carries no moral characteristics – it is simply a flow or exchange of value.
I also point out – to these roomfuls of passionate entrepreneurs, wide-eyed and eager to change the world, that if your inherent belief about money is that it’s evil and corrupting, then it’s going to be very difficult to attract much of it to your life. It’s hard to attract that which your subconscious is pushing away!
And finally, I point out that it’s extremely difficult to change the world as a pauper.
For some people, this is a seminal shift, and reframing their relationship with money often has profound effects on their financial success.
A MENTAL SHIFT
It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto and developed, after some significant personal work, a healthier relationship with money, and a desire to have more of it in my life, that I started to see the success with my business that I craved.
I realized, after that soul-searching, that if I truly wanted to make an impact in the world, I could not do so on any significant scale with an attitude that regarded money as evil. If I wanted to make a big impact on the world, then the more money I had, the bigger impact I could make.
Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. He’s also one of the world’s biggest philanthropists. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he’s tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, on a scale that’s almost unimaginable. On malaria prevention and resarch alone, for instance, the foundation has spent over $1.2 billion USD.
Of course, I recognize that seeking money simply for the sake of having more of it can have a corrupting influence. The pursuit of money becomes the inherent goal, rather than the pursuit of it as a means of achieving other goals.
But in the world of social entrepreneurship that I inhabit, among the entrepreneurs that I encounter on a regular basis I rarely see the kind of drive for financial success that I see in the ‘non-social’ enterprise sector.
I attend many entrepreneurship events and belong to several entrepreneurship groups. There I see entrepreneurs hungry for success, entrepreneurs who recognize that the bottom line is the most important measure of their success – an organization that makes healthy profits can grow, can scale, and can impact more customers.
I would describe very few of these entrepreneurs as greedy – they are driven to make their companies succeed. They’re driven by passion for an idea and recognize that the best way to see that idea spread is to build a highly profitable enterprise.
Applied to the social enterprise sector, that same profit drive, would, in my humble opinion, be transformative. It’s why I urge social entrepreneurs to address their business model first, then build out their ‘social’ model. An ideal social business is one that seeks to maximize profit in order to further its social goals.
I urge you to ask yourself ‘What is my relationship to money? What are my beliefs around money? How do my feelings about money guide my financial and life decisions?’
Give these questions serious reflection. Often self-limiting beliefs around money – and its cousin, profit – stand in the way of our financial success.
If you truly are serious about wanting to change the world, then you’re doing the world, and yourself, a disservice by subconsciously repelling money.
Guide yourself to a new understanding of money as a flow or exchange of value. Money creates value according to where and how it’s applied. If you believe in the nobility of your intentions, then give the pursuit of money importance in your life. You’ll make the world – and yourself – richer for it.
What is your relationship to money and profit? Let me know in the comments below!