moneyWhen I was 10, while other kids built pinewood derby cars and played baseball at The Y, I was pretending to build businesses and thinking about how to have things work together effectively.

I was 18 years old when I received my last paycheck.  That’s as long as I could stand not executing my own ideas.

The desire to create my own thing became too big to contain.

Since then, every penny I’ve made or lost has been as a result of my own intentions… initially with my own effort and ideas, then as things grew, with amazing people around me to help drive forward my passion, innovation and craziness.

In part, this is why I hate the term “self employed”… because the truth everyone should realize is that it takes a village to accomplish anything—“self” anything is mostly crap.

The only way I really use the word “self” is when it comes to motivation—people I know who build amazing things don’t typically have the same motivation as everyday folks…it’s more internal, from themselves….  it can’t die, it’s never lost— in never tires or strains.  I am motivated by desire, by a burning inside me that I can’t extinguish….it wakes me up at night, totally jacked on a new idea and a new way to approach something to make things work. It’s totally protected from the whims of others.

I love making things work.

I believe if something totally cool doesn’t wake you up in the night, keep looking because real passion waits for nothing and the things that wake you up are the things that create big change.

It’s like a hunger that can’t be satisfied.. I see nearly everything as opportunity—opportunity to grow or build or innovate or create.  And I can turn anything into a business.  Anything.

I’ve had ideas that have cost me lots of dollars—that have nearly wiped me out as violently as a baseball bat to the head….  But something inside me never gives up.  Thankfully I’ve had a few that have made me lots of dollars… it sorta balances things out.

I can get knocked so hard I see stars—but within hours I’m always climbing my way back, totally re-inspired and motivated, motivated by the craziest ideas to do the wildest things and make the world work just a little better.

I do not ever remember a day where I wasn’t thinking about making things better.

If I walked into a coffee shop on vacation, totally relaxed and unplugged, something would spark an idea.. and I’d chew and wrestle with the idea all day… That’s just how I’m wired.

A good night sleep is seriously dangerous for me.  If I’m rested up, god help the world cause I’m on fire.  It’s like a song inside a songwriter that must come out, a painter with a blank canvas…  business to me is just exactly the same, I’ve never seen any difference.

However, It’s my experience that this wiring inside me is not usual.

People don’t seem to be as endearing to “business artists” the way they are to painters or musicians.  If you asked a thousand people to rank jobs in terms of “nobility”.. you’d find teachers and nurses and humanitarian workers but it’s not likely you’d see “salesman” or “businessman” on the list…

In fact, I find many people adverse to business—especially in the areas I love most.

lakesideI helped build this amazing Community Center and Art School—— we touch hundreds of kids lives every month— we make enormous impact on the community and the worlds a better place because of this school—- but the vast majority of the people involved say “don’t make it about the money”… and “stop being so business oriented”… and often say “let’s not charge, we’re community based”…

bossandbossmonkMy dear friend Bhante Sujatha is a incredible businessman, teacher and Buddhist monk.  (( yep, all in the same guy, go figure! ))   He teaches and speaks all over the world and has a Meditation Center, The Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple,  that offers so much to the community and world.  He hosts workshops and talks and seminars nearly everyday—- he offers a wide range of deep learning—stuff that dramatically changes peoples lives.  He gives and gives and gives and the people know first hand that they’ve received something significant.  It’s run entirely on donations.   And, he finds the same struggle—“don’t charge for that”… “You’re so business oriented, are you just doing this for the money?”…  “Stop asking people for so much”…  “you aren’t supposed to be a business man..”

We often take long walks and talk about these things.  We both are deeply committed to making the world better— and we are both business guys to the core.  We simply don’t see the contradiction—in fact, we believe they are entirely vital companions.

My Art School and his Center do not exist without business… and we’re thankful for it.  We see nothing shameful in earning resources to sustain our efforts.  We both are dumbfounded honestly when people shun us, try to quite us or believe we’re somehow in it “for the money”.  Of course we are…absolutely we’re in it for the money… how else do the doors stay open?  How on earth do you have heat in the cold Midwest winters?  How do the toilets flush?  Being “in it for the money” allows the whole place to be “in it”….  We’re actually “in it” for the betterment of the world and we know that it requires resources to ensure that happens.

Plain and simple.

But I’ll tell you—these feelings are radical.. People are often so offended with both of us.

It’s just not here in our organizations… these feelings are shared all over the place.

We quietly nod as people try to dissuade us— we work on non-judgment and practice compassion… but then we get down to the task at hand… we run our businesses so that our businesses can effect change on the world.

In part, I’d like my life to be a representation that money and business are not inherently bad, nor any hindrance at all to a deep and meaningful life.  I don’t know anything, anyone—not a painter, not a doctor, not the Red Cross, not the priest or the monk or the spiritual teacher or a first responder that doesn’t totally rely upon a structure of business to effectively navigate their efforts.

I firmly believe that business executes the wishes of the people within them… so it starts and ends with me.  Who am I being? who do I want to be? what are my core values? am I adding more love to this world? am I doing right by people? am I lifting people up and helping the world be better? What do I stand for?

Right livelihood is a core element in any spiritual practice.  It’s hard to live a noble and meaningful life if you are a Pimp or a drug dealer or stealing money from the elderly….  But with the right intention, done with a passionate and serving heart.. Businesses support and define and change the world everyday.

Right Livelihood is an important aspect of the any spiritual path.  Make your living in a way that does not cause harm and ideally that is ethically positive. Given that almost everyone’s life includes an economic dimension, work and career need to be integrated into every aspect of life. Most of us spend the majority of their waking lives at work, so it’s important to assess how our work affects our mind and heart. How can work become meaningful? How can it be a support not a hindrance to spiritual practice — a place to deepen our awareness and kindness? Work based on generosity, co-operation, honesty and ethical nobility are essential to this world.” —  T.B.

“After you become a millionaire, you can give all of your money away because what’s important is not the million dollars; what’s important is the person you have become in the process of becoming a millionaire.”Jim Rohn