Are You Obsessed With Money, Freedom or Impact?

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Guest post from Peter Shallard, the Shrink for Entrepreneurs. Check out his blog or for mini Jedi-mind-tricks, follow @PeterShallard on Twitter


The idea to write this post started with a twitter conversation Jonathan kicked off with these words of wisdom:

Don’t lead with “how’m I gonna make money?” Instead, ask “how’m I gonna blow people away and change lives?”

Most of us can agree that this principal is spot on for entrepreneurs with big dreams.

When Nathan Hangen added

Sometimes internal motivators aren’t aligned with success

I knew he had put his finger on an issue I’ve personally witnessed time and time again. He was talking about something that goes on inside the minds of business owners. Something that makes or breaks dreams.

It’s time to shed some light on the psychology that motivates entrepreneurs.

In my experience there are only ever three reasons that people get into the business game:

1.  To have an impact

2.  To make money

3.  To win freedom

This is what I call the “hat-trick for entrepreneurs”.

Lining up the hierarchy of impact, money and freedom is crucial to building a successful business. It’s even more of a non-negotiable if you want your business to have a positive social and ecological impact.

Successful entrepreneurs score the hat-trick every time

If your number one focus is freedom and you don’t care about anything else, become a gypsy. You may not be able to take hot showers, but you’ll have no one telling you what to do! You’ll be free to go anywhere and do anything!

Thing is, because you haven’t got your hat-trick hierarchy figured out, you’ll discover that the closer you get to freedom, the further away you get from wealth and impact.

Unless you really are a gypsy, our society has conditioned us with deep-seated beliefs that money is the solution to all our problems. The entire credit card industry is built on this conditioning.

The importance of money is so intensively programmed into our minds that it isn’t at all surprising that many wannabe entrepreneurs focus purely on “How’m I gonna make money?”.

Our money and consumption obsessed society makes many newbie business owners stack dollars at the top of their goal hierarchy.

These jumbled priorities only get reinforced further when financial crisis and debt drive folks to desperation. Problem is…

Few get rich by focusing on (just) money

Just focusing on making dollars doesn’t work. Every successful entrepreneur will confirm that success happens by adding value. In other words, by having some kind of positive impact on your customers.

By asking “How’m I gonna make money?” people try to side-step the requirement to create impact by adding value. We can see various attempts at this shortcut all around us, in the spammers and other con-artists who litter the internet.

Few of them make money legally and none of them last. Why? Because impact is a mandatory requirement for successful business.

You simply can’t sustainably maintain a business without creating an impact – even if it’s a small or accidental one.

So what is the fast track to business success?

Make impact your number one priority. Focus on creating enormous value. Go so far that, as Jonathan said, you change lives.

Your business doesn’t necessarily have to rescue orphans from Africa – although, if you can do that, that’d be great! Having an impact just means adding value to the interactions your business has with it’s customers.

Bloggers and info-marketers can design their products to solve problems that change lives. If you’re a web designer, simply ensuring you take every single customer’s breath away with your first draft… could be impact enough.

Manufacturers of widgets can design products so valuable that we can’t bear to live without them. Every business can delight with customer-service.

Creating an impact is the only real shortcut to success you’ll ever hear. It’s a tried and true principal. Want a case study? Just look at the Fortune 500… or Problogger’s list of 30 bloggers to watch in 2010.

Do something that creates an extraordinary, positive impact. The money and freedom you desire will follow.

What kind of impact do you want to create? What do you think?


Peter Shallard is the Shrink for Entrepreneurs. He helps business owners figure out how to achieve wealth, freedom AND sanity – figuring out all three is tricky! Check out his blog or for mini Jedi-mind-tricks, follow @PeterShallard on Twitter

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16 responses

16 responses to “Are You Obsessed With Money, Freedom or Impact?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Haydon, remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, Fabio Marciano, TwittyBean and others. TwittyBean said: Are You Obsessed With Money, Freedom or Impact? […]

  2. Hi Peter,

    I completely agree with you here. For me, focusing on making an impact takes my work meaningful. It gives me purpose, and that’s what really gets me up in the morning. Yes, I like making money and I love the freedom of running my own gig. But my efforts have to be for something that feels bigger than me!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Lou Mindar says:

    I have spent the past ten years “chasing the money” and failing. Sure, sometimes I made decent money, but I was never happy. It wasn’t until I moved money off the top of my list of priorities that I started to enjoy life more and moved closer to my ultimate goals.

    Thanks,Peter! This is good advice that every entrepreneur should consider.

  4. jurgen wolff says:

    “Most of us can agree that this principal is spot on…”

    should be principle

    (ex-proofreader, can’t help it!)

  5. Jeff Hopeck says:

    The money-myth and how entrepreneurs obsess about it tends to lend its hand to the following scenario:

    You open a business and experience the ups and downs. You say “I will be happy once I have a stable income.” Then the stable income is there and “I will happy when I can buy my first Ferarri.” However, that isn’t happiness… it’s just a temporary feeling, and the whole time the entrepreneur doesn’t fully understand the true meaning of SATISFACTION. They are fooled into believing you get satisfaction when your business takes off. Yes, you do to an extent. But after the fun wears off, its back to the basics.

    I would love to get your take on the more in-depth psychological happenings throughout the entrepreneur’s journey into false-satisfaction.

    You mention “how am I gonna blow people away” and I have to say that you and I think exactly alike. Once again the word satisfaction comes into play. How can you provide complete satisfaction to the client… and then get paid a fair wage for doing so?

    Life is about people first, money & belongings second. Soon as the entrepreneur (or anybody for that matter) realizes this fact and puts it into action… they are well on the way to achieving REAL SATISFACTION.

    Great post, love your attitude and the way you view the world. Have a great day!

    • Hey Jeff,

      Sounds like were on the same wave here. I agree and also think that, psychologically speaking, it is a clear alarm-bell when a “satisfaction goal” keeps shifting ever upwards.

      If someone keeps thinking that they need just a little more (and more) money to finally feel good about life, something just isn’t right. Quit chasing the ever raising bar and figure out what’s REALLY important.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  6. Great post Peter – thank you! When I was reading the three reasons you listed above, another one came up for me – that’s the only way you know to do it. My father is an entrepreneur and I think that spirit was infused in me from an early age. I’ve spent most of my career working for myself, starting companies, etc. with very few exceptions. The exceptions were largely based on fear (see Jonathan’s amazing TED talk on this for inspiration), but once I put Impact at the top of the list of motivators, everything shifted. This is a recent shift for me, and I can say I’ve never been happier.

    Thanks for the reminder that by putting Impact first, the money will follow. That’s some of the best advice anyone could give.

    • Hey Brandon,

      Thanks for the comment. In my experience, making the shift to valuing impact above all else is simply the fastest way for an entrepreneur to experience a radical, positive transformation of both their life and business.

      Isn’t it fascinating how just a small tweak in thinking can affect so much? 🙂

  7. Tom Mrak says:

    Great post.

    If you aren’t following Nathan on Twitter or reading his blog, you should. He’s going to conquer the world I tell you!

    For me personally, I have decided to focus on being creative and being social with others. I used to be totally focused on making money, and well, I couldn’t stick with it for more than five minutes, or I would sabotage myself.

    The way I figure it, you must cater to who you are at the core, and have what you do in the world be a reflection of that.

    There are so many people in business, marketing and even the arts, who are eager to sell THE SYSTEM THAT MADE AN OIL RIG WORKER 6 FIGURES WHILE ON THE JOB, or the musician who says BUY MY ALBUM, IT IS AWESOME! If it annoys the hell out of me, it will annoy others.

    I’m going to be different- be a little raw, playful, but still be elegant and courteous.

    Not to be rebellious, but because this my style. What’s yours?

  8. Christy says:

    I’ve been in sales for a long time. What I have learned is that relationships are built more quickly, and sales happen more organically when I spend the majority of my time learning about my client’s needs and identifying their specific pain points. Then you are able to connect the dots with them about how what you are bringing to the table aligns with what’s important to them. So I absolutely agree that showing Impact first will have a downstream effect on all of the other things that you want.

  9. […] three examples got me thinking about something else I read recently.  Peter Shallard wrote a guest post recently on Jonathan Field’s blog.  In it, he laid out the case for taking money off the top of your priorty list and replacing it […]

  10. Daniel says:

    Great post!

    Impact is such an important part of what I call ‘professional self-worth’. It’s also at the core of the oft heard maxim of in the world of online entrepreneurs: find something you are passionate about. I also think it’s the reason most of us decide to take that leap into entrepreneurship. Many of us don’t feel connected to creation of impact when working for a company as a garden variety employee.

    Great insights.

  11. These post is really eye-opening for me. I am trying to determine what I want to do in my near future. I left a stable, yet miserable job, have several interconnected things I am passionate about, but I fret about how I can make money from these things. I believe, after reading your post, I need to focus more on the impact that I can make and not so much on the money. I just have to figure how to package that impact into a ‘package’ that people will just ‘have’ to have and be willing to pay for.


  12. Phil Miller says:

    I am confronted regularly by friends, students and clients who really don’t know what they want and aren’t able to even articulate a pth to figuring it out. I completely agree that you need to be hitting on multiple needs at once.

    The idea of “what’s your impact” is really useful. I just encourage people to make sure the market views it as impact rather than it just being your own sense of well being.

    Here are some thoughts I’ve written to my students about wading through ideas and getting to an actual path.

  13. […] this post was partly inspired by Peter Shillard’s guest post at Jonathan Fields’s website. It’s a worthwhile […]