People often assume that because I talk about Noble Purpose, I don’t care about money.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I care very deeply about money, because I understand the impact it has on our lives. Backstory: I’ve been broke — like bankruptcy level broke — so I know how scary and downright awful it can be.
I’ve also experienced affluence, which is certainly easier than being broke, but rarely provides the sense of meaning and purpose we crave in our lives.
Human beings are complex. We want to make a difference and be a part of something special (noble purpose). Yet, most of us also have financial ambitions and obligations. The two things can coexist.
Being a financially prosperous person (or organization) enables you to think creatively, work towards the long term, and be generous in your community. Conversely, lack of money spikes the lizard-brain behaviors we work hard to keep quiet, like thinking short term and prioritizing self-preservation.
The best way to assimilate your noble – make a difference — aspirations with your very real financial goals is to infuse the money conversation with specificity and humanity.
Here’s an example.
I was working with a client whose salespeople sold to individual homeowners. The salespeople were on commission. Most made between $60,000 and $70,000 per year, but some made $80,000 or $90,000. The difference in commissions wasn’t due to any differences in territories or working hours; the people making more had simply set their bars higher.
The CEO said, “I wish I could get these other guys to see that they could be making more money.”
The CEO didn’t want to stand in front of his team and say, “Hey guys, you could be making more money.” He tried that and it hasn’t worked.
Instead, we created a side-by-side chart.
On one side was the salesperson who made 10 sales calls a week and closed two deals. On the other side was a salesperson who made 12 calls a week and closed three deals.
The salesperson who closed two deals a week helped 100 customers per year. The sales person who closed three deals a week helped 150 customers.
The salesperson who closed two deals a week made $65,000. The salesperson who closed three deals a week made $90,000.
The difference was $25,000 of income. But what did that really mean? Telling people they could make $25,000 a year more isn’t very inspiring if they’ve never really thought about what it might mean for them.
The majority of the salespeople were in their mid-30s with young families. The CEO thought about what would be important to them. When he talked to the team, he said things like “An extra $25,000 a year is huge; that’s two paid-for college educations. That’s the difference between your kids coming out of school saddled with debt or you being able to send them to their dream school, and them having a free and clear education.
“Or maybe that’s a lake house that stays in your family for generations. Perhaps it’s you being able to give money to your church or community.”
Showing people what’s possible doesn’t mean you expect people to sacrifice their lives at the altar of the bottom line. It simply means you care about them enough to help them dream big dreams.
We can do the same thing for ourselves. Wanting to make money for bringing value to others is a natural aspiration for most human beings. For me, the secret to a good mental relationship with money comes down to four things:
1. Be grateful for what you have.
2. Believe in your value.
3. Charge what you’re worth.
4. Be generous.
Making money and making meaning are not in conflict. They are inextricably linked.