If there is one issue that seems to be a sticking point in doing business more consciously, it’s making money.

How can you claim to be ethical in business if you’re making a huge amount of money at the expense of others!?greed

That’s the common critique right? Well, I think it’s such a central issue to the growth of Conscious Business that I’ve decided to open the money can, and see how the worms are doing.

This blog is particularly written for you if…

  • You are committed to doing good in the world through business, but you either struggle to make money, or you have ethical reservations about doing so.

But whatever your relationship to money, I hope you’re stimulated…

What’s the right way to think about money?

Read the liberal press these days, and your likely to find more and more vehement articles about the damage Wall Street and the corporations are doing to our world.

Read the conservative press, and you’ll probably find just as much vehemence, but instead about the suffocation that socialist policies are having on the growth of business and the economy.

Who’s right?

Well, I’m going to totally duck that rather loaded question, and try and answer a different one instead.

How can we define money so that it helps us to consciously evolve the business world, rather than dismantle it?

Because unless you’re going to try and extract yourself somehow from current society, you’re going to have to deal with money – it’s here to stay! And there are some pretty contradictory beliefs around money. In my opinion, some of them are pretty toxic!

Here’s one I grew up with…

Money is basically evil, and the root of most of the world’s problems. We need to abolish money and capitalism and just love each other more.

Nice sentiment, and one that’s served me and my bank balance very well for many years.

Money is not evil, it’s energy

OK, so time to put my cards on the table. Here’s my view…

The purpose of business is not to maximize profit. And neither is it to limit your potential profiteering because of some idea about money being the tool of the corrupt.

So how do we reconcile this?

For me, business is basically about idealism. It’s about recognizing that we have dreams of a different world, and using business as the most powerful vehicle around for manifesting those dreams.

A business is about building something that doesn’t yet exist, that you believe is needed, and that you care about.

Think of it like a car. Your starting from here, and you want to drive down the road to manifesting your visions of what is possible.

fuelAnd money? Money is the thing that feeds that vehicle. It’s the energy. Or more specifically in this metaphor, the fuel.

The purpose of a car is not to have fuel, it’s to move from one place to another. But it better have some fuel otherwise it’s not going to get very far! A car without fuel is pretty close to totally and utterly useless.

Likewise, a business without money is a pretty impotent business. You’re not going to be able to build your dreams very far without money. But the purpose of the vehicle is not to have lots of fuel, it’s to make a journey.

Are you fueling your vehicle generously?

So, how’s your fuel source doing? Flowing abundantly or dribbling in fits and starts?

There’s no doubt that making money and doing good often make uneasy bedfellows. It’s a sticky topic with huge implications.

But putting aside that inconvenient fact for a second, I want to offer you an inquiry exercise that can help you to…

  • Explore your own beliefs around money
  • Check in on your own ethics in business
  • Have a bit of fun

Ideally you would print out these questions and grab 10 minutes to sit quietly and write out your responses in a notebook. But cracking open a blank page on your word processor will work fine too.

OK, here you go, complete these sentences…

  1. As I check in with my own integrity, the reason I genuinely believe my work makes the world a better place is…
  2. If I had more fuel flowing into my work vehicle (more money), the things I would be able to do that I can’t do right now are…
  3. If I think of a monthly earning figure that would feel fair and rewarding to me, it would be…
  4. If I imagine earning triple that figure every month, I notice I feel…
  5. Noticing those feelings, and as I read back over my response to question 1, I now notice…
  6. One big belief I have about money is…
  7. As I notice I have that belief I feel…
  8. If there was a different way I’d love to see money instead, it would be…

Want to dive into this topic further?

There is a LOT of stuff out there on this topic of course. A few things I’d personally recommend…

  • Curious to hear a high level and human description of economics that promotes Conscious Business? Check out this Fred Kofman podcast from Sounds True.
  • Want really practical resources on money and the ethics of earning it? Take a look at the work of Brent Kessel.
  • Interested in a spiritual and philosophical exploration of the ethics of money and dharma? Check out Integral theorist Ken Wilber’s Right Bucks article.


And as always, I’m interested to hear what’s helped you with your relationship to money. And what happened for you when you did the exercise?

Leave your comments below…

 

116 responses to “Why making money in business doesn’t have to mean you’re greedy”

  1. Anyone brave enough to post there answers to the exercise here in the comments? Would LOVE to hear your responses!! 🙂

  2. Neelesh says:

    That money is fuel and energy is of course true at one level. But it is true within the current construct of socio-economic relations.

    At another level, it depends on an assumption – that 'our current form of money is the only rational way to exchange value — that a debt-based currency, detached from any tangible asset, is something as organic and inevitable as carbon molecules, ice, or photosynthesis.'

    One of the better articles on this extremely important, and complex subject is here: (its a long article, but hits a few critical nails on the head of the economic system as we know it and tend to accept it)
    http://www.realitysandwich.com/impossible_alterna

    Something tells me that the very deep-rooted assumptions and structures through which we see the world have now got to be questioned. And they may mean we have to suspend our urge to come to quick conclusions, one way or another.

    I quote from Hermann Hesse:

    ''I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in the books; I'm beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn't pleasant, It's not sweet and harmonious like invented stories; It tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.''

    • Hi Neelesh

      Totally! I'd go even further and say all ideas are constructs built on assumptions! For sure…including this one…and Pinchbeck's one (which with transparency I think I disagreed with at almost every point hahaha).

      I'm totally interested in the question of what an alternative system would be…AND…that doesn't help us get our dreams out in the world NOW. In fact, it can choke that. And dream building NOW feels a lot more exciting to me! 😉

      Ewan

  3. Steve says:

    As I check in with my own integrity, the reason I genuinely believe my work makes the world a better place is…

    – Helping young people to channel their creativity and desire to be connected with the world by providing a safe, secure environment in which to do so.

    If I had more fuel flowing into my work vehicle (more money), the things I would be able to do that I can’t do right now are…

    – Expand our reach, develop more sophisticated, more intuitive tools to aid young people in their learning, educate more teachers and help them be better prepared to enhance young people's online experiences.

    If I think of a monthly earning figure that would feel fair and rewarding to me, it would be…

    – £2,000

    If I imagine earning triple that figure every month, I notice I feel…

    – Conscious that I know many teachers, nurses, immigration workers, cleaners and retail employees who face much harder day-to-day challenges than I do, but who already earn less than I do.

    Noticing those feelings, and as I read back over my response to question 1, I now notice…

    – My work is important too, but wealth accumulating in one place means wealth disappearing from somewhere else.

    One big belief I have about money is…

    – Becoming more wealthy does not lead to a better quality of life.

    As I notice I have that belief I feel…

    – Some conflict with my own desire to live in nice places, some conflict with my own desire to be financially worry free.

    If there was a different way I’d love to see money instead, it would be…

    – I'd love to see money discussed more honestly, and the effects of its accumulation in the bank accounts of individuals and organisations analysed more publicly. Perhaps a better answer would be: "A driver of positive change rather than a carrot used to enslave people".

    • Thanks for sharing Steve!! The point I felt the most energy was when I read you saying you want to help young people channel their creativity and desire: I was applauding!

      And when I that when you felt into earning triple and taking wealth from somewhere else I got curious. I'm curious as to what has you say that? Because if that were true, then it would make total sense that you (and many of us) would have huge ambivalence about earning more money. Amen.

      And…I'm not sure that's actually true…check out Fred's soundstrue talk on the bottom of the post if you're curious too. he has a very different view on this.

  4. Nice article, Ewan.

    Check out the new book "Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business [Hardcover]" by the co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey (who is a fan of Ken Wilber's work and mentions his theories in the book).

  5. Thanks for the metaphor on fuel and cars…will dig into the questions tomorrow morning when working on my business plan for 2013!
    cheers jeroen

  6. 1.As I check in with my own integrity, the reason I genuinely believe my work makes the world a better place is…

    …because it communicates a more loving, intelligent and encompassing understanding and vision of ourselves in the Kosmos.

    2.If I had more fuel flowing into my work vehicle (more money), the things I would be able to do that I can’t do right now are…

    … create life conditions that maximize my own productivity and create a more sustainable work-surrounding with more people being able to manifest the vision in a sustainable way.

    3.If I think of a monthly earning figure that would feel fair and rewarding to me, it would be…

    … 2500€.

    4.If I imagine earning triple that figure every month, I notice I feel…
    … joy and a sense of “wow”.

    5.Noticing those feelings, and as I read back over my response to question 1, I now notice…

    … how great it would feel to both work for my purpose and make 7500€ a month-

    6.One big belief I have about money is…

    … it is hard to get and scarce.

    7.As I notice I have that belief I feel…

    … discouraged and cut-off.

    8.If there was a different way I’d love to see money instead, it would be…

    … an abundant flow of life energy, like a blood circuit, flowing to all places that need nourishment.

  7. inezlou says:

    Ok…
    1. As I check in with my own integrity, the reason I genuinely believe my work makes the world a better place is…
    Because I feel the touch of people that I work in my heart, I can see their smiles getting bigger, their mind getting more open and questioning some things that can change the way of living and specially giving value to the work they do, the people they touch.. so bringing creativity and awareness and empowering people in my facilitating programs.

    If I had more fuel flowing into my work vehicle (more money), the things I would be able to do that I can’t do right now are…
    I don´t know because I think money is a kind of excuse for "don´t Doing" things happen.. well. Maybe, if a person doesn´t "have" money, start to think a lot about it, and the mind tricks the person with lots of "if.. then" but the truth is that the creative self is the source of that energy and when It is working co-creation can exist and the universe operate in the way of our purpose.
    In the other hand, with lots of money my mind would say that I could make more work with people that need the most, in the way that I could feel the energy flowing from me to the world and changing lifes – getting people youth to study, families living in better conditions, etc.. and now I must say.. we can do it without it? we can attract and inspire people that have it to our projects? what we really want to do?

    .If I think of a monthly earning figure that would feel fair and rewarding to me, it would be…
    tricky question.. well 200 euros, to pay taxes and bills and gasoline and clothes and flights and schools to kids.. 🙂

    If I imagine earning triple that figure every month, I notice I feel…
    more free yet more worry if I would earn it next month 🙂

    One big belief I have about money is…
    Is to much important in these days

    As I notice I have that belief I feel…
    (nice question:)
    I feel sad and impotent and at the same time hopefull that it can change

    8.If there was a different way I’d love to see money instead, it would be…
    less attached

  8. inezlou says:

    *2000 euros

  9. Koen says:

    Somehow related: Bruce Lipton on money, energy and above all beliefs http://youtu.be/0quDjlkVvPM .

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