The next time you’re on the brink (yet again) of pushing the Buy Now button so you can have an Internet guru tell you what to do to a.) make a fuck-ton of money, b.) be your own boss, c.) work where you want, when you want, d.) travel the world in style, or e.) all of the above, pause for a little while and ask yourself this: What the hell do I want the money for?
The obvious answer is security. People want money because they want to be able to bring food to the table and feed their families. For others who have a rebellious streak like me, they want money because they crave the freedom that comes with being able to pay your way through everything. Security and freedom. These are the two things that money stands for.
We don’t really want the pieces of paper and minted metal, or the pixels on the smartphone screen when you open your online banking app. What you actually want is the capacity to give yourself and everyone you love the things you need to live a good life and then some and the ability to do what you want where you want and when you want without asking for permission from a supervisor.
That much is established. So why do we keep on chasing money? If what you want isn’t the physical paper or metal—and trust me when I say nobody really wants that—why do you keep racking your brain for more and more ways to make money? Why do you keep buying course after course after course that promises to teach you how to get rich? And why, for the love of all that is just and holy, do you remain broke as hell and sadder than before?
Maybe it’s because we keep asking the wrong question. Stop asking yourself why you want money. Everybody knows money is one of the most basic requirements of living a decent life. By the way, if you’re still stuck in the old-school mindset that money is evil and only bad people get rich, then you’ve got a lot of cleaning up the muck to do. Money isn’t bad. Not all rich people are corrupt. We only think so because that’s what we always see on TV. Money is what lets you buy food, send your kids to a good school, and make investments that allow you to make more money easily. And the virtuous circle goes on.
So why you want money is pretty much out of the question. The more important question is—and the one that everyone keeps avoiding—is this: What do you want to actually do? I don’t mean what do you want to do right now because some would say they want to get some coffee or go to sleep. I mean, what do you want to do now and in the next 10, 20, or 30 years? What do you want to do just because you want to do it, nothing more? What thing makes you feel excited when you get up from bed in the morning? And what thing makes you feel the satisfaction and fulfillment of simply doing it when you go back to bed at night?
It’s not what you do to make money that is important. Yes, of course, you have the responsibility of making money so you can buy food so you don’t starve to death today, so you can continue living the legacy only you can live tomorrow—that is, the legacy of being you. What gets us into trouble is when we start believing that making money is the first and foremost priority.
When you get into that belief, it’s when you start working 16 hours a day just to meet an arbitrary goal set by a management team you’ve never met before. It’s when you start yelling at random drivers on the street, even those that don’t cut you off, just because you feel like yelling at someone. It’s when you start feeling depleted, empty, completely disconnected from your heart and soul because you’ve made something else other than what you truly want to do the most important thing in your life.
I know because I’ve been to both ends of the spectrum. I’ve gone from making a whole lot of money by simply enjoying what I do to desperately grasping at the slightest chance to make some more, all the while forgetting what it was all about that I came here to do and losing sight of myself in the process. It’s one of the most obvious ironies in life that we continue to ignore. That money only freely and abundantly comes your way when you stop chasing it and you start enjoying what you’re already doing instead.
It’s how I landed my first job as a managing editor for a content company and began making 40K months as a fresh graduate. I didn’t even go after the position. I applied for an entry-level writing job and went ahead fully having fun writing about the theoretical physics of time travel. It’s also how I went on to make a six-figure monthly income as a freelance writer later on.
Sure, you can also make money by grabbing and grasping and clutching it so tightly in your fists. But what fun is that when you have to stress yourself day in and day out thinking about how to hold on to more money? And even then, you realize you never actually feel the security and freedom you want. Try as you might, you never actually feel truly wealthy at all.
If you really can’t find it in your heart to enjoy what you do, then at least have the courage to leave and go start doing what you want instead. Some people here stop and ask. What if I don’t know what I want to do? Really? Truly? Are you absolutely sure you don’t know what you want to do? If you can’t admit it to yourself what you want to do for the next 10, 20, or 30 years, then ask yourself what you want to do now, in the next week, or in the next month, after you’ve gotten tired of partying as hard as you could and traveling the whole world, of course. What, then, would you do? What, then, would you love to feel? And what pictures or words in your head show up as you start imagining all the good feels you want to have?
I have this theory that everybody absolutely knows what they want to do. Absolutely. They’re just too afraid to admit it to themselves because of the trappings that go with their dream. I know someone who wants to be in nature and take photographs of wildlife. But—here come all the buts—she doesn’t know how she’ll make money with that, and doesn’t have the money to visit a place where she can do that, and can’t afford a good camera, and everyone’s a photographer these days that how will she ever stand out? And I know another one who wants to bake bread and pastries, but he’s an engineer and he’s got no time for baking bread and pastries because the world needs its engineers.
You don’t have to leave a job or close a business that’s already putting food on the table. (But if it’s draining the life out of you, then get out now. Go!) You just have to open yourself to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, what I say is true. That, maybe, if you started creating space in your life for that thing you want to do—including that thing you can’t admit to yourself just yet—you also start creating space for more money, more wealth, and more happiness in your life.
Try it for a month, a week, a day. Try it and see what happens when you stop buying into the idea that you need this new book, this new online course, this new mastermind to make more. Try it and see what happens you relax, take a breath, and stop trying to figure out how to squeeze more cash out of life and start loving what’s in front of you right now. You don’t have to try this forever. You can always go back to your old life of desperately chasing and clinging onto something that doesn’t want to be chased or clung unto, you know? You can do that, but I have a feeling you won’t.