Creating the good life: Why it’s your moral responsibility to choose and pursue prosperity

by | Aug 6, 2010

May I ask you a personal question?
Are you earning enough to be secure and comfortable, to live without worry about how you’ll cope with the inevitable surprises that life throws your way?
Many of the Accidental Entrepreneurs I work with are not. They’re getting by. Paying the bills (most of the time). But they don’t have enough for extras like travel or study, nor do they have savings to draw on when the unexpected happens.
They’re under-earning, and if you’re among them I want to shake you up. (Yes, again.)
Contribution is job one
Let’s get one thing clear first. I believe with Aristotle (how’s that for exalted company?) that living well means living up to your potential so as to make the greatest possible contribution to your world. And he would not define potential in terms of accruing wealth, but in terms of acquiring wisdom.
In the good life, the pursuit of personal wealth plays only a supporting role. It’s purpose is to provide us with:

“…enough to free us from basic concerns about putting bread on our tables, clothes on our backs, and roofs over our heads. Further, we need enough to be comfortable and the have adequate savings, for without a sense of security, we won’t have the peace of mind needed to concentrate on higher pursuits.”
(From Creating the Good Life, Applying Aristotle’s. Wisdom to Find Meaning and Happiness, by James O’Toole.)

You may say that our culture is preoccupied with acquiring and spending wealth. You could even say it’s a disease of our times.
But if you’re reading this, that’s not your problem. Your values and actions are squarely seated in the service of higher pursuits. Meaning. Family. Service. Beauty.
For you, the moral challenge may be earning enough to concentrate on those higher pursuits.
It’s your job to gather resources in service of your values
If you are under-earning out of reaction against our consumer-driven society, you’ve cut the tie between the economic means to live well and your ultimate values. That erodes your motivation to tend to business. It legitimizes any fears you might have about putting yourself out there, turning them into virtuous avoidance of crass commercialism. It makes resistance to marketing and sales a badge of honor.
But when you understand what it takes to live up to the ends you seek, tending to business becomes part of your mission. Earning an ample income is revealed to be the honorable means toward an estimable end.
I claim it’s a moral responsibility.
How to make the connection at a gut level
Even when you get the connection between right-earning and contribution, it can be hard to act on it from day to day. It takes commitment and practice to draw motivation and momentum for business from your higher pursuits.
Here’s one way to do that.
First, ask what you care about. What makes the work you do imperative? My favorite way to get at this is to ask, “What makes me crazy?” (For me, the answer is seeing the epidemic of under-earning among heart-based professionals.)
Next, ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?” The answer probably looks a lot like what you are already doing–or want to do–in the world.
Then ask, “What resources, both material and spiritual, do I need to do this generously and well?”
Finally, ask, “What do I need to do in order to obtain those resources?”
Getting over The Hump
When you work for yourself, it can take a couple of years to achieve the right level of prosperity. That’s natural. But if you’ve been at it for a while and you are still struggling, it’s time to get over The Hump.
That brings me to this year’s Self Employment Telesummit. The theme is “Over the Hump: Going from Getting By to Shining Prosperity.” (Shining, if you recall, was the theme of last week’s article, which you can read HERE.)
There’s a free preview of the telesummit on Thursday, August 19. My guest will be Dave Navarro, and we’ll be talking about how to charge premium prices for your work. I hope you’ll join us. Sign up at
While you’re there, take a look at this year’s offer. Early registration is over on September 2. That may seem like a long way off, but August has a way of flying by. If you’re needing help to get over The Hump, you may want to sign up now.
As my new best friend Aristotle says, “The end is not knowing, but action.”
Image: The School of Athens
Public domain via Wikipedia