Does the Buddha want you to make a profit?

by | Sep 6, 2010

I don’t care about making you a millionaire. I’m not interested into turning you into a marketing machine. And actually, I don’t know if the Buddha wants you to make a profit or not.

But I want you to. And I think the Buddha would approve.

Here are three reasons why I think you really ought to make a profit.

  1. Profit means security so that you can grow, thrive, and make a contribution.
  2. Planning for and earning a profit is a creative act deserving your attention and commitment.
  3. Aversion to seeking profit is a spiritual cop-out. Acceptance of the challenge of making a profit can be a spiritual path.

Profit means security

Accounting definitions aside, when you work for yourself, profit is what’s left over after you pay the bills. It’s what lets you take a vacation, sign up for a course, and put some money away for retirement. It’s what lets you take a week off to build a house with Habitat for Humanity.

The amount of profit that’s right for you is a personal matter. With some honest addition and subtraction, plus a little reflection, you can arrive at a reasonable number.

CAUTION: I’ve seen people back away from their reasonable number because they don’t know if they can earn it. Please don’t.

Security is an inside job, and…

I’m perfectly aware that security is an inside job. No amount of money can make anyone truly secure. And there’s no guarantee that what you earn today is going to be there tomorrow.

You could say the same thing about food. If you’ve ever treated disappointment with chocolate, you know that no amount of food can fill the hole in a hungry heart. And no amount of food today will guarantee that you won’t go hungry tomorrow.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy enough food for the week ahead.

Profit-making is a creative act

I love this one. When you detach from whatever dramas you have around money, planning for and earning a profit is like any other creative project. It takes vision, imagination, insight into your own process, and discipline.

Creating a profit can be immensely satisfying in its own right. Combine that with the satisfaction of caring for yourself and others and you have a thing of beauty.

Is making a profit a spiritual path?

I’ve saved the best for last. The world’s wisdom traditions tell us that there are two causes of suffering: attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain. This makes choosing to earn a profit a perfect spiritual storm.

But here’s the deal. You’re in that perfect storm whether you choose to make a profit or not. Aversion to profit causes just as much suffering as attachment. And to pretend that you’re averse to profit out of high-mindedness is, in my view, a spiritual cop-out.

I’m not suggesting that you become attached to profit. And I don’t pretend that there’s no risk of attachment. In my experience, deciding to make a profit (or to make any amount of money) invariably triggers some degree of grasping, fear, and envy.

But I also believe that facing grasping, fear, and envy IS the spiritual path. Avoiding them is not.

Your decision to earn a profit matters

It may be that you’ve been wanting to earn a profit for quite some time. And perhaps you’ve worked on it.

But what I notice is that most Accidental Entrepreneurs don’t really start earning a profit until they go beyond a vague wanting and take it on as a creative and spiritual challenge. Until then, profit is an abstract thing, and it’s easy to go after it in a haphazard way.
I invite you to do the simple arithmetic and find out what your right number is. Make earning that one of your chief projects for the next year. Then use the tools available to you to create that result.

I think you might surprise yourself.

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Photo by Kazunori Matsuo via Flickr
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