What If Money Didn’t Matter?

I routinely write things free-form as the thoughts roll out of my mind and then save them to come back to later and polish up. I found this one today as I was going through my drafts and was amazed to find that a) I had written so much as it fell out of my head and b) that it was just a few days short of a year ago. I’ve already kind of answered the question for me in Passion is Overrated (and may have contradicted myself in The #1 Thing I Learned at Elite Retreat), but I wanted to go ahead and publish this in its original form if for no other reason than to be able to remind myself of what I was thinking back then.

What If Money Didn’t Matter?

I lose sight of this principle all the time. I begin to chase a lucrative opportunity and temporarily forget that it holds no real long-term interest to me — other than the fact that there’s a lot of money to be made.

In fact, most of the ideas that I’m working on now I’m working on simply because of their revenue potential. I haven’t even given any thought to whether they’d actually be interesting aside from the money.

Aside from money, the other factor that plays a huge part in what I choose to pursue is time. If I could make $200,000/year but it required working full-time, I wouldn’t do it. I’m making a good living now, and I can work as much or as little as I want to. If I need to take a week off, I take a week off. There are so many things that are more important to me than money now, and time is what allows me to “buy” them.

Of course, the question that follows from that is whether there’s a dollar figure for which I would work full-time for a year.

Actually, no. That’s a poor question. Of course there is. The real question is what is that figure? I don’t know that I could answer that. I’ve had several situations here lately where I was trying to answer a hypothetical question very similar to that, and what I realized every time was that it was just impossible to tell until you were sitting there staring at a real number.

So what’s the point of this rambling, other than to help me take stock of my thoughts? I need to boil this down to some principles.

Should you choose your projects for passion or money? Obviously the holy grail is something you can be passionate about and make plenty of money doing, but is that really feasible? Should we temporarily suspend passion in order to achieve financial independence?

My gut says that if we start chasing money alone that we’ll eventually not be able to stop. Of course that’s easy for me to say now that some of my projects have paid off and I have the freedom to be more particular. I don’t know that I would have been able to convince anyone of that two years ago, though, much less myself.

I do think it’s helpful to make lots of mistakes and to make them as soon as possible. People who became dot com millionaires in their first try are exceedingly rare. Does that mean you should start on throw-away projects, though, before beginning “the one”? Seems like a waste of time, but you could probably make a good argument for it.

Continuing the stream of consciousness, your progress along the dot com tycoon path is probably the biggest single factor in your decision of what to pursue. If you haven’t made it to tycoon status yet, should you just pursue the most lucrative opportunities, even if they don’t particularly interest you? For a few million, couldn’t you focus hard on something for 6 months to a year even if you didn’t like it much?

If you already have a few million, though, should you try to replicate what got you there and multiply that? Or should you focus on how to apply those same principles to something that actually interests you now?

These are the questions I’m asking myself now, and I don’t have an answer. I see now that Yaro doesn’t either, and he makes a great point:

It’s actually quite hard to answer this question because the financial reward is so tightly tied into the motivation. It’s not the only reason, but it’s a strong factor. You enjoy the process, the intrinsic rewards, the people you connect with, but given how our society is structured, money is ALWAYS a factor, it’s part of our culture and our value system.

It’s scary to think that. Money is a part of us.

Thanks for letting me spend some time on the couch. Looks like my hour is up 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, though. Feel free to fill up my comments with your own stream-of-consciousness writing. I think that would be helpful to all of us.

I totally used the Far Side cartoon without permission. If I go missing, you’ll know why.


  • Strong One

    November 4, 2008
    at 6:38 pm

    I am realistic of how important money plays a part in my life, but I try not to make it a source of motivation. Or better yet, not to make it the ONLY source of motivation.
    I cannot comment on choosing ‘tasks’ related to monetary value, but I can comment on choosing a particular vocation or job based on money.
    While it may seem like the right answer, money truly does not buy you happiness. Money can fulfill many things, but it does not bring you piece of mind, nor does it satisfy the human need for accomplishment.
    I’ve made horrible decisions on choosing a job simply because the ‘money was great’. I did enjoy the money.. but all the while I was unhappy, and longed for what I left.
    A truly happy man not only loves what he does, but finds the love in what he does.
    Great thoughts my friend.


  • Ann Levine

    November 5, 2008
    at 2:54 am

    Shane, great post. I think the readers of my new mompreneur blog would appreciate this…. I’ll send a link your way…


  • Ann Levine

    November 5, 2008
    at 3:06 am


  • Thomas

    November 5, 2008
    at 7:32 am

    I agree with Yaro’s statement. Since we derive our own identity from our surrounding society we will follow the predefined value system. Only if we achieve to separate our identity from what the society defines, money will not matter so much anymore and more happiness can be achieved on the long run.


  • Chris Guthrie

    November 7, 2008
    at 9:03 pm

    I think you said it well. That your opinion has likely changed from this point as to what it was two years ago.

    In my opinion, I search for projects that have the potential to pay off very well but that are at the same time very exciting to boot. The problem with me is that I spent the first few years of my internet marketing career targeting a very low paying segment whereas if I took the same amount of time and dedication and focused it towards something that was higher paying I would probably not be in a full time job right now.

    That’s what I think about now. Does it have the potential to make a lot of money? If yes, proceed to next question. Can I see myself pouring a lot of time into doing it? If yes then get on the horse and do it.


  • Tom Lindstrom

    November 18, 2008
    at 1:34 pm

    If money didnt matter at all, would we be motivated to do anything at all anymore?


  • Shane

    November 18, 2008
    at 1:41 pm

    Wow, I hope so. I can’t imagine the emptiness if money was my only motivator for doing anything.