Crazy Love

I had an epiphany last week.

You might know that I run, in addition to Change Catalyst, a couple of other businesses. One of them, an e-commerce operation, is gearing up for the final third of the year, which comprises about half the sales we’ll have. As you might imagine, it’s a pretty important time of the year for us, and so I was doing some research to get our ducks in a row– I want to be able to maximize any opportunities we have.

In the three years we’ve been doing this, there’s been a proliferation of blogs associated with the market pop up. Lots of them are really good, and I enjoyed reading them.

But I didn’t feel any kinship with them.

It was weird. I blog. I write infoproducts. I have in-depth industry knowledge. Why wasn’t my “this is an opportunity” sense tingling? Why didn’t I consider these guys My People?

And it’s not even like these people (let’s call them “flippers”) could come to Change Catalyst and get meaningful advice– there’s something totally different about flippers that makes my stuff pretty much useless to them.

But I couldn’t figure out what that something was.

On the face of it, it seemed like it should be fine. Flippers are very efficiency oriented, very process-oriented. So it seems like we should be a fit, right?

But we’re not.

I was musing about this to Erin, and she said:

“I think maybe one group (flippers, etc.) is primarily in it to make money, whereas the other (service providers…at least, the ones you and I work with) wants to make money but needs some additional sense of purpose or stimulation from their work. Logically, the flipper approach is great, but it doesn’t fulfill the service providers. They want to serve somehow. Whereas the flippers are like “heck yes, I can cover my finances this way and have the rest of my time for myself.” Maybe?

And the flippers are like, “Why would you trade your time for money? Why would you want to spend so much energy convincing people to buy your thing and marketing and giving away information and help for free? Sounds awful.”

Yeah…those people have no use for what you really excel at, that blend of business + owner. They care less about being “the kind of business owner they want to be” and more about tweaking their processes or whatever so they can sell more. Which is totally fine, of course. But the reason your people like you is that you’re NOT that way.”

Look, I consider myself to be pretty business-minded. I’m not like, the Wolf of Wall Street or anything, but I’m pretty unsentimental. You want a business knitting tea cozies because that’s what you really love to do? Um, no. But feel free to try selling whatever it is you’re smoking.

But it turns out that I have a soft spot for the people who just want to make their corner of the world better.

The flippers, for all that they have a very profitable and efficient business model, are not particularly concerned with the impact they have on the world. While they do usually have some idea about how to make their business suit their lives, they aren’t concerned about things like servant-leadership, thought-leadership, zone of genius, or making sure their work is soul-satisfying.

(Flipping is very enjoyable, the way that winning is enjoyable. If you’re a good flipper, you win a lot. But it’s not satisfying in the sense that you wake up every morning with the deep certainty that this is what you were meant to do. You just make good money and have no boss. Yay!)

Soul-Work is a Societal Force for Good

I can’t prove it, like I want to do when I make a grand proclamation like this, but I firmly believe that people who do their soul-work have a positive impact on society.

It works on both the micro and the macro-level.

Let me give you an example. Erin is an editor and idea architect. As a mere editor, the kind that works for Bloomsbury, she would perform the valuable and necessary task of helping authors develop stronger narratives. She might even have a hand in deciding which narratives we as a society will be exposed to. It’s not a bad role.

But as an idea architect in her business, Erin helps people who are not writers to convey their wisdom and insight to the world in the form of text. She’s the crucial interface that takes a sketchy framework of an idea and helps us to flesh it out so that the people who need to hear what we have to say will receive it in a way that’s going to be useful and engaging to them.

This means that the information spreads more freely, and that it’s more likely to be put to use. You could say that Erin is a dispersion mechanism, like the wind that transports the dandelion seeds. And because she only works with values-driven business owners (just like me!) she’s in a position to lend that ‘lift’ to the kind of people we would most like to see succeed.

In this way, values-driven business becomes self-reinforcing. Over time, I expect we’ll see a groundswell of values-driven economies– tiny, self-supporting niche ecosystems that operate on a shared understanding of what business can be.

Micro and macro.

We want to have a positive impact on those around us.

There’s nothing wrong with doing something because it makes you money. That’s what I do with my e-commerce business.

But most people, certainly My People, eventually come to a point where they think less about how to make money and more about how they are making money. Of course when you’re broke you don’t have a lot of latitude to make this distinction, but I believe there’s a reason so many people want to run bakeries and cafes and restaurants: There’s something nurturing and soul-satisfying about the idea of these businesses. Quite literally, you are feeding people.

But restaurants and cafes, and especially bakeries are terrible ideas for businesses if you want to have a life. But I sympathize with the impulse. And I want to help.

I’ve often wondered why I keep on with Change Catalyst– from a pure efficiency perspective, I have other avenues that make me more money. And I like them. It’s not like I’m comparing consulting with my mortuary sideline. I love flipping, and I love building businesses. So I should just cut loose the business that requires the most outsized time investment, right? And yet, even though that’s where the logic lead me, I always knew that was something I didn’t want to do.

I just didn’t know why.

But now I do. Now I know why I persist in a high-touch, high-marketing, long-sales-funnel, high-input business model. I just love you idealistic bastards. You’re crazy, and statistically you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of success, especially to the impossibly high-minded definition of success you’re aiming for. But it’s so crazy, it might work. So even though I want to stipulate the fact that you’re insane– I will do everything in my power to help you.

That’s why I run my crazy, unreasonably-demanding business. To see more people like My People succeed.


14 thoughts on “Crazy Love”

  1. Every corner of the world is my part of the world. I’m a global citizen, meaning I have to live up to the demands of people across the world. But most days I wish they were more demanding (because that would mean I was making a bigger impact than I currently am).
    I guess what’s unreasonable to me is my work:love ratio. I do as much work as possible – without what would widely be considered “hustling” – and only ask for appreciation in return (people certainly don’t reward my efforts with money). But like you with your love for us idealistic bastards, I just love the simplifiers, curators, spreadsheet nerds, and interview hounds too much not to do it.
    I don’t know what game I’m really in, but I’m certainly doing “it” for the love of the game.

  2. I’m totally with you in this crazy love thang. Nothing lights me up more than people connected to doing the love work, the soul work. I remember making a decision a few years ago as simple as this: Would I be doing this if it didn’t make money? And the answer was, yes! And guess what? There are many many months when it didn’t make money, and I’m totally okay with that.

  3. We love you too, Shanna! I met a dude at WDS who illustrated this really well. He owns and operates a very successful real estate flipping business- buying houses, rehabbing them, and selling at a profit. I found this to be very impressive, but when we talked, he just breezed right over it. He really wanted to talk about his lifecoaching business- which was something he had SO much passion about. When I asked him a followup question about the real estate business he essentially said “that’s just how I make money, but I don’t really care about it all that much”.  Cool that he’s been able to recognize that being a literal flipper wasn’t satisfying his deeper need for connection.

  4. ethanwaldman Thanks, Ethan! 

    “I found this to be very impressive, but when we talked, he just breezed right over it.” That’s very interesting– I never thought of it that way.I guess flipping can seem a lot like spinning straw into gold, and of course people are very interested in how that’s done. But yeah, once the money part is taken care of, most people have something else they’d rather be doing. 

    I actually remember this part in a book called “Philanthrocapitalism.” Apparently artists and charity employees and “personalities” scheme and work for *years* to get entree into the circles where the wealthy and connected interact, so that they can get their influence and money. Everyone is familiar with that, right? 

    But what the authors were saying about the rise of philanthrocapitalism, is that the rich guys don’t WANT to just be the guys who are invited to the party because they have big checkbooks. They want to be invited because people think they’re interesting and have something worth saying about important issues. It struck me as so poignant that even people worth hundreds of millions of dollars might feel like less of a person than the guy who founded Charity:Water.

  5. David Delp I’m so glad I do this. Without CC to push me *I* don’t grow at nearly the same rate. The weeks I work on the other businesses exclusively lack the reflective self-discovery I prize. Those weeks are challenging and often fun, but it’s a weak, thready kind of challenge.

  6. Well…you know where I stand on this whole topic 🙂 But I had to jump in and at least say how happy I am that you wrote this post (and not because I’m your example!) and how much more (if that’s even possible) it makes me want to hang out in your camp.

  7. Great work bringing this concept to the fore!  I’ve had so many blasted ideas for business that would be a guaranteed success, but just couldn’t get behind them passion and interest-wise.  And then, so many passions, but no possibility of turning them into viable business.  It’s a balancing act for those people that want to have more meaning in their work than just “business.”  Even for those things that I feel are more business-only oriented, I still need a *bit* more to satisfy my soul – and that’s where I always try to make my work – no matter how “mundane” – serve as a vehicle for my larger passions.  It may not be a full expression, but if every little thing I do contributes to the larger picture, then I know that I’m on the right path. 🙂

  8. I think I understand most of what you just wrote..The main thing I got out of it is..yeah..I’m crazy :p 
    I’m hoping this venture that I’ve started out will pay my bills eventually because I hate my current job (but it pays my bills) but I’m also idealistic enough to realise it prob. won’t but as David Delp said ‘Would I be doing this if it didn’t make money..Yes I would’..the thing is, I will be too..and I hope to help women/children in need through this venture so its unlikely that I’ll ever make money but I keep hoping that as I do this, something will come along or new idea’s or ventures may present themselves. I’m trying to keep the faith that I’m not biting off more than I can chew..I’m a bit of a worrier & this is rather a scary venture for me.

  9. I apparently also don’t know how to use livefyre. Here’s what was supposed to be the rest of my comment:
    I think this also makes sense as to why I keep reading your emails, and why I keep *wanting* to read your emails, even though I’ve unsubscribed from all these other email lists that were far more loud about the value they have to offer me, if that makes sense. Even if I don’t always agree 100% with what you have to say, there’s always been this quiet little message behind all of your words, saying: “You can do this. I believe in you.”
    It’s an awesome thing to hear. 🙂
    As to my crazy love? I’ve done a fantastic job at explaining to myself all the rational reasons as to why I do what I do, but it looks like it’s time to hone in on the irrational. It’s probably being communicated through my stuff, anyhow, but figuring out what it is is fantastic for confidence boosting. 😛

  10. Thea van Diepen Oh, thank you. That means so much to hear. The BEST thing about My People is that they can rarely be fooled into succeeding for the wrong reasons. Their intuitions are strong and they mostly trust them. And because of that, their chances of success are much higher than you would suppose, because they’re not distracted by the siren song of other kinds of success. They know what they want, and knowing that overcomes a lot of not knowing what to do. 

    I also think your intuition about looking at the irrational is spot-on.

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