Making Money: The Right and Wrong Questions to Ask
Readers Steve and Sean dropped by the house the other day for coffee and a chat. We talked about Portland, hiking, music, Steve’s new magazine article, Ken Kesey, Eugene, New York, writing, and, of course, jobs.
Sean, an accomplished poet and an emerging travel writer, is a former teacher who’d been struck hard by Theresa Collins’s essay, The Truth about Quitting. After we’d polished off our Portland-sized iced coffees, Sean asked the big question:
How can I make more money?
As Soul Shelter’s Director of Fortune, I consider it my solemn duty to help readers become more prosperous.
So I offered Sean some hard truths about book publishing and some alternative ideas for making money with writing. And I described how some writers (not copywriters) regularly pull down $10,000 per month.
But afterwards I realized Sean had asked the wrong question. Worse, I had offered the wrong “answer.” My response should have been a counter-question:
“Sean, how do you want to spend your days?”
Because if Sean can truthfully say he wants to spend his days writing, then finding ways to achieve the goal of making more money is simple (not easy, but simple). One can’t examine methods until goals are defined. “Making more money” is merely a by-product of work. It isn’t an acceptable goal because it isn’t predicated on how you want to spend your days. If you want to experience fortune or fulfillment, you must spend your days—first and foremost—in a manner satisfactory to you.
Last month, Three Questions Seekers Must Ask Themselves described the process of setting a goal, identifying a strategy to achieve it, then appraising both the strategy and one’s own ability to execute it. Taken together, the Three Questions form a powerful goal-achievement methodology. The core question is, What is your Goal?
If Sean’s goal is clear, surely there are many ways he can go about achieving it.
Let’s consider Reality A—today, with our goal unachieved—and Reality B, the future, with goal achieved. Our mission is simple: To journey from Reality A to Reality B. Reality A is defined by a set of behaviors that keep us grounded—or tethered—to current circumstance. Moving toward Reality B, therefore, requires adopting new behaviors. But “behavior” is shorthand for “habits.”
So to move from Reality A to Reality B, we must break our Reality A habits. Long-standing habits limit us to long-standing behaviors. As reader Brigid puts it, “if you keep doin’ what you’re doin’, you’re gonna keep gettin’ what you got.”
Reaching Reality B demands acquiring new, uncomfortable, habits. In fact, achieving any significant goal is sure to require uncomfortable action. It’s amazing how frequently we relearn that one can’t create Reality B by repeating Reality A behaviors.
Here are The Three Questions revisited:
1. What is my goal?
2. What new behaviors does Reality B require?
3. Which Reality A behaviors should I replace?
Look at the steps defined in The Three Questions: They provide the clues to new actions needed.
Part of the challenge is that even positive behaviors can hold us back when we become too dogmatic about them. For instance, I’m pretty anal about my Monday through Friday morning stretching/exercise routine. But a pulled muscle recently forced to me to cancel my heretofore inviolable regimen for a week, so I started walking instead. What a difference that made! Now I’m hooked on taking a couple of long walks each week, while continuing the morning exercises—minus the drillmaster attitude. So one cornerstone of achieving greater prosperity is breaking habits.
The other is asking the right question: How do you want to spend your days?
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