Three reasons why I think you really ought to make a profit.

Via Molly Gordon
on May 5, 2012
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Photo by Kazunori Matsuo via Flickr

I don’t care about making you a millionaire.

I’m not interested in turning you into a marketing machine. And actually, I don’t know if, say, 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.

Profit-making is 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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Editor: Lynn Hasselberger


About Molly Gordon

Molly Gordon is a business sage and trickster for the spiritually and psychologically savvy. Her lifetime project is to wake up. A Master Certified Coach and a Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie, she’s passionate about using and teaching the opportunities for personal transformation in everyday life and work. / Molly and her husband, Miles live in Suquamish, Washington, with Bolivia the wonder cat and three hens: Viola Swamp, Sophie, and Feathergrain. When not hanging out with their astonishingly talented grandchildren, she gardens, reads, cycles, and tools around Puget Sound on a bright yellow paddleboard. / You can subscribe to Molly’s weekly ezine, Authentic Promotion, and read her blog at You can also find her on Facebook at and on Twitter at


8 Responses to “Three reasons why I think you really ought to make a profit.”

  1. oz_ says:

    I think we have to be honest about some things to even have this conversation – first, that our economic system is demonstrably predicated upon extraction and exploitation of both natural resources and human beings – and that this fact incentivizes denial and delusion to avoid facing it. Thus, simple participation with that system can be argued to violate ahimsa, not to mention the Buddhist proscriptions to 'see things as they are,' and so requires diligent soul searching, which I don't see evident in the article.

    It's also highly questionable whether one could engage in certain vocations under our current system without violating the Buddhist precepts against stealing and lying. As a broad example, anyone familiar with how the oil and gas industry operates both globally and domestically would have to wonder if working for (and thus abetting) that industry could be squared with those precepts. If you do not understand what I mean, I suggest reading this illuminating book on the topic:

    Numerous industries – among them industrial agriculture and financial services and associated sectors – also would demand strict scrutiny.

    The mere fact that 'right livelihood' is so prominent – one of the foundational Eightfold Path – should at the very least cause anyone who takes Buddhist precepts seriously to take a long pause before rushing to glibly justify one's role in a profit-driven dominant economic model – a model that blatantly wreaks enormous damage around the world, to both biosphere and the creatures that inhabit it. Especially those in the so-called 3rd world, which has been effectively 'strip mined' for resources and human labor, al at a great and terrible cost in human and non-human lives and suffering.

    Additionally, most spiritual traditions tend to agree that the lust for money is a human propensity/weakness that we would do well to be very careful about, and that usury is immoral (not least because it encourages trans-generational tyranny – that is, incentivizes us to consume today at the expense of future generations, which is precisely what we have done in both the ecological and financial arenas). Our profit-driven economic system celebrates both of these, urging us to lust after money (it's good for The Economy, don'tcha know) and to use debt to amplify and give free rein to that lust, while disadvantaging future generations who we force to pick up the tab (and a $15T public debt is nothing compared to the estimated $100T to $200T REAL debt once unfunded liabilities and off balance sheet debt is factored in – all to be paid by generations not yet working and/or not yet born!).

    The implications of this way of being in the world are becoming apparent, as the global economic order (assertions of recovery notwithstanding) continues to unravel, at the expense primarily of the poorest and least able to adapt. This unsustainable system is in the process of failing on every level, from financial to human. Rather than seeking to justify, especially at this late date, jumping into this toxic game of musical chairs, it may be wiser to consider taking part or even helping to start a very different game.

    Furthermore, the more money one earns – up to a certain point – the more one pays in taxes. Taxes, a sizable chunk of which go toward building bombs and drone aircraft which are then used to kill innocent people. Thus,even if you like the way *some* of your tax money is apportioned, you have still per force become an accomplice to murder. Again, we have some serious ahimsa issues here, which are completely disregarded in this piece.

    In other words, this is an exceedingly fraught subject, which any spiritual practitioner should approach with the greatest caution – but that's not what's being advised here. In fact, I read the above article as the opposite – it strikes me as cheerleading and out-right rationalization. It strikes me as downplaying the rightful wariness anyone on a spiritual path should bring to the topic. Red flags went off left and right as I read this.

    I'd suggest a better approach, if in fact one wishes to take the notion of 'right livelihood' seriously, would be to first grasp that, for the vast majority of human history on this planet, we did not primarily put profit (a very recent aberration) at the center of our lives, but rather allowed social and community considerations to drive our economic models – and those civilizations which did so were a helluva lot more sustainable (and arguably suffered less psychopathology) than ours. But don't take it from me – take it from an anthropologist:

    In short, the core criteria of any economic consideration for spiritual folk is the same as for any other sort of consideration: spiritual in nature, because this is at the core of who we are. For Buddhists, one imagines these would revolve NOT around questions of profit, but around questions of compassion, kindness, non-harming, non-stealing, community/sangha, etc. The piece above seems to be more about how to subsume or 'game' our spiritual values in a quest for economic gain, than about how to ensure our spirituality does not get damaged in the process of earning a living.

  2. jlafitte says:

    Well, it's clear that YOU want you to make a profit.

    So about the other 7 billion of us… really??

  3. @shaboom says:

    I appreciate what you are saying, and I am glad the post sparked pushback.

    I appreciate what you are saying, and I am glad the post sparked pushback.

    I write for individuals who work for themselves in hear-centered service professions. Without that context, I can see that my post could appear glib and without concern for core spiritual principles. I find that the people I work with often do harm to themselves, and by extension their clients, when they don't take care of the business side of their work. That results in depletion and sometimes leads to resentment.

  4. @shaboom says:

    You are correct, I do want to make a profit. I would love for the other 7 billion to thrive as well. Commerce can be abused, and as long as we demonize business, it will continue to be rife with abuse. I propose that we instead put ourselves into the marketplace bringing values of service, fairness, and empowerment.

  5. Sunni says:

    Thank you for this article, for your courage and your wisdom to "go there" and "look at that" which makes so many squirm. I agree with you and I commend you for writing your honest experience with money as your TEACHER and practice! I see it as the same, I no longer strive to separate money from the rest of life/buddha/god, this is nothing more than a belief system – a belief system that SEPARATES and that is NOT what buddha/god/love IS. For me, there is no hot and heavy debate to be had, just a war of concepts that could go on forever – because that's all they are – concepts. MIND stuff. I notice, when I open my heart unconditionally to life – including things that I would like to put in a box and call "bad" – the result is abundance. Abundance of love, abundance of kindness, abundance of provision from the universe. When I live from "conditions" and treat money as a red-headed-step-child or something, I am not looking at life from a place of true oneness with all of life, I am caught in a judgment – and we can dress that up any way we like, but that's what it is, plain and simple – a JUDGEMENT. What happens when the judgements are dropped? That's what I am finding out. Thank you for your honesty and courage to shed more light on this topic that many are still in so much pain over! Love xo

  6. ommarathonlawyer says:

    I think making a profit is important because as you say, it leads to being able to make contributions, etc. I am a solo practitioner attorney that took financial risks last year for which I have paid dearly. We make decisions, or take risks that sometimes are not the best in the name of making a profit. A year later I have refocused, taking a yoga teacher training as well as looking at the possibility of teaching law as well, all in the name of making a profit, but being happy with myself in the process. Personal happiness has always taken a back seat when trying to make a profit, I hope my new focus makes a profit while not stealing from my happiness.