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How You Can Make A Living AND Make A Difference

Kristie T asked an interesting question the other day: Are you making a living, making a life, or making a difference?

It’s clear for me that I’m interested in making a difference. But her question got me thinking…How do I actually make a difference through my business? Boy, that seems like a big question.

But if I begin with Kristie’s definitions, I think I can take the breadth of this question and get it into a post without writing a novel. Here’s Kristie’s definitions:

  • Making a living is about doing something for the money
  • Making a life is about creating a business that supports the lifestyle you want to live
  • Making a difference is about giving your best to others in service and getting back tenfold

Well, I’m certainly not in business just to make money. I also think that her second bullet point about making a life is really the same as the first. I mean, after all, we work to make money to have the lifestyle we want. Otherwise, we’d have no motivation to strive for more.

Author David Maister writes that making a difference means sometimes struggling “to do what’s meaningful and not just what’s pragmatic.”

Ah, yes, do what’s meaningful. Or, another way to put it – do what is full of meaning.

So, what’s full of meaning for you?

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  1. Gayla McCord says:

    Great post! Now I have one more thing to ponder 🙂

    You know, since Aaron started his Simply Successful Secrets meme which then lead to the Gotta Get Goals meme — now this, I’ve done more soul searching and inner reflecting in the last couple of weeks then I’ve done in a very long time.

    It’s refreshing!

  2. What is full of meaning for me?

    Helping one person at a time, be it with friendly advice, help with their business, or just someone to listen.

    Sure, that sounds cheesey, but I’m not out for myself at all.

    Off topic, Dawud, what plugin do you use for your ‘related posts’ and was it hard to implement?

  3. Making a difference is about giving your best to others in service and getting back tenfold

    Is it just me (double Dutch English again) that doesn’t really like the word get in this? Personally I would like to change it to receive back ten fold. ‘Getting’ sounds like: I give, so I am entitled to get ten fold back.

    Anyway, meaningful for me is giving myself to my business, to the conversations and relationships I have, without any ‘pre-meditated’ reasons. Of course I would like to earn my money (got to live ;-)), but not for the sake of it. Life is much more pleasant and rewarding this way.

    p.s. I would also like to know the answer of David’s off topic question 😉

  4. David,

    Not cheesey at all. I share some of your same ideas about how I make a difference through both my business and my life. Do you feel as though you get as much or more than you give?

    As for the plugin…Similar Posts.

    Karin H.,

    I’m not fond of the whole last point of the statement. Not only the ‘getting’ part, but also the attachment to being returned tenfold. I was going to write this, but felt it took away from what I wanted to say.

    Overall, I think giving is only truly giving when the giving is open. Even with clients, they pay for access to me and my knowledge. But I don’t hold anything back from clients. So, in essence, I try to give more that I’ll receive – openly and freely. Yet I still get paid. And I trust and understand that the return on my giving will come in many different ways.

    So my thoughts are give and give freely. I guess that’s why blogging works for me.


    Thanks. Great to hear. I love when the things we engage in begin to change our inner being. Here’s to you finding and expressing more or your authentic self.

  5. Making money without being passionate about helping others is not an option for me. There has to be a connection to a higher purpose or else my motivation goes away (or is nil). I am all for making a living and a difference and strive to do that in my own life.

  6. I think you can do all three. I know even at blockbuster when I left, briefly for training and came back after a month I had people telling me how much they missed me, again this happened when I left my old job people were complaining that I was the only competent one there. It happens you don’t realize doing your job.. actually doing it can make a difference.

  7. of course. You can do all 3 and not even realize it.

  8. Excellent Dawud. Thanks for that link. I’ve added it to my blog.

    As for your question. I think I receive more than I give, which is why I always try to increase my giving.

    I have a very loving family, a steady income, great friends, a roof over my head, food on the table whenever I want it, all the water I can drink.

    There’s nothing I can complain about whatsoever.

  9. Karen,

    Absolutely. Me too. My goals are all based in doing good first and making money for doing good second.


    Great. It’s a pretty useful plugin, I think. I’ve gotten a little bit of use out of it – though not too much, truthfully.

    I love your perspective. I’m very similar. Perhaps that’s why we’ve connected here in the blogosphere – two like souls. Great to know you’re out there.

  10. Amanda,

    Certainly. And is it safe to say that you were doing your job to help the company and to make a difference in people’s lives as well as make a living?

  11. Amanda,

    Yeah, of course. But does everyone know this? Those who feel empty inside because of their work…are they really motivated by making a difference in the lives of those they work with. Or are their motivations different? No judgment, just asking.

  12. I cant speak for others I can only speak for me, and when people said those things to me it motivated me at least.

  13. Perhaps that’s why we’ve connected here in the blogosphere.

    I think you’re on to something there, Dawud.

    Glad to know you.

  14. Amanda,

    The same thing happens to me. As I help people, it motivates me to help more.


    I’m certain that’s the case.

  15. Exceptional post Dawud – especially when read with today’s article.

  16. thepaperbull,

    Thanks. I’m in the middle of a new direction in my business. Not so much a new business, more of being more visible about what I actually do for my clients.

    Hey, I’m enjoying your blog as well. Especially your posts, Ever Wonder What Your Blog Is Saying Behind Your Back? and Community Project: Promoting Others – which should be a must read for all new blog owners.

    Come to think of it, why am I not commenting more on your blog???

  17. Barbara Saunders says:

    I believe these divisions are misleading. One of the key things they leave out is the question of actual talents. For example, we are here communicating on a blog. Would an engineer who develops blogging tools be “making more of a difference” stuffing envelopes for a nonprofit rather than working for a company that uses his skills to create tools used by that nonprofit (and thousands of others)?

  18. For me, I put myself as my first priority when we say about making money. Though its great to help people while making money, helping yourself comes first…

  19. Ok, so personally, on the “getting back” part. If you see the difference you have made…then see the person who you helped make a difference in others lives… wouldn’t that be “getting back.” I mean, maybe it’s not money, but seeing it multiplied means a lot!


  1. […] So back into website development I went. But this time with a whole new approach. Now, rather than just building ‘pretty’ websites, I would focus on helping my clients build their businesses. Furthermore, I sought out projects where people were wanting to make a difference in the world; whose work is to make meaning in people’s lives. […]

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