A couple of years ago John was laid off from his job working in the assembly plant for Ford Motor company. He’d been there 15 years and came to work on a Tuesday to find out he was being laid off.

John had worked at some sort of job since he was nine. He had a paper route, then three. When he was eleven he started mowing lawns for neighbors. That quickly grew to raking leaves and shoveling snow.

John never much liked school and so as many of his friends went off to college after graduation, John landed a job with Ford assembling dashboard parts on the assembly line. Good work – and great pay – for a eighteen year-old.

Now, at thirty-four John found himself out of work. John hadn’t married yet – though he was dating the woman who would become his wife. And living a simple life in a modest house he managed to sock away a nice little nest egg.

It wasn’t money that drew John to look for work a few weeks after being laid off. He just wanted to be doing something.

He started by dropping fliers in his neighbor’s mailbox offering handyman services, lawn maintenance and landscaping. Here and there the phone would ring and he’d get odd jobs doing work for people. And soon he was back mowing lawns every week. Since most of his neighbors had mowers, he often used theirs – saving himself the trip with his own.

John took great pride in mowing lawns – as he learned to when he was a young boy. His lines were symetrical and straight as an arrow. He could even manuver around trees in a way that didn’t curve the cut lines the mower left on the lawn – something he’d worked out the summer he was fourteen.

And when John was finished with the mower, he cleaned thoroughly, filled the gas tank, checked the oil and put it back neatly in his neighbor’s garage. Then he’d leave a little note of some sort, thanking his neighbors for giving him something to do while he was laid off and letting them know that he’d only be available until the plant called him back.

Every week the phone would ring and someone new would ask John to mow their lawn. A the next week another; some weeks two or three people would call. Each one John would manicure their lawn as he cut it, clean the mower, place it back and leave a small note of thanks.

This went on for a few months until John realized that he was back running a lawn service business just as he was when he was a boy. In three months he had gone from cutting his neighbor’s lawn to cutting the lawns of 28 people a week. And at $20 a lawn, he was making a nice bit of change. He wondered how he’d done so well with no effort at all.

It was mild Sunday afternoon and John was sanding the deck off the back of his house when he heard two of his neighbors taking. As he went over to say hi he heard them mention his name and his lawn mowing. He paused for a moment wondering if he’d done something wrong. Quite the contrary.

You see, John gave meaning to mowing a lawn. He cared about how the lawn looked more than how quickly he could get it done. He took such care as to clean, fuel and replace the mower. And they talked about those little notes he left.

John paused and thought. Every lawn he was mowing was because one neighbor talked with another. He’d done nothing to get 28 lawns except put his caring and pride in his work. He wondered what could happen if he started a professional lawn service with the same intentions.

John was never called back to Ford. But today he runs a lawn service. He works from April to November and then takes most of the winter off to spend with his wife and their newborn son. Everyone who works for him is asked to take pride in their work. John’s taught them how to mow straight lines and how to make that special curve around a tree. And when every job is completed, a small note is left that meaningfully thanks the customer for their business.

Last year, John had a waiting list – both for crew members and for customers. He’s thinking about expanding this year. Funny thing is, he still doesn’t market himself. He doesn’t even have a website I can link you too. All his business has been through word-of-mouth.

John’s care for his customers brought meaning to something as simple and mundane as mowing a lawn. In the meaning came the way for John to make money. The beautiful thing is that he focuses on making meaning and lets the money follow. Great lesson for any of us buiness owners.

Make meaning with your business and the money will follow.

Are you making meaning with your business? I’d love to know how.

And if don’t feel like you are, what’s one thing you can do to add meaning to the work you do?

(note: image from Sarcas on Flickr)

Reader Interactions


  1. Rob D says

    Given the title, I almost did not read the article. Due to your track record I figured I should at least start reading to see what it was about. Very glad I read this. As usual, a fantastic article.

    Making meaning, caring about what you do, being passionate about your work, it all seems like a basic principal that people should follow.

  2. Emirhan says

    This guy you’re talking about, was lucky. He had no high-running bills, probably no credit with high stakes on his home, no enormous taxes to pay. Otherwise, I can’t seem to understand how he managed to resist with low fundings such a long time.

    The lesson learned here IS important, but .. dunno, I just feel it doesn’t fit very much in today’s world. Less and less time for us to nurture our dreams and do only what we like. I might be wrong, of course ….

  3. Home Recording says

    What a story Dawud. Truly inspiring and full of practical wisdom.
    This story represents everything that all philosophers have tried to drive across – do what you do with love and attention. The fruits will follow.
    And another gem – crisis is usually another word for opportunity.

  4. Doug Rosbury says

    Whatever a person wishes to do is what that
    person should do. Simply because one guy
    sets a particular example doesn’t make it
    contingent upon anyone else to emulate that
    example. If it did, we would not be free to
    do with our lives as we alone as individuals
    saw fit to do. It may be the case that due to
    social pressures, many of us are not free to do as we alone see fit to do with our lives and are therefore not happy individuals.Think
    on this as you wish and see what you think about it.—Doug Rosbury

  5. Chadwyck says

    What a great story- even more so that it’s true.

    Taking time everyday and evaluating where I am is how I maintain motivation. Even I’m engaged in a boring, repetitious task, getting some perspective helps me get through it more easily.
    I think about what led me to where I am, where I’m going, and why I’m doing what I’m currently doing.
    Just taking 10 minutes a couple times a day really helps me.

    @Emirhan >> I agree that most people aren’t going to stumble into a thriving business on skills they developed as a Freshman in High School. But this man took a job at a factory just for the money, lived within his means and saved intelligently, which is sadly rather uncommon today for many people.

  6. Dawud Miracle says

    Home Recording,
    That’s exactly been my experience too. John is a real person (though different name) – a neighbor of mine and he does cut my lawn. Great guy. And he goes to prove that you build business by doing extraordinary work and letting the money follow.

    Yeah, I struggled with the title. Too late last night when I wrote it, I think.

    Are there things you’ve done in your work to create meaning?

    I think social pressures and our own internal limiting beliefs about our capabilities that get in the way of doing what we love.

    Freedom is vital. But how many of us are really free in our thoughts? How many of us get outside the limits that childhood, that schooling, that our peers put on us? That’s where the real issues are, don’t you think?


  7. Brentwood Real estate says

    When I first started out, I was only in this business for the money. and the “big sales”
    eluded me. I crashed and burned more times than I can count.
    It was only after I came to the point that I really didn’t care about the money I made and instead took people to the kind of place where they would be really happy with the
    whole ideal of where they were living that success followed. (a house is not a home, unless you can like your neighbors).
    Adding the neighborhood concept into my work helped tremendously in having happy customers who have returned time and again for repeat business. Dave

  8. Karen Lynch-Live the Power says

    Wow, I love this story!
    It was like synchronicity brought John to a thriving business….but he put in the passion and purpose himself by caring about his work and caring about his customers!

    Great post!!

  9. Dawud Miracle says

    This wasn’t his dream. It was the opportunity that presented itself from him being different. A business got built around him because he took great care in what he did/does and who he does it for.

    It’s very practical today – he cuts my lawn. And the lesson that I personally have pulled from him is if you do extra-ordinary things to set yourself apart it’s easier to build a business.


    That's it. Make it about the people. Make business about relationships. That changes everything. Do what you do better than anyone who does it – in your unique way – while taking great care of your clients and business builds itself – almost.

    Exactly. I showed this post to John and he said he’s try to reply. And he was a little embarrassed.

    I just think John is an example of the Purple Cow.

    And that’s the life style I think people should take from him. Not that he lived simple and not above his means. It’s that he took great care and pride in his work and cared about the people he worked for – even at Ford.

    So what sets him apart, I feel, isn’t his simple life, but rather his caring qualities.

    I know your work a bit, so what do you do in your own unique way, to care for your clients?

    Yes. And the third one I’d add is – be nice.

  10. Jerry says

    Good stuff..The thing I like is John was doing something he enjoyed and it became a business whilst helping people out with an exceptional service!

  11. Jake Ingalls says

    Excellent post! There’s immense power in quality and purpose-driven work.

    Anyone can make a quick buck, but when you integrate purpose in everything you do – from the mundane to the complex – you make it extraordinary.

    People like to do business with companies or individuals that make them valued and appreciated.

  12. Jeff Gwynne says


    Nice story. I think “making meaning” with making a living presupposes two things.

    First, the service you are offering must be an urgent need. You can do everything you can to make the customer’s experience great, but if what you are providing is not an urgent need, the effort will be lost.

    Second, the service must lend itself to word-of-mouth. If you are in the B2B world, this doesn’t always happen, since there is not necessarily a social mechanism between businesses.

    Lawn mowing was a perfect example – an urgent need with neighbors who talk. So, how can we make this work in the world of B2B services?

  13. Dawud Miracle says

    Yes. And he performed his service in a unique way that got people talking about him. That’s what led to his business success.

    They do. And when you’re extraordinary in what you do, people tend to tell their friends about you. And that builds your business.

    And I think your last point, “people like to to do business with companies or individuals that make them valued and appreciated” is way too overlooked today. It’s about relationships not money.

    Exactly. You really can make a living loving what you do. I know that’s counter to the current American standard, but it’s really possible.

  14. Dawud Miracle says

    By first remembering that business to business is still people to people. And people inside businesses have problems that need solutions. Find and communicate your specifically unique way of solving people’s problems and you have your way of making this work in the B2B world.


  15. layne stoops says

    You know, when I first got into this whole world of online marketing two years ago, my motive was to make money, and make it at the expense of anyone I can in contact with. It’s easy in this world to take away the human element of doing business with someone who lives in Japan, France, Germany or South Africa. But the gift is that you can connect on a human level with so many different kinds of people.

    I’m not proud of my past, but truly inspired for the future of my business. In all honesty, the only expece that working in that fashion was that of my own. I was loosing money left and right…until I shifted my thinking and started working for the people. You see, they know, don’t they? And your business will be affected.

    Don’t do business for yourself, do it for others, and you will be taken care of. In all walks of life, you should consider those who you touch, and if it’s going to leave a positive or negative mark.

    Thanks for your story Dawud, such truth!


  16. Layne says

    Well, that’s also true. And you make an excellent point. We are in fact in business to make a living, true. However, our businesses are in business because of those we offer service to. So, there is a balance…always there is a balance.

    I think, by in large, there will be those who you can serve and those who you can’t. And with the scale of internet marketing, we can’t service all the needs of every client we have. I think a sound business ethic, practice and over-all outlook on life, will foster a wise attitude for conducting yourself.

    And, hopefully you don’t piss someone off along the way….:)

  17. Dawud Miracle says

    Exactly. And that’s one of the secret keys to building a successful business.

    I hear you. But how do you balance the needs of your business with those of your clients? You can’t just give it all away, right?

  18. @Stephen says

    Dawud, thank you for sharing this story. It comes at an important “crossroads” time in my own life and work. I linked it, and will be expanding on it next week.

  19. @Stephen says

    I am working on balancing working for someone else, working for myself, and not working at all.
    The “self-employed” part is the hardest right now, and it is evolving into the next stage in its development. I am looking forward to getting some good advice and coaching at SOBCon in two weeks.

    I need it.

  20. layne stoops says


    As professionally as possible. It’s been a while since I ‘pissed’ someone off when it was actually my fault. That was when I was a very new marketer, and I tried not to run away with my tail between my legs. I think now, its inevitable to rub some people the wrong way. I’ve used my counseling experience (M.A. in Clinical Counseling), as a tool to cool/defuse situations. Sometimes it’s nice for the other person to talk it through with me, sometimes they just need to tell you off, and then they’re gone.

    If it was my fault, I would do my best to accommodate their needs, and usually offer something more in return. A report, PLR content, something that was of value beyond the original service. Good customer service is always a must!

  21. Layne says

    I don’t think I could have said it better myself. The relationship is key! I’d say that realization was what changed how I did business all together. Great perspective!

  22. Dawud Miracle says

    Tough, I know. How do you balance the two?

    Good customer service is absolutely a must. That’s why I don’t really consider it to be about customers but rather about relationships with people who are trusting me with their businesses. It changes the perspective for me.

    How about you?

  23. Walter Paul Bebirian says

    Great to read this story of a non-marketing approach and how it has grown the lawnmowing business of John – I belive that the intentional giving of as much of his time as is necessary to get the work done right with his caring attitude is the most effective ingredient that person can add to their business formula and I certainly attempt to add that to the mix in my business whenever and wherever I possibly can –

  24. Blake says


    I guess they can seem like trite expressions, but putting the customer first by doing what I can to go above what they ask for and expect from me makes meaning for both of us.

  25. Andrew Bailey says

    an excellent story and something I can relate to, every website I’ve been commissioned to make has been because of word of mouth. I haven’t even got around to putting up a website for the business yet and I’m a few thousand in profit already! 🙂

  26. b2b internet marketing says

    Yeah it is a great and nice article looking forward to have such article it is so useful. It is very interesting article and quite impressive and more informative and looking forward to read such article. Since I’m new to blogging, these articles are greatly appreciated; very useful and informative blog and every body must visit this blog.

  27. Online Nursing Degree says

    The lesson learned here IS important, but .. dunno, I just feel it doesn’t fit very much in today’s world. Less and less time for us to nurture our dreams and do only what we like. I might be wrong, of course..

  28. dating says

    There’s immense power in quality and purpose-driven work.Anyone can make a quick buck, but when you integrate purpose in everything you do – from the mundane to the complex – you make it extraordinary.

  29. mice says

    And here… ladies and gentlemen… is where branding comes into place.

    If people are searching for your brand when looking for a generic product in your market it means that you’ve become and authority and believe it or not that is an extremely positive sign that you are now growing and so is your biz.

  30. The Lawn Mowing Guy says

    When a person has developed a strategic business plan, position themselves effectively and are passionate about what they do, there’s limitless possibilities for their business. And when you provide customers and clients with real value, your business reputation will only grow.


  1. […] Are You In Business To Make Meaning? › Dawud Miracle @ dmiracle.com It was mild Sunday afternoon and John was sanding the deck off the back of his house when he heard two of his neighbors taking. As he went over to say hi he heard them mention his name and his lawn mowing. He paused for a moment wondering if he’d done something wrong. Quite the contrary. […]

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