Salmon Upstream, LLC

Developing and implementing real-world community solutions.

It’s not about money, but it’s not mindset either.

I was recently told – and I don’t disagree – that I have little experience swimming in the roiling sea of society’s issues. But here is an equally valid fact: all those super-smart visionaries that have been writing books for decades about how we should be, either individually or collectively?

If you are wondering why there hasn’t been much blog activity in a while, I assure you it’s not from a lack of ideas that I would love to spout off about. The big issue has been time, or a lack thereof. But today I had one of those revelations that demanded proselytization. Of course, a quick Google search reveals it’s not a new idea. In fact, I am not sure there are any left. But it’s new to me, and maybe it will be new to you too. Or maybe it will just be a slightly different slant that will make you think on things a bit, perhaps have your own revelation. Or maybe you have already quit reading…

It’s not the money. It’s not the mindset. It’s purpose.

I was recently told – and I don’t disagree – that I have little experience swimming in the roiling sea of society’s issues. But here is an equally valid fact: all those super-smart visionaries that have been writing books for decades about how we should be, either individually or collectively? None of them seem to have found the answer. So that leaves us with two possibilities: there is no answer… or we just haven’t found it yet.

I am going to remain motivated by the second possibility. And that is because I have made it my purpose.

I know, now you are sure the cheese done slid off my cracker, but hang in there just a bit more and let me give you an example: the left says it’s about the money. The right says it’s about mindset. And yet neither seems to be able to make any progress. Why?

Because it’s not about either. It’s about purpose. The difference is subtle, so subtle that most miss it (I sure did). But for the sake of argument, just this once, let’s say I am right. Because then everything changes.

It’s true that lack of money can prevent someone from achieving their goals, or even eating. And it’s also true that a self-defeating mindset can leave a person wallowing in misery, regardless of assets. But no one will drag themselves out of financial adversity without the right mindset. And that mindset is dependent on having a purpose. Which starts to explain why neither approach is working. Because you can’t give someone purpose, they have to find it for themselves. And if they have absolutely nothing, if they are just trying to survive, they aren’t going to find a speck of purpose.

Purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose. It doesn’t have to improve the world in any way. It doesn’t have to be part of one’s job or profession. For most of us, it is as simple as a hobby. In simplest terms, purpose is something that makes you happy, something that makes life worth living.

Until today, I would have argued that I am not wealthy. My argument would have been based on the fact that – despite having an uncommonly stable job with relatively high pay – I live paycheck to paycheck. In my view (well, prior to today) truly wealthy people are those that have enough money that they don’t have to work; their money works for them.

I also would have told you that I will never be poor, simply because of my mindset. If you were to take away all of my stuff away and leave me in the street, I would claw my way out of poverty with my tremendously effective positive mindset. Yeah!

But not so fast…

Even in my own mind, that mindset is driven by purpose. It is driven by the idea that I will succeed in getting back to a place where I can do something – anything – that I love to do, something in which I can find purpose. If I were sure that was never going to happen… that’s not a good place to go.

So now I would say that I was wrong, that my own introspection has led me to flawed conclusions (don’t you wish politicians could say that?)

I am wealthy because I have purpose. I actually have a shit ton of purpose, and my mindset is because of that purpose. When I say purpose, I mean to say this: something that makes me happy, that I could enjoy doing for the rest of my days, that I can immerse myself in, that makes work bearable. Something worth living for. And I could make a long list of stuff that fits this description to me. Things like cycling or music or art or writing. Or building things. Or medicine. Or my kids, my wife, my family, my friends. Or trying to fix the world. I could find inspiration enough to get through most days with anything on this list. Having a slew of it? That makes me one of the wealthiest people on the planet.

If you don’t have something worth living for, you are never going to have a positive mindset. But if you love collecting stamps, and work gives you the means to do what you love, suddenly the drive to get through the workday is significantly stronger.

So all this time we have been missing the point. We have argued about money, but money will not give you purpose; just look at all of the wealthy people that flail without purpose. We have argued that it’s all mindset, but how can you have a positive mindset without purpose? Instead we need to rethink our approach. We need to recognize that everyone needs to find at least some purpose. And that is not going to be a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Nevertheless, it’s also not impossible. Unlike trying to give someone a mindset injection, helping someone find purpose is a much more approachable task, provided there is recognition of the value.

And it doesn’t stop there (But wait! There’s more!) This realization is changing the way I look at others around me. At how I approach my job. My relationships. In fact, it’s way too much to put in a blog. So I guess I now have to write a book. Hopefully, it won’t turn out to be just another tome that weighs down the shelves in the bookstore (or sucks up download bandwidth). But hey, it’s another thing that gives me purpose.