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Profit with Purpose

March 14, 2021 | by Yael Trusch

How do we find the place where the two intersect? And which one should we focus on first?

At some point during our adult lives we’ve had to ask ourselves whether our career paths combine meaning and purpose with money and profit. We seek both, but to what extent? Focus too much on purpose and you might miss the profit. Focus too much on the profit and you might miss the purpose.

How do we find the place where the two intersect? And ultimately, which one should we focus on first?

Let’s start by looking inward. We all came into this world with a bag of tools – natural and learned talents, inclinations, and capabilities. It’s up to us to open the bag and figure out how to use our tools to serve our Creator and His world.

In “The Duties of the Heart,” 11th century Spanish scholar Rabenu Bachya ibn Pekuda states: “Whoever discovers within his personality and nature an attraction to a particular trade, and his body is fit for it and can endure his difficulty, should pursue it and make it his means of earning a livelihood.” In other words, use what’s in your bag. There you will find purpose. And, also profit.

Additionally, we all carry something in our bag which we might mistakenly deem as worthless – the failures, the challenges, the brokenness. It is not garbage. It’s a treasure. That brokenness has taught you empathy in a particular area. Thus, it is very likely connected to how you can serve others.

Now we’re starting to substitute the age old (and dreadful) question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” for the much better question: “What problem would you like to solve?”

There’s a great Japanese exercise called Ikigai. It consists of finding the intersection of the answers to four questions:

  1. What do you love to do?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What is the world willing to pay for?

You will find areas where your answers to the four questions intersect. Take the hint. Explore that. Yes, therein is your purpose AND profit. Therein is what Rabenu Bachya says you “should pursue” and “make it your means of earning a livelihood.”

Beware of the fact that most of us believe two lies which often prevent us from finding, or pursuing, that point of intersection: 1) “I could never make money doing that”; and 2) “Who am I to do that?”

If that describes you, eliminate these two lies out of the picture for a few minutes. Now, write five things you would be doing in your ideal life if those lies weren’t in the way. No limitations. Just write five things you would love to be doing with your life.

Now, take a deep breath. Look at your list and answer: Which of those five things feels most expansive? Which one excites you the most? Pay attention to that feeling. There is wisdom there. Circle that answer. My guess is that it is very similar to something that came out quite strongly in your Ikigai.

Finally, find three people online or offline who are doing what you would love to do with your life. Write down what you love about what they are doing. Now, write down how YOU would do it differently. White space! Bingo!

Go back to the two lies and ponder the following:

  1. “I could never make money doing that.” God has infinite ways of sending people money. He’s just asked you to show up and do – “Gd will bless you in all that you do” (Deut. 15:18).

  2. “Who am I to do that?” The better question is “Who are you not to?” This is not about you, or your ego. This is about how you serve God’s world with what He’s given you. You have a moral responsibility to your soul, God, and His world to go do that thing which only you can do.

In the words of the great Reb Zusha of Anapoli, “At the end of our time here on earth, we will NOT be asked “Why weren’t you Moses?” but rather, “Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?”’

Take a careful look inward, inside your bag. God gave it to you for a reason. Both the whole and the broken in it. Pursue purpose, and God will take care of the profit.

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