I’ve been asking people this simple, yet arresting question for some time now and the answers to this question are inspiring.
At my photography studio, Sarah Petty Photography (sarahpetty.com):
As a child, I didn’t exist in any photographs! So, capturing the true spirit of my client’s children and producing it huge with the top quality framing, is what pulled me like a magnet toward opening my boutique photography studio two weeks before 9-11-2001. When I can catch magical personalities, pensive deep thoughts, and the love between a child and a parent, it makes time disappear. To me, when a parent celebrates their family with a beautiful, archivally-framed wall portrait that gives them goosebumps every single time they enter the room, I know I have done my job. And, getting paid to do this is the icing on the cake.
At my marketing company, The Joy of Marketing (thejoyofmarketing.com):
Every single time I receive an email from a small business owner telling me that they were on their last dollar and what I taught them has turned her business and her life around, I know I am in the right profession. Teaching and inspiring others to live a life doing what they love, and being financially rewarded for it, is one of the greatest careers I could have ever designed for myself. To have a career (two really) where I bounce out of bed in anticipation of the day, is what makes all of my work worth it for me.
Dan Schawbel is with Millennial Branding and here is his story.
I put the most energy into projects that I believe will have the largest impact on both my business and society. Any additional projects outside of those are solely to fund my ability to better executive the more meaningful projects. Life is too short to do meaningless work. I believe that more and more people are doing jobs they had to, to fund projects they love – a trend that is picking up especially among young people. Many projects, such as books, magazines, articles, and blog posts, don’t amount to millions of dollars, but impact how people live their lives. I tend to think that work matters when people are affected by it in that they make changes to their lives to improve them.
Rieva Lesonsky is with SmallBizDaily and here is her story.
As a child of the 60s and 70s, I was motivated to grow up and “change the world.” That’s why I went to journalism school, because at the time journalists were doing a good job exposing much of what was wrong in the country. I didn’t set out to get involved with small business and entrepreneurship, but that’s the path I found myself on. So, in my own way, by showing/telling business owners (both existing and aspiring) something they didn’t know, I’m helping change their worlds. I love what I do because I can make a difference–and the people I touch, in turn will touch others. Essentially I’m part of a “pay-it-forward” chain, and that is meaningful to me.
Deborsha Lashway is with dog*tec and here is her story.
The interpersonal relationships side: I work with a bunch of the most amazing people on the planet. Everyone is a positive influence on each other and those who they consult for. We genuinely care about each other.
The business side: I work with very well-educated people. As only a high school graduate myself, they have always valued my opinion and have even implemented some of my suggestions. Veronica and Gina are incredible at what they do. Their consulting advice has helped hundreds of people start, further and expand their businesses. Our design, writing, and SEO team are pure joy to work with. Egos are never an issue. I LOVE working for dog*tec and hope to do so until I die.
Renata Maslowski is with OWLS for Science, Inc. and here is her story.
I tell other people’s stories. Stories about their businesses, their products, their services, and their art. When I create a new communication that captures them perfectly, there is a moment when their faces light up. It is like uncovering a secret treasure. People are so deep and individual, so uniquely themselves. When I can put into words what they have always wanted others to see and feel about them, it lights them up. The worth of that kind of discovery is similar to the joy that would come with really finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that you’ve been chasing all your life.
Carrie Wilkerson is the founder of Barefoot Marketing Group LLC and The Barefoot Executive ™ and here is her story.
WOW! Great question. I started my first business 14 years and 1 month ago to be precise. Why? Because I had adopted toddler siblings and was an INSTANT Mom! I had no huge passion for business, didn’t have a BIG idea or burning desire to be my own boss – but I was a MOM now and determined to be home with them, so I needed an income too. My kids were removed from a dangerous situation and needed lots of therapies, nurturing and consistency. I decided to be their CONSTANT. Now, 14 years and 4 kids later, I can say that being their constant has been worth every minute of sacrifice of building my business, losing sleep and sometimes having my ‘feelings hurt.’ I can say that growing my business to the point of bringing my husband home to raise our family together has been worth every moment of uncertainty.
Knowing that my special needs son (now almost 17), has the therapy and school he needs, no matter the cost, makes my work worth it! Sponsoring 40 orphans a year, assisting in domestic and international adoptions and helping families fund their dreams of being matched with parent-less kids (like mine were), makes my work worth it. Providing my parents and in-laws with long-term care insurance so they will have many options as they age, makes my work worth it, and makes me proud to ‘show up’ for work every day, no matter how I ‘feel’. The truth is – I’ve evolved through 3 major businesses in the last 14 years, all very different from each other, and while I love my clients, customers and end-users, my work is worth it because of WHY I do it. Ultimately, I do it for my family, my community, my mission for matching kids with parents, and to honor my values and priorities. I believe my work is worth it no matter WHAT business I’m doing today or if I change to another form of work tomorrow.
Grant Wickes is with Wasp Barcode Technologies and here is his story.
Early in my working life, I was driven by personal gains and desire for advancement. This quickly faded as the enjoyment of understanding issues and helping solve problems rapidly became my motivating mission. It is now far more enjoyable to find ways to help others, watching the enjoyment and satisfaction of co-workers or customers as they achieve what they need and want.
Nancy Duarte is the founder of Duarte, Inc. and here is her story.
There’s a threshold I’ve crossed in my life where I’ve moved from working on my craft, to teaching my craft. Codifying my body of work and then releasing it to the world has brought me enormous joy and value to those who’ve applied the principles. I didn’t realize that giving away a body of work creates more demand for work for my firm, and also creates jobs. My work created demand for a creative service and visibility into an industry that was previously unknown. Not only do we employ over a hundred people, but hundreds of small presentation agencies have popped up that also serve in this new industry. All of that during an economic downturn. That’s worth it!
Now the company has grown large enough that I’ve filled many seats with people smarter than I am. I’m now able to do activities that feed my strengths each day. Daily the notes come in about a business that doubled, manager promoted, multi-million dollar deals closed, and lives altered, because you taught someone how to communicate their own value or the value of their firm. I must admit that the fan mail makes it worth it.
Jeff Walker is the founder of Product Launch Formula and here is his story.
When I started my business, it was out of desperation. I absolutely needed a change, and I needed to support my family. Over the years, my business and income grew, and a few years ago I went through a transition. It was no longer a question of supporting my family. I didn’t need to work anymore. Trust me, when you wake up one day and realize that you’ve reached all the business goals and the material goals that you ever thought you would reach in a lifetime – well, that’s a very strange and uncomfortable place.
When you don’t have to work anymore, what do you do? I’m not sure what you’ll do when you reach that spot (or, perhaps you already have?), but I started on a massive search for the meaning behind my business and my work – and what my “next chapter” would look like. This is what I found. I have two fundamental beliefs at the core of my business:
- Entrepreneurs are the future of this world – they are the agents of change, they create prosperity and progress, they create jobs. They drive commerce and trade – which are the true engines of peace, abundance, and increased living standards.
- Information businesses and online publishers are the future of education. Clearly there are many dedicated, hardworking, and talented teachers in our current education system. Unfortunately, that education system is largely broken; it can’t keep up with the pace of change in the current world. In almost any topic area, the most cutting-edge learning and training is found online, and that information is usually being created by small entrepreneurial online publishers.
My business and my work is all about training entrepreneurs (or would-be entrepreneurs) how to launch and grow their online businesses. Many of those businesses are information-based businesses where people are publishing about an area that they are an expert in or passionate about. What I do builds and supports entrepreneurs (the future of this world) and online publishers (the future of education).
Those are the two “big whys” behind what I do, and what gets me out of bed in the morning. (Somewhat tongue in cheek I sometimes say, this adds up to me working on “The Future of All Humanity”. There’s more than a little hyperbole in there, but also a bunch of truth.) I get the added benefit of what I call the “ripple effect”, as I help people build their businesses, I get to watch the positive impact they make in the world. So if I train 100 people, and each of their businesses help 1,000 people, then my work has now made a positive impact on 100,000 people. That kind of impact is downright intoxicating – and that’s what makes all the hard work worth it to me.
Neill Blokland is the founder of Guitar Theory Revolution and here is his story.
I get a couple of things out of this project (Guitar Theory Revolution). First of all, it helps me push myself to continually expand my knowledge about guitar playing and music theory. The second thing is a real satisfaction from helping people that have always struggled to understand music theory. It’s really cool to get e-mails and comments from people that have been playing for years for whom the lights have finally been switched off. The last one is that I enjoy the feeling of sticking it to the conventional music teachers who look down at any way of teaching that deviates from the piano paradigm that has been prevalent for hundreds of years. For some reason my unorthodox methods really rub them the wrong way. I guess I enjoy the feeling of going against the grain and getting better results because of it.