Know your endgame before you start playing

Are you looking to make money selling things or are you looking to make the world a better place with what you make?

It’s an honest question and the two options are very different.

PSST: Stop guessing when I publish new posts and get articles like this in your inbox every Sunday.

The latter involves being interested in giving value to someone other than yourself. The former involves doing anything and everything to add zeroes to your bank account.

Neither option is inherently wrong either. They just involve different strategies for execution and different metrics to evaluate success or failure.

If you’re simply looking to make money, the strategy basically comes down to getting what you’ve made in front of as many people, as often as possible—showing them how their life isn’t complete until they’ve clicked PURCHASE. You need to do what it takes to get attention and close sales. Success is much easier to measure too—you simply look at how much money you make. Did it cover the costs of making it? Does it cover your livelihood and expenses? Awesome – you win and you’re a success.

If you’re looking to make the world better with what you’ve made, it’s a little more difficult. Just because you want to make things better doesn’t mean the universe will align and market your product on SnapChat for you or allow you to manifest an audience through the power of patchouli.

Making the world a better place through the work you put out into it starts with you and how you answer the tough questions. Do you actually like the work you’re doing? Does it align with a greater purpose in your life? Is the message behind what you’ve made bigger than what you’ve made? Are you truly stoked to make it?

People are attracted to excitement, so if you’re genuinely excited about something, others will take notice. Real excitement is contagious, like the flu (but with less sniffling).

Though making something that makes things better doesn’t stop with you. It also includes being super valuable and in service of others. What about your work helps the audience it’s for? What about your work makes their life better? What about your work makes them truly stoked? Because when they’re excited, others will take notice of that too.

Measuring the success of making things that make the world better is also a little muddy. There are several key performance indicators (KPIs) involved, each of them based on your own unique purpose and passion. Sure, money or revenue can be a part of it, but they’re not the only indicators. How much did you enjoy the process of creation, regardless of the outcome? How much did other people enjoy what you made, regardless of the volume (as in, maybe only 3 people bought it, yet all of them used it in a way that positively changed their lives).

In measuring success this way, it’s fairly easy to succeed as well – you make work you love that’s lined up with your purpose and valuable to the audience it’s for. So, did you like making it and did another person like consuming it? Awesome – you win and you’re a success.

We get caught up and stuck in our thoughts when we change gears in our focus, or when we try to measure success for both types of work for the same product.

If you’re in it to make the world better and you only look at money, you’re doing your work and process a horrible disservice. Similarly, if you’re in it to make money and you feel unexcited or uninspired, you’re also doing that work and yourself a horrible disservice too.