The Business of Life

Business is not synonymous with monetary profit. If you're in the rat race, your business is that of perpetuating the rat race and your profit is competitiveness, repetition, and conformity. If you're a couch potato, your business is that of being a couch potato and your profit is weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Usually you get to choose your business. If you don't want to build houses, you stay out of the business of carpentry. If you don't want to fix computers, you stay out of the business of information technology. If you don't want to live an unhealthy lifestyle and run circles around a cage, then you stay away from the couch and ignore the status quo.

But there is one business we're all running whether we choose to or not: the business of life. In this business, profit is the sustainable balance and welfare of everything that supports life. Since all other businesses rely on life, any business whose profit does not directly contribute to life is, in the long-run, harmful and unsustainable.

In the business of life, monetary profit means nothing. We cannot buy health, happiness, or social equality; we cannot buy a new Earth. In the business of life, we are the most valuable asset. Our value to this business comes from our ability to prioritize time and shape the world around us; to be selfless and compassionate; to put life, social equality, and the greater good of all humanity above everything else.

There is a private space company in the United States and a social enterprise in India, both whose top priorities are not monetary profit. Do they earn money? Yes. But both their founders will tell you that the businesses exist not for making money but for the people. They exist to serve as instruments and vehicles for advancing humanity. Their employees and investors understand and accept these priorities and many are willing to sacrifice personal gain for the greater good.

Whatever your business, shift the focus towards the greater good, towards that which you value instead of what everybody else seems to value. If your business supports other businesses who don't have a focus on life (the rat race comes to mind), then change your business. Instead of thinking in terms of monetary profit, think in terms of life profit. How can you leave a legacy that contributes to the long-term welfare of humanity? How can you contribute more to the business of life?

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  1. Work that contributes to the larger good is a blessing. Objections to it would be earning enough to sustain oneself. For instance, things like health, happiness, and social equality cannot be bought–but without sufficient income they are definitely difficult to come by. This is not an argument for the status quo, but rather that the solution is enough work contributing to enough good. We need more companies and individuals with the courage to operate on this model!

    • Meg, thank you so much for clarifying that. What I’m saying with this post isn’t that we should all just focus on the business of life and ignore everything else, but rather that we need to always keep the business of life in mind. The goal shouldn’t be to live without money, but rather to use that form of currency as a tool instead of a means to an end.

      As you said, the solution is in maintaining enough work. There needs to be a balance between personal welfare and social welfare, between environmental health and human progress.

      • Amen Raam! It is my opinion that most of the USA has sold out for the all mighty dollar, which has led us to the current economic situation. We all need to keep “The Business of Life” in mind.

    • You say that health, happiness and social equality are difficult to come by without sufficient income. I would argue that sufficient income does not guarantee these three things

  2. What an awesome post, Raam. I can see through your writings what some might consider a challenge. As with many of the other “empowered” writers that I follow, you bring forward questions and thoughts that drive the reader to live better, if not for the 2 or 3 minutes it takes to truly read each post. I am in between the couch potato and the do-er, I “couch it” for internet and coffee in the morning and evening, but for the “work hours” of the day, I’m jumpin’ and jiving with mother Earth. I hope to one day be able to get rid of that morning and evening “slump” and be “with it” 24/7.

    • Daniel, I think there is nothing more valuable than being aware of what we’re doing, fully conscious of our routines and what they mean to our life. The first step to change is recognizing that change is necessary so if want you to get rid of that slump, I have no doubt you’ll do it! 🙂

  3. Raam,

    This is such an important topic because it’s the underpinning of where we go astray. Ethical money making is a topic that’s been on my mind lately. I’m grateful that you are writing about right livelihood here. There is so much in each line here to contemplate! At the same time, I loved Meg’s injection of practical considerations!

    • Ethical money making has been on mind a lot too, Sandra. 🙂 I also loved Meg’s practical considerations: The goal shouldn’t be to throw out money and dismiss all forms of business except for the business of life. Instead we should change the focus of whatever business we’re in so that it can contribue to the improved welfare of all (including our own welfare!).

      While each of us will have different priorities in life, we all need to realize that the Earth and Life priority is universal; we’re all responsible for it.

  4. The seed surly must be in changing values. Until our thinking changes and we willing to place higher value on the greater good, how can anything change. Visibility, awareness, education all lend to the possibility of accepting different values. While I can only change my own attitudes, I can be part of “team awareness” with those in my realm. Today, I will think more about the greater good and implications in my “business of life”, and will endeavour to shed more light on the path. Thanks for the reminder RD!

    • It’s absolutely a team effort, Rosalind. Forcing others to live a sustainable lifestyle isn’t sustainable in and of itself — it must be a collective awakening, a shared change in values.

      Our individual choices contribute to the whole, so by starting with ourselves and sharing those changes with those around us, we collectively push things in a better direction. 🙂

  5. there was a scene in “pretty woman” where she asks edward, the billionaire, what does he do? he says he buys companies. no, what do you do? what do you make? “i make money.”
    and then he outmaneuvers an old gentleman and overtakes his struggling company. but he has seen the light. instead of dismantling it and turning it for profit…he has a change of heart for the old fellow and together they become excited to work together to make it a fine, productive place. (and in so doing, keeping the employees who have families to feed) etc.
    it was a small scene. but it was a turning point in his life.
    small honorable is probably more common. but hopefully big honorable common, won’t only be in the movies.
    i was glad to learn of it in this post. as usual… spot on!

    • That is exactly the kind of collective “light” we all need to see, Tammy. When enough of us see that the purely individual pursuits are, in the end, meaningless, then we will begin to form a collective “change of heart”.

      There’s nothing wrong with individualism, but when individualism trumps basic global social equity, our very existence becomes unsustainable.

  6. Fasnaring post. Avary interesting way to look at life. I find myself thinking not only of how a persons endeavers can benefit life but how we might grow beyound our fiat currencies to mutual credit systems or perhaps some form of gift economy.

    I find that playing my music on the Santa Cruz wharf does not bring in a livihood it does spread some joy and that makes me happy as well. Until I can get a new laptop and work out how I will record and market my music I will have to hope that the government handout will survive long enough to enable me to get by.

    • The future of currency is definitely an interesting subject, Gary. I don’t see how we can transition from our current currency system to a gift economy, as nice as that would be. However, I think there is definitely potential for an alternate currency (perhaps something like BitCoin).


  • Ash June 21, 2011

    RT @raamdev: The Business of Life

  • Kolayotunde June 21, 2011

    RT @raamdev The Business of Life

  • MAFTOWN.COM June 21, 2011

    ~ Whatever your business, shift the focus towards the greater good, towards that which you value instead of what…

  • Ags June 21, 2011

    RT @raamdev The Business of Life <–profit over quality, over people, is no profit at all.

  • Evita Ochel June 21, 2011

    RT @raamdev The Business of Life <–profit over quality, over people, is no profit at all.

  • Jeanie Witcraft June 21, 2011

    RT @raamdev The Business of Life <–profit over quality, over people, is no profit at all.

  • Mil Lindhgren June 21, 2011

    RT @raamdev: The Business of Life