Suffocating Choices: Making a Living vs. Making a Killing vs. Making a Difference– Wake-up; You Are What You Do…

Making a living & making a killing & making a difference. “I do everything I love; end of story. There is nothing I don’t do that I don’t enjoy doing, and I don’t feel guilty for it.” ~Scotty Hicks

Making a living, making a killing, making a difference. ‘Make a living, not a killing’ has appeared on signs in the 2011 ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests. The saying plays upon the slang use of ‘make a killing’ (i.e., a large, quick profit). Make a killing –to have great success, especially in making money. Killing, n. –A large profit; a quick and profitable success in business, etc. (slang).

In the article “Making a Living… Or” by Dan Miller writes: How many times have you heard someone say about their work; Well, at least– I’m making a living.’ Maybe it would be more accurate to say– ‘I’m making a dying.’ The work they describe is unfulfilling, boring, and stressful.  They dread going to work on Monday morning, and every other morning.  Often they are embarrassed about their work and admit readily they are doing nothing meaningful; only extracting a paycheck in exchange for their time.

If you’re caught up in the typical American view of work you may say you’re ‘making a living’ when in truth something inside you is being killed each day.  Every day, millions of people rush to get to jobs they don’t love and yet those people defend their choices as responsible, practical, and realistic. How can it be responsible to live the biggest part of our lives devoid of meaning, joy, and purpose?

‘Making a Living’ implies that you are releasing those skills and talents that make you fully alive.  Doing work where the time just flies by; work that you would want to do even if you were not paid for it; work that is meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful, and profitable. In a recent newsletter by Rick Warren, he writes: “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work.” How do you like that? Have you been worn out at work lately?

Did you know that you’ve just been put in the category of being ‘too stupid to find your way home?’ Well, maybe that’s a little harsher than it was intended, but I like the message. Don’t be so busy trying to ‘make a living’ that you’re too busy to ‘make a life’. And I have not yet begun to describe what most people are doing to themselves when they think they’re ‘making a killing’

In the article Making a Living vs. Making a Killing: Creating a Healthy Democratic Foundation for Economies” by Zeus Yiamouyiannis writes:  Everybody says they want free enterprise in a democratic market exchange economy that seeks to maximize life engagement, enjoyment, responsibility, and fulfillment. So how come we are currently stuck with the opposite? How could the laziest, least inventive, most crony-connected, monolithic, and parasitic companies siphon up the cash, feast on the bailouts of the industrious, and make it more difficult for us to live a good life?

It was not supposed to happen this way, but it did, and it continues to persist. Part of the problem is that ‘prosperity’ has been degraded and falsified and been made synonymous with getting your ‘goodies’; profits, entitlements, benefits, windfalls, special favors, and bonuses. Real prosperity created from effort has withered and needs to be revived. We can see with our own eyes that productivity, ingenuity, diversity, and diligence have been either given lip service or taken a good beating in the face of rewarded fraud and self-indulgent consumption.

This needs to be inverted.  We can also notice how this latest mutation of capitalism has grown to encompass the global system, since most citizens from Greece to America to China fell for the ‘too good to be true’ hype including, promises of never-ending stratospheric government benefits and forever skyrocketing housing prices and stock valuations. ‘Don’t work for a living. Let your money work for you’, became the new mantra. Contributing to society, applying oneself, and caring for others became quaint notions for old-fashioned dupes.

Now that we have tasted the fruits of this false prosperity and experienced the consequent world-wide indigestion, what should be done? I assert that whatever we do requires a different foundation that rewards and supports productively adding to economies (‘making a living’) and discourages using the levers of society to parasitically subtract from productive growth (‘making a killing’).

‘Making a living’ does not need to be eking out survival at an underwhelming job. It can and should mean literally what it says; ‘making a life’ with all the most energetic and interactive tools at our disposal. ‘Making a killing’ should not be the ‘I’ve hit the jackpot’ bounties that people pretend, either. It can and should mean what it literally says; ‘killing the economy and people’s well-being’…

In the article In Praise of Small Success” by Dustin Wax writes: Everyone these days is chasing after the billion-dollar idea. We look at the giants in the technology industry – Google, Yahoo, eBay, even Microsoft – and see companies that only a few years or decades ago were tiny startups struggling to get by. When they hit, they hit big, and made their owners more money than anyone on Earth had ever dreamed of having. Good for them.

But their success has radically distorted the way most people look at their own lives, businesses, and prospects. The Google model of success is great– hooray them! But frankly, it’s a little irrelevant. Most of us won’t have a billion-dollar idea. And even if we do, we’ll have it at the wrong time without the resources to make it a billion-dollar company. And you know what? That’s fine. Peruse the shelves of your local bookstore’s business section and you’ll see book after book analyzing, studying, describing, and generally fawning over the huge success stories.

They all claim the same thing: follow the example of Apple, Starbucks, GM, Warren Buffett, or whomever and you, too, can be successful. Don’t follow their example, and you’re… well, doomed to failure. Few companies ever operate at the scale that the business gurus’ plot success at. And few of us need the kind of validation that building a billion-dollar business, or even that a million-dollar business provides. I’m speaking out in praise of small success: ‘Making a living’– a good, solid, stable living– doing something you love.

It’s a living built on community-mindedness, social spirit, and a solid relationship with the people who buy or use your work. Yes, it means giving up the ability to ‘monetize’ every interaction between a potential customer and whatever it is you make. But in return you gain the ability to focus on the thing you love, and the value it brings to other people’s lives, instead of the bottom line. Most of the business books on the shelves, and most of the businesses functioning in our contemporary society, don’t have that luxury.

They’re not focused on ‘making a living’ but on ‘making a killing’– bringing in the big bucks, milking whatever they’ve got for whatever it’s worth… More importantly, the ‘making a killing’ approach really is killing. Celebrate the little successes, and for most of us, they are more than enough to lead us to happy, healthy, and in the end regret-free lives…

In the articleMaking a Living is Killing You” by Gino Lomelino writes: How many times have you heard someone use a phrase such as ‘it’s a living’ or ‘keeping my head above water’ when referring to their job? What do you think when you hear it? Do you think that person enjoys devoting the majority of their waking life to that activity? Or do you think there are things they’d much rather be doing? Lately, when I hear phrases such as ‘making a living’, it triggers an instinctive disgust; a reflexive backlash against wasting my life.

I understand that everyone needs money, but to say that you’re doing something to ‘make a living’ doesn’t imply that you’re actually doing anything meaningful in your life. It’s settling for mediocrity; the equivalent of giving up on life. That’s not to say that the act of ‘making a living’ is bad in itself. There are valid reasons that you could be doing something you don’t enjoy at the moment.

For instance, if you can honestly say ‘I’m doing X to support my passion of Y’, that’s more than just ‘making a living’. So how do you go from ‘making a living’ working a job you despise or just aren’t interested and pour yourself into something you’re passionate about?  Take stock of your life. In order to improve anything, it’s necessary to understand what’s wrong…

One of the greatest things about the Internet is that it has opened up a new world of possibilities for people who want to pursue their passions. It has removed a large portion of the wall that kept people from pursuing their interests. Activities which were once hobbies can now become small businesses. Whether you want to ‘make a living’ doing something you hate or you’d rather put your time and energy toward something you love is ultimately up to you…

What is the economy and society meant to serve? What is most fulfilling and important in life? According to Zeus Yiamouyiannis: When asked these questions for themselves and their societies, most people offer answers like: health, family, community, friendship, love, learning, creativity, collaboration, liberty, new experiences, diversity, meaningful work, cultural enjoyment, literacy, curiosity, responsibility, spirituality, faith, and so forth.

If you ask those same people how much time, energy, and money they are spending enacting these practices, principles, and values, the answer would likely be (if they were honest), comparatively little. Aristotle said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do’. ‘Making a difference’ is ‘making a life,’ adding something to an economy, providing a necessary good or service that enhances survival and thriving. In ‘making a difference’, you are producing something for exchange.

You are not merely consuming, nor are you merely taking up space, pushing paper, selling snake oil, or exploiting other people’s production. In other words, you cannot ‘make a difference’ by simply being self-serving. You have to provide something of real value to others.

“‘Making a living’ is doing something you care about, enjoy, or are passionate about. Wake-up and smell the flowers! Have your cup of coffee and feel the excitement of the day!” ~ John Evans