A few nights ago, my husband handed me a book he thought I might be interested in reading. It was a book that even just three years ago, I would’ve loved to dig into. An autobiography of one of the great businessmen of this century, a look into how the greats got it done.

Who would ever want to pass that up?

Well, I passed it up in a heartbeat.

A couple of years ago, I read a couple of those biographical business books, and I loved them all. Learning the business lingo was exhilarating, but the best part was always learning about the person’s personal life.

Wow, they had a childhood, too! They really started as a janitor? They struggled as common-folk?

It was all very enlightening — it even made me feel like I had a chance at doing something great in this world. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

Except I always was sorely disappointed when the details of the same great businessmen’s personal lives turned more shoddy than I expected. Divorces, cheating, inflated egos, ridiculous promo sponsorships, and more.

As my husband handed me the book, I read the front cover.

I turned to him and said,

“Isn’t it awesome that businesspeople nowadays are programmed differently? They’re following passion, not necessarily a quick buck. Maybe it’s their purpose that has made them inherently better people? Maybe its more transparency in a digital world?”

I handed the book right back. It’s great to learn from the greats and our elders, but for some reason, I’ve decided to spend more time learning how its done now — by people who have made it in this new world of users over money.

Leaders have changed. No matter the reason, it is awesome.

Maybe you agree with me or not. Maybe you know some really money-hungry businesspeople.

I think we all know that kind of person. The great thing is — we don’t want to be like them.

I actually believe that. And there may be absolutely no hard evidence to prove that purpose-driven business people today are better human beings than the fortune-seekers of yore, but I believe it.

I believe it because I’m living it.

I know a lot of people out there making gazillions of dollars, sitting in their gold-laden high-rise apartments and drinking substances that cost more than what I make in a month.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. 

But I also know tons of people sitting in coffee shops, working hard, developing their killer ideas, and loving every minute of it. Even if they make less than any corporate job would afford them.

Sure, some passion-fueled entrepreneurs make great money — but that isn’t a bad thing. Passion and money don’t have to be completely separate. In my opinion, combining them is more the goal, no?

What does this mean for the world?

Whether you believe it or not, things in the world are a-changin’. What I read in a recent New York Times article struck a chord. It said that kids nowadays are being born with a more clear view of what is essential.

I bet kids don’t think big board rooms and expense accounts are “essential”. I think they never did.

What’s changing is that kids are maintaining their view of what is essential. As we all grow up, we are taking our priorities with us.

No way I’d take an expense account over the freedom and flexibility to spend Mother’s Day with my mommy (which I did this year).

But we’re clear on the fact that, in order to keep a lifestyle that is flexible and fun, our work has to be sustainable, as well. If our priorities are straight, it’s not about racking up the beans — it’s about having enough beans to continue doing what we love how we love to do it.

How do we make passion sustainable?

In my case, I love to write. My goal is to make my writing sustainable — to make enough money through my writing to allow myself to write more and more every day. If I make my passion sustainable, I can dedicate more time to it — without going hungry, of course.

Here are some tips that have led me along my path to sustainability, and made me feel more fulfilled in business in the process:

1. Write down what makes you curious and excited.

Being aware of yourself and your emotions sounds corny and trite, but we all have something more to learn about ourselves. Do the world a favor, and take note of what truly drives you most.

When you think back to the last few months, which experiences stand out the most? What was the last thing you did that made you throw your arms up in the air with accomplishment? What activities feel exhilarating and fun?

More importantly, when you have free time, what is the first thing you turn to —the computer, a notebook, videos, music, friends, family, etc?

2. Be as useful as possible.

Passion and curiosity is important, but so is making your work useful. Without being useful, there’s little chance people will want to, well, pay you for it.

You’re useful to people as long as you are one step ahead of them. If you know one tiny bit more than they do on what they need, you’re useful and can make that help sustainable.

3. Make sure everyone knows it.

Once you know what you love to do and once you have made yourself useful to them, they have to know you exist. The best way to do that is to analyze this:

When people think of your industry or your niche, are you among the top 10 people they think of?

Becoming top of mind is the most important. Keep yourself aiming for that goal, and you won’t falter.

I haven’t yet found my way to becoming this kind of sustainable new business person, but I am trying. Every unconventional step I take gets me one inch closer to sustainability, to success, to inspiring others along the way.

It’s hard, but it’s been exhilarating and so worth it.

While business will always deal with money, new types of leaders are emerging that put meaning and passion over just paying the bills. What’s your take on this new type of business leader? Do you recognize them around you, in your workplaces and in your social circles?

If you aren’t one already, would you like to be?

(Photo credit: Thumbs up via Shutterstock)

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