Make It Pay

I am coming to you from Londolozi South Africa where I am running our annual self-transformation adventure retreats. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

That last sentence was ironic. The fact is, of course, that I am bizarrely fortunate to be doing what I’m doing right now. That said, this good fortune came my way because my friends and I decided to make it happen. I just said “This is a tough job.” But of course, it’s not a job in the sense that most people use that word. I didn’t go down to the unemployment office in Phoenix where I live and ask an employment officer to please find me a job running luxury safaris in South Africa. I didn’t send out a bunch of resumes and out of the clear blue sky get an offer to do this for money.

Insofar as I can even call this a “job,” it’s a job I made up. I am continuously amazed by the way people frantically look for jobs when almost nobody likes them and they are going away. Most of the clients I’ve coached tell me two things: #1) They absolutely hated all the jobs they’ve done in their lives, and #2) They desperately need another one. This is insane, all by itself. The whole construct of a job is just a cultural anomaly that has existed for a brief period of history. We are problem-solving animals, born with brains that can make astonishing things like computers and Toll House cookies. Why in God’s name would such an astonishing creature submit to a lifetime of drudgery on the assumption that there is no other option, even when that option no longer works?

This may sound a little mercenary because of the way our culture deals with money (obsessing about it continuously without ever mentioning it out loud), but I’m going to say it anyway. Think of something you really really really love. Then repeat the following phrase in your mind: “Find a way to make it pay.”

You may think that the thing you love has no possibility of creating income. You may think your survival hinges on replicating what somebody else made up and labeled “job.” But do you know what that person was doing? He or she was thinking, “Find a way to make it pay.” All jobs are invented. And you can invent a job that has never existed before. In fact, this is the single most important skill you can have in the 21st century­—not to do a job but to invent a job.

Some people get so indignant, even enraged, when I talk this way. They say things like “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you had all the skills and training to do what you’re doing!” But I have trouble recalling even a single moment during my education and training when someone said, “Yes, a PhD in Sociology is just what you need to take groups of Americans rhinoceros tracking for considerable sums of money.”

You can find a way to make it pay.

You can find a way that serves the world, serves your customers, and serves your soul. The job you are meant to have has not yet been named. It has not yet been imagined. It is waiting in the confines of your own heart to take shape in the world of form. I’ll talk to you next month. Right now I’ve got a job to do. Those rhinoceroses are not going to track themselves.

Photos Courtesy of Susan Honnell (c) 2012

15 replies
  1. Terri Coleman
    Terri Coleman says:

    I just received the same blog that I received last week or the week before. Don’t get me wrong-I enjoy Martha’s writings-just not the same thing twice.

    • Editor
      Editor says:

      Hi Terri –

      You actually received Martha’s newsletter last week. I also post the letter from her newsletter as a blog to her website, so you received a copy of her blog into your inbox as well. We publish to her blog every two weeks or so.

      Jessica, Editor

  2. Rachel DuBois
    Rachel DuBois says:

    Thank you as always for sharing, especially the bit about "the job you are meant to have has not yet been named." For years after I read Finding Your Own North Star, I always got tripped up on the part where you're supposed to fill in the blank "I was always meant to be _______." Finally last year I realised I didn't need a label for it (though social entrepreneur comes closest), I just needed to do it. And now my answer to your latest question, "What do you really really love to do?" is "Bring a sense of magic to people's lives."

    And how do I make that pay? How do I make it real? In my case, it's wanting to create a lodge here in Scotland that has a touch of magic to it, that makes people feel a sense of belonging and wonder. Kind of like arriving at Hogwarts (assuming you like Harry Potter — even if you don't, try to imagine that giddy joy and delight). A place for the tribe to have a holiday that's about connecting with people you like, visiting a place that's beautiful and is a real community you can get to know, and knowing that all the profits from your stay go towards good causes.

    My husband and I are making it happen as I write this, so thank you Martha for helping me figure all of that out. You've been a wonderful guide.

  3. Sandra McCall
    Sandra McCall says:

    I have always been intrigued and amazed that everyone seems to be working in someone else’s job. The postal worker dreams of working as a stock-broker. the stock-broker dreams of a creative career. The artist dreams of a job with financial stability. .. and on and on.

    I like your ideas here. Good blog post.

  4. Chasing A Different Carrot
    Chasing A Different Carrot says:

    I whole heartily agree with how you look at what a job should or should not be. My wife and I recently left our teaching careers ( which we loved) for a life of homesteading. We travel to different properties and work for room and board. No money is exchanged at all. We supply some labor and the host supplies a roof and food. Currently we are in Ireland milking goats. We realized that our lives were built around work and instead chose to make work part of our lives. We see results now because we’re less dependent on the industrial economy. In fact we are working towards a gift economy. Money changes relationships and impacts community. My wife and I are inspired by those who live simply because the alternative is simply too complicated.

  5. Viki
    Viki says:

    This is so well timed. I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my life doing what I love…dancing, choreographing, teaching, writing, designing my own line of clothing. The end of my marriage, although my decision, disrupted my business and my life, and suddenly I was compelled to get a “job” to survive. I’ve been trying to find my way back to doing what I love, but I have had trouble figuring exactly what that is at this point in my life. I have had hints but no moment of “Aha! That’s what I’m supposed to/want to do!” I’m still working on it, but I have to pay the mortgage in the meantime, so I’m also looking for a “job”….

    • sss
      sss says:

      hi viki ~ i hope you don’t mind me butting in but you said you “have to” pay the mortgage. is that true? owning a home is not the same as surviving.

      you didn’t mention if you had kids or not.

      (quick note: i lost everything i owned last year except for my suitcase and a very few items of clothing and a friend bought me a new laptop out of the blue so i could keep working on music)

  6. Gandolfa Stegmann
    Gandolfa Stegmann says:

    I just read for the third or fourth time your column from the May, 2012, O magazine and want you to know it speaks to me at a level that calls my attention. I am 80 years on the calendar w. a mind that could be 60! thanks, Martha

  7. sss
    sss says:

    This post is giving me a stomach ache…lol. “Find a way to make it pay”…I think I’ll write that down and go to sleep. zzzzzzz……

    …find a way to make it pay….

  8. me
    me says:

    thanking god for you being born ms martha beck! I have suffered addictions and avoidance and i just love your output on these and many other issues… Thank You xo

  9. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    I’m definitely still trying to sort out exactly what I’d like to get paid for doing…but I think it has to do with teaching people about healthy relationships, so as to live in a community that comes from a place of nurturing. I love those lightbulb moments when people understand why a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault acted the way they did…and are now willing to behave differently. But really, I’d like to start younger, and have the community for children who have been abused to heal, and for the children who are exhibiting troubling behavior to be redirected.

  10. Anne
    Anne says:

    I have been trying to start a business based on my current profession and I have not really made inroads into it. I realise that this is because my heart and soul is not into it – I am not always keen on my job so why would I want to do it for myself even if that would bring greater financial rewards?
    I have been really stuck for a few years now deciding what I should do – the state of my bank balance indicates I need to do something! I have just kind of had an ‘aha’ moment that the ‘trying’ may be why I can’t decide what to do. Instead I am going to take Martha’s advice of ‘doing nothing’ and ‘lying down when I am tired’ in the hope that this will allow me to listen to what is really going on inside. When I take the pressure off, the panic about ‘what to do’ goes away. Lets hope ‘magic’ will follow…………….

  11. Marlie
    Marlie says:

    I am so interested, so there, so finding my way but even with my heart and soul into the magical wild world, I cannot afford her workshops or training that I sooo want to attend and get…manifesting a way to meet and hear her, have her as a guide, meet other masters, is what I am searching for…I feel compelled to get there, but it has become a paradox :)…I will continue to use my energy every day and hope the magic to be a real participant and touch the beauty of being in the presence of it all finds me. Are you listening universe, will you give me permission 🙂 Does anyone else have the money issue and can offer advice?

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