The Promise of the You Economy: It’s Not About You

There’s a bit of a misunderstanding about the promise of the You Economy.

It’s not all about you: your self-worth, your passion, your personal brand.

It’s about your power to create and offer something of lasting value. It’s about your ability to contribute to things that are bigger than yourself. It’s about your access to the machinations of commerce.

My friend Amanda Steinberg, who is also the founder & CEO of the financial education company you simply must subscribe to, wrote recently of the proliferation of personal brands in the wake of the solo entrepreneurship craze.

She describes it–and I squealed when I read this–as a “torrent of social media one-upmanship.” It’s a race for the funkiest website, the hippest photos, the most profound tweets, the cleverest pins, the most raw Facebook updates.

Stand out, or stand down.

And she’s right. It’s a mess.

The You Economy doesn’t promise that you can get paid to be you. It doesn’t guarantee that you can make money & follow your passion.

The You Economy promises that you have the chance to create something that makes others lives meaningfully better.

You can harness your passion, your personality, your pizzazz to realize that imperative but those things are no substitute for stick-to-your-ribs value.

If you’ve found yourself in the one-upmanship game of personal branding or the race to social media stardom, it doesn’t mean your business is doomed. But it does mean you need to stop–today–and evaluate the value your business is creating.

Escape “digiphoria; the cold, joyless comfort of softly glowing screens.”

Venture into the pursuit of something real.

Click to tweet!

What are you pursuing? What keeps you up at night? How does that drive you to serve? To create? To question?

The You Economy has asked you to show up. Not just as you are, but in pursuit of the solution to a problem, the answer to a question, the fulfillment of a desire.

Will you rise to the occasion?

The Danger of Searching for Your One True Love

I wandered for years wondering if I would “find my passion.” I often worried that I had found it & then let it slip away.

In college, I drifted through different parts of ministry & academia. After college, I research & compared graduate degree programs of all stripes. Even after I decided to strike out on my own, I kept looking for my one true love.

Finally, an idea that filled a need propelled me to action.

Action was the solution.

The danger of looking for your one true love, your one true passion is that there’s an assumption that there is a single purpose to your life and that that single purpose can be be fulfilled by a single interest.

Your passion is not “an interest.”

You have interests – maybe military history, orchids, or gluten-free vegan cookies – and some of those interests may stick with you your whole life. Others come & go. Sometimes your interests cultivate new skills and sometimes they are new skills.

Your interests may be hobbies or you may have incorporated them into your work or career. They may be solitary or things you enjoy with family or friends. You might be categorized or labelled by your interests.

But in the end, your interests do not define you. They are a channel through which you express yourself. Your interests provide focus and context for what drives you.

Your passion is also not “an opportunity.”

No one is coming to knock at your door with your passion packaged in the form of an opportunity, tied with a bow. It’s not a one-night stand that turns into a long-term relationship. In the end, passion creates opportunities; it isn’t defined by them.

So what needs to be discovered when passion feels lost?

Passion is movement. Action. Momentum.

Passion is life force. It’s drive. Ambition.

When you ask how to find your passion you are asking because you’ve either lost – or never had – the drive, action, and momentum that creates the big things you desire.

I know this feeling. It felt equally like settling down and giving up.

It feels comfortable.

But work & action in the midst of passion feels reckless. It feels dangerous. It hurts so good.

When was the last night you stayed up all night because you were so excited by what you were working on? When was the last time your friends had to tell you they wanted to talk about something other than your next big thing? When was the last time you practically vibrated with the anticipation of your “work?”

That’s passion. The tingling in your fingertips, the fizzling in your brain.

Your passion may spring up out of a multitude of interests. Or there may be one source of this drive. But, don’t confuse passion with the interest itself.

When it comes to harnessing passion in a venture, it’s not your interest that is most important. It’s the drive. Don’t worry so much about discovering what drives you as the drive itself.

Get swept up. Follow the current where it wants to take you.

And stop looking for your one true love.

The risk of realizing your potential and the opportunity of disaster

“High tolerance for risk.” It’s a qualification for hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. But you?

Most think entrepreneurship is a relatively risky endeavor. Steady pay checks, job descriptions, chains of command, succession plans, and – don’t forget – the unemployment safety net provides much more of a “sure thing.”

I’ve never thought of myself as being especially risk-tolerant. At the same time, I rarely perceive risk. I have always been a fan of worst case scenarios. If I can imagine the worst case scenario and imagine living through that, how risky could something really be? And really what can’t we live through?

But risk is really a matter of perspective. It is the awareness that, while potential is a constant, our actions have the capacity – and the will – to take us step by step, foothold by foothold, towards our of desires.

What I have learned through my own series of risky actions – buying a business, writing ebooks, transitioning brands, hosting a high end live event… – is that the outcome of any “risky” decision is rarely beyond the scope of my own actions. I will make the calls I need to make, write the emails I need to make, produce the content, close the sale, push through the barrier. It’s the risk – or its perception – that allows me to better understand the capacity of my own will and desire.

Of course, embracing risk on the basis of my own merit flirts with the potential for control issues. Yep, got those too. So I balance the knowing of my own actions with the unknowing of what opportunities disaster could bring. And yes, that is quite a happy way to live life.

I know that in disasters there is pain, heartbreak, financial hardship. But there is also revelation and revolution.

A revolution is a way of being that becomes a significantly better way of doing.
– Danielle LaPorte, The Fire Starter Sessions

The perception of risk – of the potential for true loss – fades a way when this balance is understood. The way up is yours to climb. The fall down presents its own glorious uncertainty.

Focus your awareness on the beauty of this balance.

Risk falls away.

You will endure.


Today, my friend and partner-in-crime at Reclaiming Wealth, Adam King, is releasing his new book. It’s called Entrepreneurship at Your Own Risk. It’s a personal narrative of risk-taking & shifting perception that is colored by interviews with 7 entrepreneurs, including Jonathan Fields, Mark Silver, and… me!

Pick up your copy today.

Creating community & conversation around controversial topics: Interview with Ev’Yan Whitney

What happens when a casual lifestyle blogger realizes her real calling is learning about & exploring sexuality online? A new blog is born, naturally.

Sex Love Liberation is that blog.

I’ve had my eye on the creator of Sex Love Liberation, Ev’Yan Whitney, for a year now and had the pleasure of meeting and talking with her last year at the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, her home base.

Ev’Yan is a beautiful combination of openness and strength, quiet and candidness. Her site is provocative but never vulgar. It attracts an incredibly diverse audience that comes to learn, listen, explore, and contribute from their own experiences. Her site fosters both public & private conversation.

Sex Love Liberation is a beacon of hope in a sea of sameness.

And that’s why I think it’s such an important You Economy story. I wanted to explore the motivation behind Sex Love Liberation and the experience of running a site based on such a controversial (from so many angles!) topic.

N.B. Our conversation discusses the topic of sex but not the actual content of her site. You might not want to listen to the video at work — but we’re certainly not talking about anything even remotely inappropriate!


  • Sex Love Liberation is actually a refinement of your original personal blog, right? Tell me about how you came to honing your message down to that simple credo. (00:42)
  • How do you prepare yourself first for the difficult task of putting controversial ideas out to the public and then for the thankless exercise of receiving the response? (02:43)
  • “Take the criticism without letting it seep into your bones.” (5:18) Click to tweet!
  • Welcome the discussion. Ruffle feathers. Make people think. (7:15) Click to tweet!
  • SLL attracts an extremely diverse audience. Did you have a strategy for attracting so many different types of people? How do you foster the conversation between them? (7:30)
  • Where do you see your movement & your business 6-18 months down the road? (14:01)

Discover more about Ev’Yan at Sex Love Liberation and follow her on Twitter @ev_yan.

Please share this interview with your network by using one (or more!) of the buttons below.

In search of transcendent commerce & immanent value: an exploration of faith & business

Money is a religion.

That’s not a condemnation of our consumer society. It’s just a fact.

What is religion? Let me break out my diploma and tell you that there is no good definition of religion. So you must craft something that describes how you engage with religious beliefs – your own or others.

I’m inclined to start with a definition of religion proposed by Dr. John D Caputo, of Syracuse University. Religion is:

…something simple, open-ended, and old-fashioned, namely, the love of God.

In this case, “God” is a word that stands for your higher power. It could be a personal god or it could be an idea, object, or belief that you hold higher than any other.

A definition like this one makes it clear: there is a religion of money.

Money is both an object of faith – you don’t think those bills in your wallet are actually worth something, do you? – and a system for guiding our behavior – we do what we need to do to get the money we “need.”

We put faith in the fact that the number in the corner of a paper bill is what the bill is actually worth. We put faith in the idea that a plastic rectangle means we will pay what we owe. We put faith in the check that we get at the end of each week.

On the flip side, money guides everything we do. It is its own set of commandments. Thou shalt get a job. Thou shalt pay the bills. Thou shalt save for retirement. Thou shalt buy a [car, house, appliances, etc…]. If you break a commandment, society tells you about it.

Understanding money as a religion – even a poor one – has helped me to better understand the nature of pricing, become more comfortable with exchanging money for service in a transaction, and develop a philosophy for commerce that extends past my own business.

So if money is a religion, how does my own faith affect the way I make money?

Perhaps more important to me & my angle on the conversation:

How does my philosophy of religion affect my philosophy of business?

My philosophy of religion stems from the work I did in college. I studied the thread of the Reformation that eventually became Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s idea of “religionless Christianity.”

Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor & theologian. He was also a committed pacifist who was involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. He was hung for his crime days before his prison camp was liberated. He’s a complex dude.

While he sat in Tegel Prison, Bonhoeffer began to construct a theology of “religionless Christianity.” While the title may be provocative, the premise is simple:

Jesus is there only for others … The church is the church only when it exists for others.

The system of religion that Bonhoeffer saw all around him was one in which the self was the center. I do this, I am absolved, I become closer to God.

He found this counter to the message of Jesus, to the core of Christianity.

While the work was not completed before his death, Bonhoeffer sought to strip the religious “system” of me-centered rites & rituals and turn to a simple code of “live for others.”

See where I’m going? Bonhoeffer was building a you-centered faith.

It’s no wonder that I see the emerging economy as you-centered, other-centered. It’s no wonder that I am convinced that the path to personal success is paved with other-centered business practices.

Bonhoeffer’s gospel was very much a social gospel. But even more, it was a community gospel. It was a simple prescription for creating communities that worked. His work begs the question: how can we be uncared for if it’s everyone’s desire to care for those around them?

Expressing yourself and your love & gratitude for a higher power becomes an intimate, connected experience between people, here & now.

Why should commerce be any different? Why rely on a system of investments, operating budgets, and procedure to dictate the credibility of a particular business?

What if we remove the barriers to commerce – to connection – and engage each other as individuals with immanent value?

Who needs the old system of business, commerce, and consumption when we can strip that all away and create more meaningful transactions (connections) between each other as human beings?

Click to tweet the word!

Just as the truth of your own faith – whatever it might be – is found in your own experience, the truth of your own business is found in its ability to connect people and highlight their own value.

Your position as “business owner” in the You-Centered Economy is inherently other-focused. You are in business for the benefit of others. The rewards you reap are directly related to your ability to shine your light on those you serve.

When viewing business through the eyes of faith, you can put money back in its place. You can remove money from the realm of religion and see it, instead, as a representation of exchange, a currency for action.

Money is a symbol – a representation of meaning – of the connections we are creating. First, create connection. Second, assign appropriate value to that connection. Third, exchange the currency. Money merely stands in place. The meaning stands on its own.

Invest in connection, spend the dividends.

Just as our faith transcends the actions we perform on others behalves, our value transcends the transaction & the currency exchanged. Yet both of these scenarios are dependent on the immanence of human connection.


If you enjoyed this post and are hungry for more, check out my posts Stop Trying to Make Money From Your Passion and Towards You-Centered Economics.

Would love to see your thoughts & reflections on this on Twitter. Use the hashtag #youeconomy!

You are the New Economy: Meaning, Experience, and Connection as Commerce in the 21st Century

To make it really work, we might need a new indie economics (of creativity and innovation), plus a new indie set of political policies.
— Bruce Nussbaum, Fast Company Design

I’m nailing my theses to the NYSE door. This is economic Reformation.

What is the New Economy?

What Nussbaum terms “indie economics,” I call “you-centered economics.”

You are not used to being at the center of the economy. You have not been the linchpin of economic growth. You have been a mere cog in the machine. You were a commodity to be traded.

You are becoming the heart & soul of a new engine of economic growth. You are influencing giant corporations through your words & actions. You are forming microbusinesses and taking earning into your own hands. You are less dependent on “the system” and more dependent on your community.

But “you” doesn’t just mean you. You is also “the other.”

When you make business decisions, you not only think of “me,” you consider the “we.” It’s not enough to make a business decision for your own singular benefit, you make business decisions that serve others as well.

You understand that a business is nothing if it doesn’t serve a greater good. All business is social entrepreneurship, to you. All business has an obligation to create a legacy of sustainability, creativity, innovation, and service.

Businesses serve people. People do not serve businesses.

Global is the new local.

Indie economy is local. They are small scale. They are built on relationships, trust, and mutual appreciation. They find power in the individual and growth in the community.

Indie economy is global. Communities are no longer limited to location. Convenience is no longer defined by how quickly you can get there in your car. Accessibility is no longer constricted by long-distance phone calls and postage stamps.

Businesses operating in the You-centered Economy realize that community is connected through values, purpose, and affinity. What we have in common is more important than where we live. The internet is a tool for intimacy and connection not a weapon of anonymity.

Local economies have gone global. Global economies are local.

Are you a member of the Entrepreneurial Generation?

Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms.
— William Deresiewicz, New York Times

This generation – defined again by affinity and not by year of birth – is attracted to small business as our chief medium of expression. Entrepreneurship is a manifestation of the commerce culture we grew up in, heightened by an ever-increasing accessibility to the engines of that commerce.

Entrepreneurs are not just salesmen. We see entrepreneurs as innovators (bringing us one step closer to the realm of science fiction), beacons of hope (business brings change – for good or bad), and a key check in a system that is increasingly without checks.

By becoming entrepreneurs, we’re inserting ourselves in a system that we don’t fully understand – because we crave the connection. We crave the understanding. We crave a different way.

It’s not that we hate consumption – it’s that we hate what consumption looks like now. It’s not that we hate big business – it’s that we hate what big business looks like now.

The Entrepreneurial Generation is one that still has hope – despite college loan debt and a poor economy. We have hope that we are a part of the change.

Entrepreneurs are artists, reformers, saints, and scientists. We are innovators, communicators, leaders, and visionaries. We are attracted to business not because it is business but because of what business allows us to accomplish, how it allows us to express ourselves. Click to tweet it!

It’s the fierce ideals & vision of this kind of entrepreneur – paired with infinite accessibility to communication – that are propelling her & her generation towards affluence.

The bellwethers of a New Economy entrepreneur…

New Economy entrepreneurs are always looking for the triple bottom line: profit, people, planet. They believe individualism can coexist with collectivism. That sustainability can coexist with growth.

New Economy entrepreneurs value themselves and the work that they do. They are so over the romantic notion of the starving artist. They set prices and work in business models that reflect a desire for quality over quantity. They understand just how special their product or service is in the lives of those they serve.

New Economy entrepreneurs seek purpose & meaning in everything they do. Instead of asking themselves “What?” they ask “Why?” Instead of seeking to fill a need, they seek to create an experience.

New Economy entrepreneurs pursue mistakes. Why play it safe when you can challenge yourself? Why default to status quo when you can invent a new standard?

New Economy entrepreneurs are more interested in what they don’t know than what they do. Business is a learning opportunity. Customer service is an education. Sales is scholarship.

New Economy entrepreneurs embrace the quirks of a niche. They’re not in the people-pleasing business. They’re in the right-people-pleasing business. They don’t walk on the eggshells of the mass market. They look for ways to crack all the right eggs. They invite others to crack eggs with them. Mostly from free-range chickens.

New Economy entrepreneurs understand that there are infinite choices. There is no such thing as competition in the New Economy, only opportunities for differentiation.

Towards a Connected Economy

Why now? The sense of disconnection has reached a boiling point.

The average consumer is tired of being thought of as a wallet to be put to use by government policy, big business, and corporate fat cats. It’s a system based on disconnecting us from our humanity.

We crave the connection – with ourselves and with each other. We crave control. But, ultimately, we crave our divine creative power.

As we reconnect with our creative power – as artists, makers, developers, writers, philosophers, designers… – we have discovered the need for critical selling. Critical selling is the process by which we examine our output in the marketplace. It connects our humanity with others. And it does so in the universal language of our times: money.

This is the You-Centered Economy. This is the commerce of connection, meaning, and experience. This is how you & I do business. Click to tweet it!