Raking it in without
breaking your soul

To What End?

The best guidance my therapist ever gave me was through posing this question: To what end?

I musta been on a typical complaint about being stressed from work. Work I love. Work I made, since I started my own company. But still. So much of it.

She asked: To what end? Why are you working so much?

Me: So that I can save the world and help people and make a bunch of money along the way.

Her: To what end?

See, the world will never be “saved.” At least not by me. Not in this lifetime.

The number of people I could potentially help is well beyond my capacity, even if I grew a staff of 10,000. I’ll never be able to help them all.

And the money? You know it’ll only take you so far.

So… what’s the end game?

Up until that point, my loosely-defined goal was “as much as possible.” Let’s aim for infinity and make the journey fun.

Except that’s not reality. When you’re doing this:

Hungry Cbs GIF by Paramount+ - Find & Share on GIPHY

It doesn’t matter if the chocolates are worlds to save, lives to improve, or dollars in your bank account, you get sick. It’s gross.

This is how you burnout.

“To what end?” forced me to think about a better defined business goal. Because your goal ultimately shapes your day-to-day.

Thoughtful small businesses usually have one of three major end goals:


In this model, you’ll ultimately plan to sell your company and its intellectual property to someone else. If you’re running for this goal, you’ll likely focus on creating processes you can patent, you’ll trademark things, you’ll strive to product-ize your work.

The more systems you create, the faster someone else can step in and pick up right where you left off. And the easier it will be to get a valuation and enter into buy out talks.

Your day-to-day includes innovating new things and making them replicable and marketable. You might have staff implementing your established processes, but it’s also likely that you have a lot of folks in research and development, testing new patentable ideas.

Think of any tech start up on the West Coast and you’ve probably got a company with a Sell goal.

Though my financial planner has been pressing me to think of selling upon retirement, I’ve never considered that to be my goal for Evergreen Data.


Entrepreneurs focused on making a legacy will spend more of their time building a reputation.

That could look like heavy engagement in thought leadership or book writing. Sure, some thing might get trademarked in the process but that thing is inherently tied to its inventor.

Or it could be more like focusing on an extremely high quality deliverable that makes you incredibly attractive and memorable.

For example, I’m thinking of a dear elder in my family who started an architectural and engineering firm that he named after himself – Byce and Associates. He trained an expert staff and eventually sold the company (Sell!) but the new owners kept the same name because the legacy and reputation were so strong.

Think about your field – those big names are probably in this Legacy category.


People running Lifestyle businesses aim to work enough to support their desired lifestyle and no more. Your workload is naturally capped by your personal ambitions.

Lifestyle entrepreneurs tend to see more balance in their day-to-day. They don’t as often work a whole weekend writing another journal article – they’re more likely to be planning their next vacation or working in their garden.

They’re still running a business of course so they’ll still have some thought leadership and some staff perhaps but scaling to a team of dozens isn’t important. They don’t feel a need to leave their mark on their industry. They want to do important work and then go to Greece.

The accountant who earns all the income he needs in the first four months of the year and then closes shop to live his life for the other 8 – that’s a Lifestyle business.

So, to what end?

These are the three primary end goals I see. Each one naturally manifests in a very different daily practice. When my therapist asked me “to what end?” I didn’t know how to answer her and that’s likely because I was trying to do all of these at the same time. It was exhausting me.

These end goals aren’t mutually exclusive, they’re more like the three corners of a triangle. You can be anywhere in between. I personally go back-and-forth between them in different seasons of my life.

Where do you think you are right now?

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