Why Making Money is More Fun than Having It


I’ve always enjoyed making money more than having it. Having money is nice, but it’s only a blip on my life contentment scale. I’m no fan of poverty, but the difference between $40,000 per year and $400,000 isn’t that much.

Despite these simple tastes, I’ve always been keenly interested in making money. Making money is fun and challenging. Running a business is both complex and simple at the same time, and the artists of making money need to know how to balance both. It requires a diverse set of skills, but also rewards people who can specialize carefully. To me, making money is one of the best games ever discovered.

I can remember writing on a forum post for internet entrepreneurs, several years back. One person was complaining about the difficulties of living on a small income. I quipped that if he could afford a high-speed internet connection, he already had enough money and should just enjoy the process of making it. Pretty trite, I know, but the idea still sticks with me.

I’ve known many people who have become obsessed with one game or another. They read all the strategies, practice and go to incredible lengths to be good at this game. The game is fun, but when it ends, nothing more has been accomplished. Nobody is better off, now that they have mastered this game.

Not true with the game of making money. When you make money, you’re exchanging value you’ve created for money. I use the words “making” money literally because that is what you are doing. Currency is just pieces of paper. They are a medium of exchanging value between two people. When you “make” money, you might not be printing dollar bills, but you’ve created the essence of what drives value around.

Isn’t Money-Making a Selfish, Evil, Greedy Pursuit?

It seems our cultural consciousness has made the connection between “making” money and stealing money. Rich people aren’t generating value, they’re just feeding off the hard work of people around them. The only way to get rich is to make somebody else poor. Virtuous people don’t engage themselves in the dirty business of making money.

I think this confusion arises because many people are motivated by having money, not making it. They want to have money, so that means that they use whatever combination of cheating, stealing and creating that gets them the biggest payoff the fastest. That can be a dirty business, so I understand why some people have made some negative associations.

If you’re actually creating money, the situation is completely different. Since you’re creating value, you’re adding back to the world. The game isn’t zero sum. There are winners without losers in the game of making money.

What About Open Source?

Wouldn’t it be more virtuous to create, and then distribute for free? Isn’t making money, if not completely evil, at least a neutral activity?

I believe in the power of free. Giving away free stuff isn’t just humanitarian, it’s a business strategy. Ninety percent of what I work on is free. Free content is the television advertisement of the 21st century. When distributions and production have almost no costs, free content is a great tactic in the game of making money.

But I don’t agree with complete selflessness. If you forgo any profits, you starve the very vehicle that creates value. Being without revenues means it’s difficult (or impossible) to pay for the fixed costs associated with creation. Making money is a win-win situation. Win-lose situations of theft and cheating, along with lose-win situations of complete sacrifice are not ideal.

I think open source initiatives are just the beginning of a new business strategy built on free.  It’s not breaking the idea of making money (which is, at the core, exchanging value) but simply giving it a new form.  It’s adding an expansion pack to the original game.

Playing the Game

There are many ways you can play the game. If you have a job, you’re already playing it. You’re probably just running a particularly boring version of the game. Entrepreneurship, particularly online entrepreneurship, is another version of the game. It’s more difficult, but the challenges are more interesting.

I’m an advocate for online entrepreneurship because it changes the way the game is played. Regular businesses require capital investments, employees, a fixed location and considerable risk before getting started. Online entrepreneurship can be done with one person, anywhere you have a laptop and for only a few dollars a month.

The game isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly fun. Best of all, when you win, it isn’t game over. The value you create trickles down to other people and you get to enjoy a little more luxury yourself. Even if having the money wasn’t nearly as fun as making it.

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  • Kali

    Yeah, well all you ever do is make money not steal it. Your bad… bad… bad…

  • Gary

    Another excellent article, we cannot have enough words on money to counter the social conditioning of the work-mindset. That’s something I’m only just beginning to realize.

  • Dave

    Hi Scott,

    I like the idea of making money being a game, and the idea that there are different versions of the game – some boring and some not so boring.

    And as you point out, the best bit is that everyone can win.



  • Elliott

    Great post. People who complain about not having, just bring themselves more of the same. There is plenty of money out there, it’s abundant… but if you perpetuate the thought that it’s scarce… it will be just that.

    Good stuff.

  • m

    I think some of the negative connotation comes from the fact that much of what makes money isn’t necessarily adding positive value to the world and a lot of what does add value does not make a lot of money in our society. Often, there is little correlation between how much money a given project creates and how much positive value it adds to society. Often the correlation is actually inverse and harmful pursuits bring much more money than positive ones.

    In other words, while there is no inherent problem with making/earning money in itself, there are plenty of activities that lead to making money but that make a negative contribution or make no real positive contribution. In chasing money, some end up adding little value to the world or end up causing actual harm, whereas by chasing positive contribution one can often find a balance between creating true value and earning enough to thrive and continue to contribute.

    Maybe that’s the same as what you were saying . . .

  • Scott Young


    I’m going to have to disagree with you.

    At least in material terms, money is a measure of value. It’s not decided by a governing body or group of elite, but when anyone spends it. In that sense, I would say that money very closely aligns with a measure of value.

    Some pursuits, don’t create money. Being a professional poker player is an example. Money is trading hands, but in order for there to be winners, there needs to be losers.

    But, I strongly disagree with the argument that money has no measure of value. If you are doing work that contributes materially back to society, than money tends to be your reward. It isn’t a 100% correlation, but it’s pretty darn close.

    Money can only capture material values, not the non-material aspects of life. So, in that sense, money is limited.


  • m

    I disagree. The reason: What makes money often is not what people NEED but what they WANT (and in some cases what they are led to believe or just think they want or think they need).

    As a rule people desire a lot of what is not necessarily good for them (overuse of mindless entertainment, mind numbing substances, unhealthy food and health habits, etc.) because those things are easy and pleasurable and bring immediate gratification. And they often don’t desire, or at least don’t consistently pursue, that which is good for them–and, to add another aspect, that which is good for others.

    The healthy and beneficial so often cannot compete with the levels of popularity and profitability brought about by mind numbing escapism and destructive habits.

    Take a look at the top most profitable companies. Do you really see them as being the most value adding to society? Take a look at the top most profitable 10 or 20 careers and industries–are they really adding the most value of all the available fields? Take a look at some of society’s most necessary and positively contributing fields and companies–how do they compare with those top earners? If you do this and still feel the same way, then it’s quite likely that we simply hold very different definitions of “value.”

    In my view money is not a measure of value because often it measures how well we are able to meet people’s least positive, least productive, and least healthful DESIRES as opposed to how well we meet individual and societal NEEDS and more healthful and productive–but perhaps harder to attain–DESIRES.

    In fact a lot of money making is about trying to get people to part with their money in exchange for things they don’t need and often won’t even genuinely benefit from. Many companies exist almost solely to persuade people to think they need things they really don’t need , even when those things may even be harmful for them or just plain useless–yet those companies can earn a lot of money. Often chasing money means adding more negatives to society because that is where the easy dollars lie (lay?).

    It’s human nature to take the easier more short sighted and most self-beneficial way most often, especially when it’s easily available, and by catering to that aspect of humanity, much money can be made, but often at the expense of not only NOT adding value but even of causing actual harm.

    One could argue for the value some top earners add and I don’t disagree that many top earners do add value and that it is certainly possible to earn and add value simultaneously, of course, many, many do just that. However the correlation of more money/more value that you speak of is not one I have witnessed in my years in this world, not in American society at least, and often I’ve actually witnessed the opposite. And in the end, I think much of comes down what you consider adding value.

    There is much to say on this topic and the subject is way too broad and complex to really dig into in this limited forum. In fact no way have I done it any justice with this hastily written comment. Hopefully I will manage to address the issue on my own blog at some point as it’s one I’m very interested in and one I’ve had several specific examples I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time now.

    And while we clearly have very different views on this, I don’t 100% disagree with you, as I think the issue is far too complex to hold a singular one sided stance as obviously there will exist exceptions to either extreme–as well as shades of grey and subjectivity. In all, this is a very interesting topic and I thank you for raising it and engaging in discussion.



  • Scott Young


    I’d have to agree with you that a lot of what people spend their money on is mindless junk.

    However, those are my personal values. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that huge areas of life are worthless, just because I personally don’t draw value from them. I wouldn’t want to sell what I deem as, “junk”, but I’ll let other people vote with their dollars to decide what is produced.

    The reason I disagreed with your main point, is that our economic systems are incredibly complex, so a job which is only indirectly associated with the act of providing value (say, an accountant) is undervalued compared to someone who directly provides value (say, a nurse). This is even if both provide functions vital to healing the sick or providing a valuable product.