There’s this dangerous, toxic, and devastating myth going around the entrepreneurial community…
In fact, it doesn’t stop with entrepreneurs!
It affects almost everyone in almost all walks of life.
It centers around a word that triggers a lot of people… SELFISH.
Are you selfish? If you make lots of money, does that make you selfish? By earning and taking more, does it mean you’re a selfish, bad, and evil person?
Selfishness gets a bad rep. And understandably so when it leads to greed, corruption, discrimination, and taking something from someone just because you have the power to do so.
BUT… to be selfish is not a negative thing in and of itself.
In fact, if you want to fulfill your vision—a vision that likely centers around something selfless—you need to first be selfish. In a few minutes, you will understand why… as well as where you currently are and the exact steps you need to take next.
Table of Contents
- Why Entrepreneurs Become Entrepreneurs
- Introducing The Purpose Pyramid
- The Time Richard Branson Said …
- The Only Question You Need To Ask Right Now
- Conclusions & Next Steps
Why Entrepreneurs Become Entrepreneurs
Why do you/did you want to become an entrepreneur?
If you’re like most, it’s usually because you…
- Had a Passion, and/or
- Wanted To Take Care of You/Your Family
Other elements come into play, too, such as a desire for freedom and control, your inability to work for others, and your not wanting to have a boss or take one order after another.
Everyone’s journey is different, and what motivates you is unique.
But based on working with hundreds of entrepreneurs—as well as being one my entire life—I’ve realized most people are driven by these similar desires.
This is good, too, because it’s this that drives us to do what most people are unwilling to
Yet unless we commit to that big, outstanding vision that pulls you forward, the world would stand still. No innovation. No choice. No progress. We would just stay stuck where we are.
This does create a problem, though, and it surrounds the very vision that drives you each day.
Introducing The Purpose Pyramid
I imagine you’ve come across Maslow’s Hierarchy before. It’s something I personally learned about in school and have seen appear in countless other books, articles, and conversations.
It’s always made sense to me, in a way.
Yet it also seemed to miss a few important pieces.
So a few years ago, I re-created it to 1) better understand, and 2) make it more relevant to an entrepreneur like me who doesn’t go through the same sort of experiences many people do.
The result? The Purpose Pyramid
- Safety: The first level surrounds your need to survive, having enough money in your bank account to look after yourself… those you love… as well as those who work for you. Safety like this is a huge driver for everyone, but it takes on a different meaning when you own a business. It’s more layered and complex. Regardless, it’s simple by nature and binary… you either feel safe and secure or you don’t.
- Possessions: Once you feel safe, your attention and motivation turn toward owning certain things and living a certain type of lifestyle. You want a car. You want a house. You want to travel. You need all these because you need some kind of escape from your business and its all-encompassing nature.
- Goals: It’s during this stage you level up and place more focus on your desires. You don’t just want a car, but your dream car. A house is fine, but you want one that you can leave your mark on. Traveling is fun, but traveling in style is better. We all have dreams, and it’s during this stage that we begin to fulfill them.
- Certainty: Until now, certain “goals” have driven you. But now you’ve fulfilled many of them, so what happens now? In part, you start to think about the “bigger picture” (more on this next), but you also begin to desire certain certainty because you don’t want your level of living to go down. You’ve worked hard to get here, so you want to make sure that life remains at least this good from here on out.
- Ripple: With certainty—which is the second wave of safety—in hand, you can begin to focus your attention on having a bigger impact on this world. Business is no longer just about making money. You want to serve people. You want to transform something you believe is broken. You want to do something in a way that only you can.
- Legacy: Finally, you reach a place where you’re driven to do things that both outlast you and extend way beyond you. To have a legacy is to build something that is way bigger than you and what you can reach. It becomes massive in every sense of the word.
If we followed this path in a chronological manner, all would be well.
The problem is, most entrepreneurs don’t and it comes back to both our relationship with the word SELFISH and that all-important VISION we are driven toward.
Having a vision is great, but you need to root yourself in your current reality because otherwise, you can sacrifice your own health… your own needs… your own welfare in order to better serve others and your big, wide-reaching vision.
But this often comes down to your relationship with the word “selfish”.
Because we’re led to believe it’s wrong to be selfish. If you’re making money when others aren’t, you should share what you have. And if you then desire more money even though you don’t “need” it whereas other people do, that makes you a bad person.
Now look, it’s important to be generous and giving.
But the point here is that it’s easy to lose sight of your needs. You’re so consumed by your vision and worried about coming across as greedy and selfish that you burn yourself out. If there’s one pattern I have seen over and over and over again with those I mentor, it’s this.
They hustle. They grind. They make money but don’t take any of it.
They have a good business and they serve others—their team, their customers, their community—but they remain stuck in the Possessions Phase, or, worse… Safety!
This catches up with you. I speak from experience, not only through those I mentor but because I too spent years sacrificing myself in the pursuit of serving others. I carried this burden for a long time, but it wasn’t until I sat on Necker Island with Richard Branson that it hit home and changed how I looked at my life forever.
The Time Richard Branson Said …
While surrounded by amazing people on Necker Island, and able to connect with an entrepreneur I’ve always admired and looked up to, I had an epiphany of sorts.
In fact, I had several.
But for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on one…
It started when Sir Richard said, “entrepreneurs go wrong when they haven’t earned their vision.” This hit me hard and stuck with me the rest of the night. The context here is that Branson spoke about how too many entrepreneurs get too caught up in their vision.
They pursue it at all costs.
They selflessly put all their own needs to one side.
Yet this isn’t selfless at all. It’s just plain wrong and counterproductive.
If we focus once more on the Purpose Pyramid, most entrepreneurs begin to skip steps, pushing themselves toward the Ripple and Legacy phases without first building Certainty into their life—often, still struggling to secure Safety, Goals, or Possessions.
The result? You burn out and have nothing to show for it.
No car. No house. No assets. Everything you earn goes back into your business.
This is not how to build a business. It’s short-term thinking that does not work.
Because you are a person. Your business relies on you. Certain people rely on you.
This means you have to look after yourself… no ifs, buts, or maybe!
This is what Sir Richard meant when he said, “entrepreneurs go wrong when they haven’t earned their vision.” He spoke of those who skip steps and get so caught up in their vision that they don’t allow themselves to live. A big reason for this? Yes, you guessed it… our toxic relationship with the word SELFISH and our worry that we are bad or evil if we are.
The Only Question You Need To Ask Right Now
While on Necker Island, I discovered what my relationship with both my vision and worry of being selfish was. I began to understand why I never had money and why even though I was a hugely successful business owner at this point, I still didn’t have much to show for it.
I felt tired. I felt, in part, frustrated and resentful.
But all this was fine because I now understood what I had to do.
I took a few steps back and without guilt, began to invest in my own life. At this stage, I felt Secure… but I didn’t own the Possessions I desired or the Goals that I dreamt about.
So I changed this narrative. For the first time ever, I was selfish.
What happened next was huge because not only did I make a lot more money—and it suddenly seemed a lot easier to make—but I started to naturally feel more generous, giving, and aligned with my vision (and the legacy I desired to build).
Beforehand, it felt like I had to do all that to prove something to myself and to others.
But now… I wanted it; it felt amazing and changed my entire perspective on life.
In short, the lesson here is that you have to take care of yourself before you fulfill your vision of helping others. If you begin to skip steps in the Purpose Pyramid, you will falter!
This begins by asking a very simple yet important question… which level am I at right now?
Not the one you would like to be in, but the one you are.
Get clear on this. Until you do, little else you do will matter.
Conclusions & Next Steps
Which level are you at right now?
Take some time to figure this out. No shame on where you are. All that matters is you are honest with your situation and embrace where you are.
Next, ask… what do I need to do now to get to where I need to be next?
In other words, don’t skip steps.
Don’t rush the process.
Don’t be selfless because you’re afraid of what it means if you’re selfish.
To be selfish is not a bad thing, so long as you’re doing it for good reasons.
You deserve to fill your own cup; you deserve to look after YOU before anyone else!
Doing so changed how I lived my life, and, as I say, attracted more money and success. When you stop obsessing over how much money is in the bank, you make more money, it really is that simple. But you have to have money in your bank in order to not obsess and worry over it.
So make sure you feel Safe and Secure.
Surround yourself with the Possessions you need.
Achieve those Goals that you desire and dream about.
Build Certainty in your life so you can confidently move forward.
Then and only then allow yourself to get caught up in the Ripple and Legacy.
And the hell with what other people say and society’s view on selfishness. It’s wrong and it is a toxic myth you need to leave behind. Until you do, you’ll remain feeling stuck and unsure.
So take that step today… the step you’ve deserved to take for some time now.
To help you achieve this, you may want to dive into my guide: 21 Laws of Scaling an Online Business — this gives you insight into the 21 laws that stand between you and a more scalable, sustainable, and fulfilling business.
As you evolve as a person, it’s essential you ensure your business(es) do the same!