3 Paradigm Shifts to Help You Build a Business

This guest post by my friend Jeff Goins should be useful for anyone who is thinking of starting (or has already started) a business. Jeff is the author or four books, including his latest The Art of Work. Jeff is an award-winning blogger and online entrepreneur. Also, he has great hair.  ~ Ray Edwards

Ten years ago, I made the difficult decision to turn away from a lifelong passion for music and pursue a career in vocational ministry. It was a tough choice at the time, but as soon it was made, I knew I'd be doing ministry for the rest of my life. 

Or so I thought.

After seven years of working at a Christian missions organization, a place that was doing a lot of good in the world, I quit. This was a job that I was good at and enjoyed and likely never would have lost unless I did something really stupid. It was a perfectly secure place to work. But I left it. 

Why? Because I was called. And although I didn't realize it at the time, this career shift wasn't just going to change what I did for a living. It was going to change my life.

I thought I was chasing a dream that was mostly about me. But it was so much bigger than that. Here are three paradigm shifts I learned from building my own business and what I learned about my faith in the process.

Paradigm Shift #1: It's All Ministry

Leaving my job to become a full-time writer and entrepreneur felt foolish. I even felt some inital guilt over it. “I'm just worried that I won't get to do ministry again,” I confided in a successful Christian CEO over coffee one day. He just smiled. 

“Jeff,” my friend Mike said with a gentle grin, “it's *all* ministry.”

I nodded, as if to say “of course,” but I didn't really know what he was talking about. Nonetheless, I wanted to be open to it, the possibility of it being true. 

And with that, I ventured out in pursuit of a dream I didn't fully understand.

Paradigm Shift #2: Money Is a Means, Not a Master

Having gone into business for myself as a blogger and online educator, I quickly began making more money than I ever thought possible. And it depressed me.

In no time, I was more confused than ever. Money had always been the point of work for me. What was I supposed to do now.

One day while Skyping with my friend Stu, I told him I didn't know what to do with my free time. I had just made enough money in a week to live on for the year, and that paralyzed me. 

“I've never done this before, Stu,” I said. “Work has always been about providing for myself and my family. What do you do when that's no longer an issue? I seriously have no motivation to go to work.”

“Jeff,” he said, “I stopped working for myself years ago. I live in a small town and have everything I need. My standard of living hasn't really changed in the past several years.” 

Stu is the cofounder of a successful software business. He explained to me that when he starting making more money than he needed, he went on a trip to Africa that opened his eyes. 

In Kenya, Stu saw how much of a difference opportunity and education can make in a person’s life. Instead of feeling guilty about his wealth, he started to see it as a means to help other people. 

“After that,” he told me, “I realized I was good at making money and didn’t need to feel bad about that. When I returned home, I started working not for myself but for all those people I met in Kenya.” 

Not long after that, I had a similar experience. Through the business, we generated enough sales to give a percentage of the revenue to a ministry overseas. 

In a single week, we raised enough money to build an income-generating workshop for women living in a leper colony. This was a project that would provide these woman a means to make a living for themselves and their families for the rest of their lives. 

Turns out money isn't bad. But it isn't everything, either. In my experience, it makes a better means than a master. Don't work for it, but use it to do what matters.

Paradigm Shift #3: Your Dream Doesn't Belong to You

Every day, I go into an office where I work by myself. I author a blog and teach an online course and write books about my life experiences. Everything I do has my name on it, and in a way feels like it's about me.  But it's not.

Not a day goes by when I don't receive an email from someone whose life my work has touched in some way. It's humbling. Now, I realize that the best dreams aren't really about the dreamers. A good dream is really about the people it serves.

In the film *Mr. Holland’s Opus*, Glenn Holland is a frustrated music teacher trying to compose a masterpiece in the margins of life. He never succeeds—at least not in the way he hopes. 

In the last scene of the movie, Mr. Holland, who is about to retire, is escorted to the school gymnasium where he finds a room full of people whose lives he has touched. And just before taking the stage to direct his symphony which will be performed by an orchestra of current and past students, one of the alumni who is now governor says, “Mr. Holland, *we* are your symphony.”

May the same be true for you and your life and the symphony you create.

 To get a free copy of Jeff's new book, click here. 

  • Jeff, While I am working toward building my business, I, too, have found that the focus is NOT the money, but what I can DO with the money: Serving others. That comes in two forms:

    1. Starting and building more businesses, whether it’s through an angel investor or venture capitalist or even a micro-loan.
    2. Giving to those are are in need of the most, food, clothing, etc.

    But the bottom line is this: It’s not how much money I have, but how many more people I can serve.

    Thanks for reenforcing these thoughts.


  • Sharon Brodin

    What a great article – thank you! Confession: I ordered your Art of Work book already because everyone’s talking about it (can’t even remember which JV partner of yours I ordered it from now!)…but didn’t know anything about you, Jeff.

    After digging into your website a bit and now reading this article I’m really excited about getting your book. I love that there are some Christian entrepreneurs out there doing amazing work and standing firm in their faith publicly at the same time – people like you and Ray.

    Thanks for the example and the great insights. Definitely a keeper for when I need a reminder of the whys and wherefores.

    And thanks, Ray, for having Jeff on your blog.

  • Ron Ryan

    Ray, Thanks so much for the encouraging and motivating article by Jeff. As a Christian, the inner game is so much different than what most people play. Nearly every business and website is focused on money, what it can do for you. It is the goal. The “end” of our efforts.

    Money, our lives, our efforts, our businesses are mere tools. We are simply stewards. Whether one talent or five (I think God have you and Jeff five), we are to use those talents for Him. And we serve him by serving others.

    Thanks again for helping us re-focus our “why.”

  • Thanks, Jeff. I needed that.
    A couple years ago, Cecil Murphy paid my way to attend a Christian writers’ conference (that’s one way he uses his extra money). It was fascinating to me to see how nearly universal the struggle to see making money as a good thing was for us.
    I only got into writing because it provided a way for me to pay for missions trips for my family. I *knew* money was a good tool, but it still can feel awkward to ask believers to spend their money on my product rather than dropping it in an offering plate.
    May many of God’s people be inspired to do everything God wants of them to expand His kingdom. Jesus likes faithful, profitable stewards; thanks for being one. 🙂