You can’t make a living doing meaningful work.


While I'm not a financial advisor and can't give you advice on managing your money, I did spend much of the past decade working in the financial services industry.

From that time, I picked up a thing or two when it comes to spending and saving.

And one of the things I’ve noticed is that our expenses tend to expand naturally as our income increases.

But the more the nature of our work changes, the more difficult it's becoming to connect income with work.

In The Power of Purpose, Richard Leider outlines four types of work and how they connect with income:

Level 1: A job

According to Leider, “any job is okay as long as the money is good and we can do our thing after work.”

After I graduated from college, I taught preschool for 18 months so I could pay my bills… you know the rent, utilities and student loan payments.

But the problem was that I was pretty much broke all of the time.

To buy groceries and to go out with my friends, I had to babysit some evenings and weekends. As I’m sure you know, this got old quickly.

Level 2: A permanent job

Leider says, “at this level, our work has to be regular, we need benefits, vacations and security.”

Eventually, I got sick of barely making ends meet and having basically no free time. 

So, I went and got myself a big-girl job…. doing communications for an event planning department at a Fortune 500 corporation.

The frustrating part of this job was that it became monotonous. Every event was pretty the same and my boss did not appreciate when I wanted to change it up.

But what kept me stuck, as it does so many others, was that I thought the benefits, the vacation time, the security in an unstable economic environment was worth it.

If I could live those five years again, I wouldn’t have prioritized a benefits package over my happiness. Instead, I would have worked towards figuring out what I wanted to do next—and probably figured it out about two years earlier than I originally did in the process.

Level 3: A Profession or Trade

Here’s what Leider has to say about this type of work: “Rather than thinking only of money and security, we want substance in our work. We want to grow our talents and be challenged.”

When I transitioned from event planning to marketing, my career really started to take off.

I got to lead projects that were big and ambiguous, I finally had the variety I craved when I was event planning.

My calendar looked just the way I wanted it to… totally insane with barely enough time to eat or breathe.

I was making more money than ever before, filling my house with more clothes than I could ever wear and stuff that I didn’t need.

Spoiler alert: All this resulted in a big old case of burnout.

And also walking away from my career to take a break and figure out what I really wanted in my life and in my work.

Level 4: A Calling

For some reason, we tend to associate having a calling with not making enough money to live our lives.

But as Leider says, “At this level, we realize that work is related to money but that work is also a path to use our gifts to make a difference doing something we believe needs doing in this world. We begin to consider the meaning that work can bring and the opportunity it allows us to find fulfillment, yet, follow a calling yet still have a marketable, income-producing involvement in the world.”

When I transitioned from level two to three and then level three to four, I discovered a process that can make navigating these four levels easier for others. A series of exercises that makes it so much simpler for others to figure out.

And that’s why I have created the Meaningful Work(shop).

I've taken the process I used to help find meaningful work for both myself and others, boiled them down to the most essential steps, and put them together in an easy to consume format so that you can find meaningful work you love with the help of a mentor without hopping in a plane, train or automobile.

Most of us have some sneaking suspicion that there must be more to life than this.

{Jeff Goins}

If you’re looking at these levels and thinking… Geez, I don't think I'm where I want to be,

Take some time in the next few days to reflect on the following:

What level describes my work currently?

Which level would I prefer to be working in?

What are two or three small things I can do in the next week that will help me move toward that?

Once you have that short list, schedule 30 minutes on your calendar in the next week when you can make some progress on those items.

Keep in mind mind that the levels aren’t necessarily linear.

You don’t have to go from one to two to three to four as I did. Instead, you can use my examples to create shortcuts for your own path.