Let’s get started with the challenge

Day 1: The intersection of personal joy, achieving flow, and making money

Today’s Prompt:

  • Start by thinking about how your idea can make Money.

  • Consider what sort of activities bring you Joy.

  • Think about times that you have achieved Flow – the state one experiences when completing a task with the perfect balance of challenge and enjoyment.

  • Create lists of Money, Joy, and Flow side by side, or a venn diagram including each, and consider how they intersect.

  • When you've mixed and matched your Joy, Money, Flow ideas enough, have a go at writing an initial Vision statement for your ultimate lifestyle.


When people think of starting a business, a common driving force is the desire to create a job for themselves and escape the “rat race” of a job they dislike. This is a valid objective, but it often leads to unforeseen consequences. Simply making money or getting out of a negative employment situation may not address the underlying reason for desiring a change.

Often, this underlying reason is more profound: It's a desire to have a better life – to enjoy waking up and living each day with personal fulfillment and intention, without having to worry about things like your job or money.

It's very possible to start up a business and make money – good money. But often, that doesn't fix the problem it’s meant to. It only brings new problems – dealing with customers, working seven days a week, working with employees you may not get along with. Maybe, if you turn your passion immediately into your job without thinking about a future “vision," you’ll find you don't enjoy the work anymore but can't get out.

Because of this potential risk, it's a good idea to begin your escape by envisioning what you would like your life to look like. Money and the "business" will be a part of this for sure, but it shouldn't be the whole vision. Instead, we want to show you a useful tool for planning a new business.

Here's a diagram from Chris Guillebea’s website that can help you understand what we’re talking about::

Money is one of three main components in this diagram. There isn’t much to be said about it except that it’s necessary to earn enough to be able to afford the necessities of life for you and your family AND to build the lifestyle you envision for yourself. Later, we'll be looking at how much money that actually is and trying to work out an income target. Don't worry – it's normally less than you think! Even if it is a lot of money, having a defined figure in mind will help us plan a strategy.

Joy is about finding something you enjoy doing. This is different for everyone. Some people love communicating with others and building communities. Others prefer being outside with nature, growing and planting. Still others prefer the company of computers and creating from digital bits rather than physical material. We all have different ideas about what it is we enjoy.

If you find it hard to pin down what you enjoy, think instead about what you don't enjoy. This is often easier for people. For example, I (Kyle) don't like using telephones, so anything that requires calling customers and clients is a no-no for me. I’m also not very good with authority and don't enjoy being told what to do. Knowing this sort of information about your dislikes is as important as knowing what it is that directly brings you joy. In general, if you can remove all or most of your dislikes, you'll be left feeling pretty content!

Flow is trickier to define. It's a term from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book of the same name[1]. (Don't worry – we can't spell that word either. Thank you, copy–paste. It's pronounced "chick-sent-me-high," if you ever need to impress people with your Hungarian pronunciation skills!) Flow is the state we enter when performing a task that has just the right levels of challenge. It's a task that is neither too easy (which makes us bored) nor too hard (which makes us frustrated). It's a fine line between the two. Continually learning, stretching our minds, and discovering talents that keep us on top of our game will help us discover our “flow.”

Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time? You're working on something (writing, drawing, playing a game, chatting...anything), and, when you look out the window, you realize it's dark, and hours have gone past since you started the activity. That's flow. You were so engrossed in the activity itself that everything else around you lost all focus and disappeared from the world.

[1] Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1990. Print.


For the more visual here's Csikszentmihalyi’s useful diagram of "flow"[3]:



Now here, we don't want your answer to focus solely on what you'll do for money. Instead, we'll be combining the three ideas above to better answer the question of what your dream job/career/future is for yourself.

The other way to think about flow is in terms of skill level. It might bring me Joy to be a professional footballer. It would certainly bring me money. But because my skill level is too low, my career ambitions as a professional footballer (a career started at the tender age of 30) are unlikely to be fulfilled. My lack of skill would certainly mean I wouldn't be able to attain flow – the challenge is far too high for my skill level, and there's no reasonable expectation that I'd be able to overcome this lack of skill.

Therefore, flow can act as a sense check. You need to be good enough at something to make it a possibility for an ideal business/career/future. If the concept of flow is confusing, then substitute the question, "Am I good at this?" instead of "Am I in a state of flow?" That will get you close enough!

So, for today…

  1. Start by thinking about how your idea can make Money. This is the least important part, in a way. The exact how is something we'll go into later. But for now, jot down your initial thoughts about who your target customers may be, whether you will require a storefront for material goods or would like to work from home or sell something online – basic concepts.

  1. Then, have a hard think about what brings you Joy. This is easier for some people than it is for others. If you find it difficult to write down what makes you joyful, then, instead, write down tasks you don't like doing and would rather not have to deal with. Then, think of the opposites of this "non-joyful" list. These opposites should bring you closer to Joyful things.
  1. Finally, think about Flow. What activities are you really good at that allow you to "switch off" and lose track of time? These might be physical activities like running or working in the garden. Or maybe it's writing computer code or playing the piano. Generally, it will be something you are good at; exercising skill and virtuosity in some area of your life is the quickest way to achieve Flow. Write these activities down.

You'll now have three lists: one for Money, one for Joy, and one for Flow. Are there any similarities? Any connections? Connect items on your list. Maybe draw out the three circles in the above diagram, and put your list items in the three circles. What sort of overlaps appear?

As you look for connections, you'll probably come up with new list items – hopefully in the intersection between different areas: "Growing flowers brings me joy, I'm good at it and can easily lose a whole afternoon...oh, and maybe people would be interested in buying British-grown flowers."

Don't worry about forcing out the "perfect idea" here. It's just to get you thinking more broadly about business. Most importantly, this exercise is about more than money. Instead, it is about building the lifestyle you want – one that also brings you happiness and satisfaction every day.

  1. When you've mixed and matched your Joy, Money, and Flow ideas enough, try writing your Vision statement. Again, this doesn't need to be perfect or "right." This is a process, and all we are doing now is taking a first step. By articulating our initial idea, we can begin to work out how to make it a reality.

We encourage you to share your Vision with the group in the comments section of our website at www.30dod.com or during the next community meeting. The main thing is to have a clearer picture of what it is you actually want.

We recommend you check out a related TED Talk by the aforementioned psychologist and author, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's[1], and also check out Peter M. Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.

[1] Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Video: Flow. https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow. 27 Jan 2017


Suggested Article on this topic:

Joy, Money, and Flow: The Three Qualities of Purposeful Work

Suggested Video on this topic: