Right Livelihood

Does your livelihood
align with your values?

A livelihood is a “a means of securing the necessities of life.”

Right Livelihood is a Buddhist concept. It sits within the Eightfold Path of Buddhist ethics alongside Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Effort (etc), and generally refers to doing work that doesn’t harm other beings.

Right Livelihood does NOT refer to a one-size-fits-all, single correct way to earn a living, as defined by some external authority. (For the record, that’s not really how Buddhism works.) Rather, it suggests that each of us can consciously choose a livelihood that aligns with our values.

Some of the questions that have guided my own exploration of Right Livelihood:

  • What do I value?
  • How much is enough?
  • What is necessary in my life?
  • How can I get what’s necessary without harming other people, animals, or the planet?
  • What constitutes meaningful work, and why / when does this matter?
  • How much do I agree with commonly-accepted definitions of success?
  • What will it take to pursue my own vision of success?
  • What beliefs and assumptions — conscious or unconscious — inform my attitude toward money?
  • What systems and conditions make it harder for certain types people to make choices around money and work compared to others?
  • How might I contribute to making these systems more equitable for all?

Much of my career has focused on supporting individuals, nonprofit organizations, and social enterprises as they work through similar questions. May the tidbits shared below inspire your own exploration of Right Livelihood. _/|\_


What I believe about money

I believe: …that money was designed to work for human beings, rather than the other way around. And I mean that in terms of the actual historical context of money’s origins, not in the capitalist, our-money-should-earn-money, passive-income sense. My own relationships with money and work are constantly evolving. There’s always more to learn, and I …

Why it’s so important to support each other through hard times (if we’re in a position to do so)

During a video call with my family earlier today, I learned that my parents had just received delivery of 10 pounds of duck. Turns out that after reading an article explaining that small farms and food processors are suffering because they’ve lost the bulk of their restaurant business thanks to the coronavirus situation, my dad …

What’s your Printery?

I love everything this video reveals about this man, his vision, his spirit, his work in the world… Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr, please take my money! You will not get a degree You will not go into extraordinary debt You will print all day, every day You will clean type Wipe up ink Smell the …

Using group agreements to encourage participation in classes, workshops, and meetings

Have you ever participated in an intimate class or group meeting that broke down in some way? What happened? How did your level of engagement shift as a result? Maybe one participant spoke more than anyone else and you mentally “checked out” because you knew you’d never get a chance to contribute. Or maybe someone …

Expensify this

My day job, as you’ve probably noticed by now, involves making YouTube videos for a small business audience. At a small business software company. Expensify, another small business software company, just won that game with their Superbowl ad: When my colleague Luda shared this with me last week it had fewer than 500 views; it …

How to raise money for your business – a couple presentations from the archives

I recently discovered a couple recordings of talks I gave when I was in my Finance for Food prime, traveling throughout North America to give keynote presentations and teach workshops on raising money for food businesses. My book had already been out for a while by then, so I’d had the opportunity to figure out …

My personality throughout my existences (and a new guide to business financing!)

A ritual often performed at the Auckland Buddhist Centre includes the following lines: My personality throughout my existences… I give up without regard to myself For the benefit of all beings. I’ve been thinking about my various existences because the company I work for just published a really useful resource, A guide to financing your …

My favorite mindfulness app is Pocket (or: how to stay focused AND always have excellent reading material on your person)

Insight Timer is my first recommendation when people ask me about meditation or mindfulness apps, but it’s not actually the one I use most frequently. When it comes to actively strengthening the muscles of focus and attention, Pocket — yes, the app that lets you save articles and videos from the web to check out later — …

Dean Fidelman finally getting the kind of attention he deserves (and not only for StoneNudes)

I met photographer Dean Fidelman while living in Yosemite National Park in 1999, and for years I invested everything I had—physically, energetically, spiritually, and financially—into his StoneNudes project. This attempt to build a something that would financially support a complete immersion into art, nature, community collaboration, social activism, and a life well-lived sparked a sense of …

Focus on Five – a system for practicing a more balanced, contented life

You’ve probably seen at least one version of this advice floating around the internet: “Three Hobbies” has always bothered me, for two reasons. The first is that for those of us running our own businesses, the distinction between a hobby and a business is super important. If you want to write off your business expenses …

#DeleteFacebook: How to permanently delete your Facebook account (while saving as much of it as you can for posterity)

I spent an absurd amount of time over the 4-day Easter weekend bumbling my way through the process of permanently deleting my Facebook account while saving as much of it as I could for posterity. This second part was important to me, and it’s really not as straightforward as it could be – as far as …

Presentations of self

As soon as I posted my last video it occurred to me: what I said was sort of true, but not nearly a COMPLETE representation of my experience of identity growing up. I thought about deleting the whole thing, but then I realized it was actually quite interesting to think about why it bothered me …

“I don’t know if I have the guts to put myself on the line for things that I completely recognize I might be wrong about.”

I’ve been thinking a ton lately about how to put myself “out there” more. Start a vlog, for real this time (the one I was going to launch at work has been put on the back burner… again)? Write another (gasp) book? And also wondering if it’s possible to promote whatever I’m putting out there …

Trasitions and Transformations

I am infinitely grateful for the three years I spent on the staff of RSF Social Finance, a financial services organization that seeks to revolutionize how people relate to money. Leaving that job was one of the most difficult decision I ever made! But I was literally bursting with the book I was ready to write, so …

The Women’s March, Sheryl Sandberg’s silence, and Leaning the F*** Away

Someone at work recently posted the article Lean Out: the deafening post-November silence of Sheryl Sandberg on our internal social network, posing the question, “Do you do what you think is right, or do you do what is right by your company?” Here are some excerpts of the article to get you up to speed, …

Xero Gravity Podcast

I hosted the Xero Gravity small business podcast from episode 21 through its final episode 98, when I shifted my focus to video. What a joy to interview such fascinating, insightful people! I’ve posted some of my favorite episodes below, or you can: Listen on iTunes Listen on SoundCloud Browse episodes on the Xero Gravity website It’s …

Accounting 101 with Liz Mason

When you’re a startup, you only have about a billion things to think about. So it’s understandable if accounting isn’t top of mind. That’s why I worked with Liz Mason from High Rock Accounting to produce this 37 minute online course, designed to provide the accounting basics you need to know to become a successful …

Raising capital without selling your soul: interview on the Small Food Business Podcast

It’s always a pleasure to serve as a guest on other people’s podcasts. Back in November, Jennifer Lewis interviewed me for the Small Food Business podcast series. They released the episode today, saying: Many of us start our small businesses with a broader mission or vision for what we’re hoping to achieve beyond just dollars …

Nonprofit fundraising with Kishshana Palmer

I recently worked with Kishshana Palmer, an experienced non-profit executive and consultant, to produce what was possibly the most engaging nonprofit fundraising education session I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Check out fundraising for nonprofits on Xero U! Kishshana not only knows what she’s talking about — she’s a Certified Fundraising Executive who has helped …

Good Food, Great Business at the Commonwealth Club

Want to learn more about financing your business, working with co-packers, marketing for increased sales, working with retailers, and more… from a group of kick-ass women who really know what it takes to run a successful food business? Listen to this Commonwealth Club recording of a recent event titled Good Food, Great Business: How Food Startups Take Good …

Finance for Food on the radio

As executive director of Finance for Food, I was interviewed by a number of radio shows that wanted their listeners to know more about how to raise money for socially responsible food businesses… and values-based business in general. While not all of the stations have kept their archives available for listening, the live links below …

We know what we know

Last October/November, I caught that horrible cold/cough that was going around… and it stuck around for more than five weeks by the time I finally got over it. My friend Mike knew exactly why I was sick. The day before I woke up with the telltale tickle in the back of my throat, Mike and …

Repotting: right in my wheelhouse

At some point during my journey home on Friday/Saturday, I came across this article about repotting your career. Though the article itself is flavored with a rather Stanford-y perspective that doesn’t totally align with my own way of looking at things, I appreciate both the horticultural metaphor, and the author’s tips for switching things up professionally in …

Rising again

At 6am, insomniac in the Penn Stater hotel in State College, PA hotel (which means it’s really 3am to my body, still in Pacific Time), I finally rose from the bed and resurrected this blog. I think this is version 3.0? I’m not sure. Shutting down and letting go of those old blogs go was …