Saturday, September 08, 2007

Make Meaning

Guy Kawasaki, Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, business author, and former Apple marketing whiz, talks about how to successfully launch a startup. According to Kawasaki, the most important part isn't your business plan, it's the desire to "make meaning".

Here's part of what he says:

The core, the essence of entrepreneurship is to make meaning...

Many, many people start companies to make money. I have found the companies that are fundamentally make the world a better place, that make meaning...they are the companies that succeed

If you make meaning, you'll probably make money but if you set out to make money, you won't make meaning and you probably won't make money either.

Kawasaki goes on to say that there are three ways to make meaning:
  1. Improve quality of life
  2. Right a wrong
  3. Prevent the end of something good

I have no idea if Kawasaki is a Christian but his challenge to make meaning in what we do is provoking. There is something about his challenge that seems to resonate with me - I believe God wants us to live and work with eternal purpose.

If you're starting a new company, non-profit or ministry initiative (or if you're just interested), you need to check out the entire video clip. It's only a couple of minutes long.

I'd only temper what Kawasaki's message in the following way:

We cannot "make meaning". I believe it is God who "makes meaning" in this world - we can only discover meaning...but we can experience joy as we give ourselves to it.

What do you think of what Guy Kawasaki says?


L.L. Barkat said...

Is this kind of like writing a book to make money instead of meaning? It can be done, but perhaps the end product has little soul and little staying power.

Every Square Inch said...

Yes, I guess that would be the equivalent for the writer. I think the bottom line is - if you're doing it primarily for the money, you're missing the mark.

Do something worthwhile, because you want to contribute, make a difference, change the world - be on a mission...and you might make some money along the way.

Real Live Preacher said...

I'm going to have to play the skeptic here. I suppose this is because my wife works for a large health-care organization, and they are always saying things like that. But they don't really mean what they say. They are always trying to create some kind of image for themselves. "We're the people who care."

I don't know. What does he mean by "make the world a better place?" Would the automotive industry quality? Microsoft? AT&T?

It seems to me that the businesses that survive are the ones that meet a need that people at least perceive. "I NEED a mobile phone that is an mp3 player."

I'd like this to be right. I don't know...maybe.

Heather said...

RLP, I think you can make money if you set out to make money instead of meaning (contrary to what the author said), but in the end, the money feels empty.
There are a lot of people who say they're about the meaning and the children and the improvement of society, and there are some who are about the meaning. You're right, are those compatible?
Look at Shane Claiborne in Philly or missionaries or workers for International Justice Mission.
Then again, there are some that get both. I have a tendency towards reverse discrimination. If you have lots of money, you probably aren't serving God. Shame on me.
And then there's the Gap Red program. Let's be honest, are they in it b/c they care or for the publicity? But I pray that God uses it all the same.

Every Square Inch said...


I love skeptics and have played one myself in blogosphere. ;-)

I get the feeling that at the heart of the matter is the whether the idea of making meaning is just a marketing tag line. You seem to be questioning the sincerity of your wife's company regarding their stated intentions.

But, what if you and I set out build a healthcare company because we believe the industry needs reform and because we care about how more people can be better served with comprehensive healthcare? Wouldn't that be better than saying - we see a market opportunity to make lots of money? ;-)

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for your thoughts on this. I tend to agree with you - there are some folks who simply set out to make money and do a good job at it. ;-)

I guess he's not suggesting it's always true that you need to make meaning to be successful.

Rather, he is suggesting that in his anecdotal, non-scientific observation, the ones who have a mission to make things better tend to become monetarily successful as well while those who set out with a solely financial objective end up doing neither.

You're probably right that being motivated to only make money results in feeling empty.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, Good thoughts, and I agree. There needs to be a sense of calling, vocation- especially as I think of it from a Christian business perspective.

Gideon Strauss said...

For what it's worth, there is a fair bit of evidence that Mr. Kawasakit is a Christian. For example: he says so ("I am a Christian" in an interview at, he links to the occasional sermon on his blog (, and he serves on the board of a parachurch ministry (

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks, my friend for pointing that out. Perhaps, that's why he believes in "making meaning"?