“Bottom Line, I didn’t return to Apple to make a fortune. I’ve been very lucky in my life and already have one. When I was 25, my net worth was $100 million or so. I decided then that I wasn’t going to let it ruin my life.” -Steve Jobs

When he said this, Steve Jobs made a compelling point: He wasn’t going to let his fortune ruin his life. He wasn’t going to let it run his life. He went back to the company he founded because he was passionate about it, about making something new, about building something better.

Money is always part of the equation, but the entrepreneurial spirit isn’t motivated by monetary gain. It’s driven by freedom. True entrepreneurs don’t let money run or ruin their lives.

“The Degeneration of the Entrepreneurial Mindset”

Jim Collins wrote an article “Built to Flip” in 2000, a lifetime ago in business terms. But key components remain relevant today, particularly this piece: “The entrepreneurial mind-set has degenerated from one of risk, contribution, and reward to one of wealth entitlement.”

Back then, Collins was witnessing the madness of the dot-com bubble; investors threw money at ideas, flipped them, made millions, and then lost millions. Today, there are still some residual effects of this mindset, as the upswing in “built to flip” apps and tech companies might suggest.

Here’s an example of this type of “wealth focus”: An entrepreneur builds a business and thinks, “After this, if someone pays me enough, I’ll sell in a minute. I don’t care about what I built. I just want to make enough money to live the way I want and retire at 35.”

It’s not an exaggeration. Entrepreneur Brock Blake writes about his own experience in Forbes: “Somehow, I subconsciously decided early on that I’d be one of those that would have an ‘overnight success’ and a quick exit as a multi-gazillionaire within 3-5 years.” As he points out, though, short-term thinking catches up:

Foundational processes don’t exist. Scalable products haven’t been built. Customer satisfaction is lacking. And, you wake up one day only to find that you have built an organization by plugging holes and juggling balls.

Built to Last

Entrepreneurs like this haven’t created anything to last; they haven’t built their business on a foundation of passion, or involvement, or engagement. What happens when they put money aside – not away, just aside – and build something for their employees? Their family? Their community? Then they have something that’s worth far more than money.

The 2013 State of the Business Owner Report surveyed more than 1,700 business owners and discovered the top motivations for starting a company:

  • Freedom to pursue new opportunities.
  • The desire to follow their passion.
  • To gain independence.
  • Money.

True entrepreneurs follow their passion, and hope the money follows after that. If they’re in it just for the money, they may or may not be successful. If they’re in it for the contribution, for the passion of living their lives, for the freedom, then they’ll be successful regardless of the ultimate financial payoff.