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Profit Purloined and the Anguish of Being Bad

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

purloin v.-to take dishonestly; steal; filch; pilfer.

Someone asked me recently: "What if your passion is illegal or immoral, or both? How can you turn that passion into profit?"

I responded:

Excellent question; one that people have asked me during my workshops, and which others have no doubt contemplated whether in jest or with serious intent to execute.

The short answer to your question is that the process of generating money from a passion is the same regardless of whether that passion/activity is illegal or immoral. You can find more details of the actual process at

For the long answer, however, your question gives me an opportunity to explore the concept a little further. First let’s discuss "HOW" you run your business.

In any pursuit of wealth based on the success of a business, the basis of that success is always exchange. Any business, even the illegal and immoral ones, will be exchanging value with others in one of four possible ways. These are natural laws.

[excerpt from The Dynamics of Money]

1. First consider a group that takes in money but does not deliver anything in exchange. This is called rip-off.

It is the "exchange" condition of robbers, most taxmen, many governments and criminal elements.

2. Second is the condition of “partial exchange.” The business takes in orders or money for goods and then delivers part of it or a corrupted version of what was ordered. This is called short-changing or "running into debt" in that more and more is owed, in service or goods, by the business.

3. The third condition is the exchange known, legally and in business practice, as "fair exchange." One takes in orders and money and delivers exactly what has been ordered. Most successful businesses and activities work on the basis of "fair exchange."

4. The fourth condition of exchange is not common but could be called “exchange in abundance.” Here one does not give two for one or free service but gives something more valuable than money was received for.

Example: The company has diamonds for sale; an average diamond is ordered; the company delivers an above-average blue-white diamond, and delivers it promptly and with courtesy.

[end of excerpt; By the way, exchange in abundance is the only way to run your business to really prosper]

As you can see, you can have an illegal business that is operating through fair exchange or exchange in abundance and thus maintains and advances its success. It gives people exactly what they want or more and thus does not violate the natural laws of exchange. Violating these laws come with its own set of karmic consequences, if you will.

The challenge here, of course, is that if you decide to operate a business engaged in an activity that society has decided is illegal or immoral, then there are certain consequences. However, these consequences are not based on natural law. These are human laws.


To explain this, first understand that there is a difference between morals and ethics.

Morals are what a society decides are in its best survival interests. This varies from society to society, and what's frowned upon by one society can be perfectly morally acceptable in another. A moral code, therefore, is a series of agreements to which a person has subscribed to guarantee the survival of a specific group--the group, in this case, being society.

A survival action is a moral action. And those things are considered immoral which are considered contrasurvival.

Ethics, on the other hand, is the study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by the individual in his relationship with others. It’s based on one’s personal beliefs about what is right and wrong. An ethical code, therefore, is the set of certain restrictions indulged in to better the manner of conduct of one’s life. A person conducts himself according to such a code because he wants to, or because he feels he is proud enough or decent enough or civilized enough to so conduct himself. It’s a personal thing.

If the society through agreement, and enforced by its laws, agrees that it is immoral and illegal to grow and sell your own herbs, or to offer a service that is deemed against the group's best interest, then it becomes an ethical challenge when you engage in that activity.

NOTE: The argument could be made, of course, that many laws are imposed on the masses by a few in positions of power, and do not really reflect group agreement, but that's another discussion. The fact is that society has laws in place to reward those who abide by, and punish those who deviate from the agreements. Whether you agree with them or not is irrelevant.


It’s been said that a person cannot willfully commit an act that he knows to be wrong. Therefore, he must first justify his behavior in some way. He can rob a bank or steal a loaf of bread if he feels justified in doing so as a way to right a wrong, balance life’s unfairness, feed his starving children, etc.

The reason people can run successful illegal or immoral businesses is because they’ve justified it as ethically allowable in some way.

But here’s the interesting part of all of this. If you do something that is "unethical" or something that is "immoral" (i.e. against the best interests of the group), a few things start to happen.

You may not realize or believe this, but you and most other humans are essentially and basically good. The average person is good to such an extent that when he realizes he is being dangerous to others and acting in error he seeks to minimize his power, and if that doesn't work and he still finds himself committing illegal/immoral acts he then seeks to dispose of himself either by leaving the group, or by getting caught and even executed. It's true, that's the real reason for the break up of relationships, families, groups organizations: someone commits a transgression (in thought or action) against the group, and then takes themselves out of the group. In other words, if you knowingly commit an illegal or immoral act, you yourself will do things to bring yourself back in line with the moral code.

While taking nothing away from the investigative prowess of police departments, the jails are filled with people who commit acts then through their own conscience, allow themselves to be caught. It’s the private anguish of being bad that makes a person bring himself in line with the moral code.


The toll, therefore, for acting in ways that go against the moral code, or that are illegal, or both, are mental and emotional anguish, self-imposed separation from the group, imprisonment and even death....all at your own hands. For the group, it threatens to destabilize and dissolve the group and create a lower quality of life for all concerned.

So while it appears that many people engage in illegal activity and prosper, and that they endure happily for a while, there is a higher price they do, and will, and that we all eventually pay.

If you do decide to engage in an illegal or immoral business activity for the purpose of monetary profit, be aware that there are consequences that go beyond the visible.

The short-term benefits of short-sighted decisions for short-lived economic benefit create conditions of short-lived prosperity, and which may rob all of us of the best future opportunities for profit and success. Whether nation or individual, the pursuit of prosperity-true prosperity-must be based on decisions that do the greatest good for the greatest number of people for the greatest length of time.

And so, as with all projects that people contemplate, the question of “how” is never a real issue or deterrent to success. Once you know the true depth of the consequences on a karmic, individual and societal level of pursuing ill-gotten profit, the real question is not “how can you” but “why would you?”

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Until next time, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!-Walt


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