Mercenaries and Missionaries Episode #72

Aaron McHugh


I first heard this language of contrasting Mercenaries and Missionaries from Mike Rowe, TV personality from Dirty Jobs. He said, “I believe everyone should be both”. I agree with Mike and I take the idea a few steps further. As a result of Mike’s initial wisdom, I identified my Mercenary and Missionary predispositions.

Mercenary with a Missionary Heart

I live in a Mercenary (work) world but I have a Missionary heart. As a Mercenary, I am paid to conquer and advance the boundaries of the kingdom (work). I love the challenge of conquest and competition. I love receiving monetary rewards for my battles (combat pay). Yet I’ve never fully sold-out to that world. To me, no conquest is worth gaining the whole world but loosing my soul. I am oriented to deeper missions and meaning.

I believe that in order to have a sustainable growth Mercenary-driven business, you have to have an underlining reason, cause and mission. If all you have is “we’re going to beat those guys”, eventually your team will grow tired and stop showing up to the fight. They may keep coming to work, but you will have lost their heart’s energy.

Watch Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, the secrets to winning by answering, Why are we doing this? (27 Million views).

We just had drinks with a friend who runs a mission organization freeing women from sex trafficking. The campaign and purpose behind their organization is so powerful. His team simultaneously pays a high personal cost for the life-giving rescue they offer.

Click to Listen to Mercenaries and Missionaries

You might be a Mercenary if….

  • You get paid to play or fight, but you really don’t care a lot about the cause.
  • Money, achievement, competition, conquest and personal growth motivate you to keep going.

You might be a Missionary if…

  • The mission, the cause, change, vision, passion, compassion, conviction and belief drive you to keep going.
  • Money is secondary to the impact of the mission, campaign or purpose.

Downfalls of a Mercenary

  • It’s easy to run out of steam and abort the mission if it get’s too hard, too steep, too long, too cold, too (fill in the blank).
  • People can become a resource that is utilized to accomplish the mission, but sometimes it’s easy to forget their humanity.
  • There really isn’t a substantive reason, mission, purpose, meaning behind what you do everyday. It’s just for the money.

Downfalls of a Missionary

  • Fundraising can be exhausting and can become the primary mission just to keep alive.
  • The nobility of the mission can cause blind spots in your perspective of the entire organization.
  • People can get burned out by always bleeding for the cause.

Resources to help

Daniel Pink's book on motivation
Daniel Pink’s book on motivation

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink. This is a very powerful book on the topic of internal vs. external motivation. This book fits very nicely inside this conversation of Mercenary and Missionary.

Why we should become like both a Mercenary and a Missionary
Article from Work Life Play 2012.

3 thoughts on “Mercenaries and Missionaries Episode #72

  1. Thanks, Aaron. Encouraging to know that there are strengths to both perspectives. It is easy for me to drift into 100% mercenary mode. Peace.

  2. Thanks, Aaron. Good reminder that geography isn’t my problem. I’ve told myself from time to time that “if I just lived somewhere with access to amazing, year-round outdoor recreation like CO Springs, everything would be so much better…”

Comments are closed.