Money can teach you how live a better life of service. No, seriously…
You’re not here to make money.
I know this is probably so obvious that it doesn’t need mentioning, but still…
We live in a world where we still get a gauge of something’s value by asking about its price.
“Ohh. Nice car. How much did it cost?”
It’s a mental framework we carry around, and like any mindset, it can be a little sticky when we use it a lot.
(I can’t go for dinner at someone’s house without thinking about how I’d renovate for capital gain!)
So if we spend a lot of time equating price and value, we can end up equating price and value ourselves, all the time, by default.
Obviously good to get away from this.
But there’s a few things I’d say about this.
The first is that just because many good things lie outside the money-system, it doesn’t mean that everything that is outside the money system is ‘good’.
For example, no one’s going to pay you to run a soup kitchen out of your van for homeless people. That’s an activity that lives outside the current money system. However, we can probably all agree that it’s a ‘good’ thing to do.
At the same time, no one is going to pay you to trawl through back-issues of Woman’s Day and make a scrapbook of people wearing blue. That is also outside the money system, but it’s hard to see much social value in it, no matter how many hours you put into it.
(I have an entire section dedicated to Princess Di.)
The second point is “outside the money system” isn’t the only place where good things can happen. Many good things do happen there, but many good things can also happen within the money system.
For example, say you find a way to build higher density affordable housing. People who need it get homes, you take a cut for your efforts, and everybody wins. Money is just a vehicle that helped make it happen.
Ok, at this point I’m feeling like a bit of an idiot. These things are as obvious as the nose on your face when you put them down on paper. And I don’t want to insult your intelligence.
(The fact that you’re here already says the you’re a clever cookie.)
But it’s worth laying out because I still see people getting this stuff a bit confused.
In our network, we put a lot of energy into our “why”. What’s your motivation? Making money isn’t a drive. Supporting your husband who has a bad back is a drive.
If you’re not clear on your ‘why’ you can end up flip-flopping all over the place.
But our why’s can change and evolve. Typically, after people have themselves and their family sorted out, they lift their gaze a little. They start thinking, how can I use this wealth and power to do some real good? How can I help others?
(This happens almost without fail, and gives me profound faith in human nature.)
This takes different forms for different people. Some people want to start an orphanage in Indonesia. Some people want to invest in clean water programs in Africa. Some people want to build women’s refuges closer to home.
And it’s true that many of these ventures – especially the ones that pass down into ILRE legend – happen outside the money system.
However, my advice would be, don’t be in too much of a rush to take it there.
When you’re in that early phase of expanding your circle of concern into something more global, remember that a lot of good can still happen within our money system.
And the fact of the matter is that money can actually be a really useful disciplining force.
People will pay money for things they value. So if you’re creating something that people will pay for, you will become very focused on delivering something of value.
And when you deliver value, the world becomes a better place through the value that you create.
Money isn’t the only way this can happen of course, but it can help you navigate the journey. Am I creating something of value here? Well, if people are paying for it, then you know you are.
I’ve seen a few projects launched out of the ILRE community that could have benefited from more of this direction and shaping. For example, I’m thinking of someone who wanted to start music programs in indigenous communities for example.
It came from a great place, but after a few years, the person behind it realised that it was more about him that it was about the people he was trying to ‘help’. He realised he was doing something he thought was ‘cool’, not something that was necessarily valued by the people receiving it.
So my advice is, that as your circle of concern is growing, don’t rush off to the good that happens outside the money system. A lot of good can still happen within it, and the signals you get about the ‘value’ of your ‘service’ can really help you craft an excellent offering.
Think of it as training. Learn the discipline of value creation.
And if you are offering something outside the money system, imagine yourself working with the same disciplines of business, and make your value proposition front and centre.
You’ll get a much better result.
And we’re all here to do some good.
In your service to the world, does money give you a good guide to ‘value’