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Two Economic Tragedies

Two economic tragedies:

1. Refusing to acknowledge any forms of value that don’t make money.

(Ie. “Friendships and hobbies are a waste of time unless they advance your career.”)

2. Resenting markets for not rewarding all the things we value in terms of money.

(Ie. “I enjoy laughing, listening to music, and hanging out at the beach. It’s unfair that nobody wants to give me a job or pay me money for those things.”)

#1 = a failure to understand why money matters and how it relates to the pursuit of meaning.

#2 = a failure to understand how value-creation works and why people choose to pay for things at all.

The way out:

Understand your why.

Respect other people’s.

Figure out how to use the former to serve the latter.

Try Before You Know

Conducting an experiment to explore what works > Making a religion out of every newly discovered self-improvement technique.

In design thinking, there’s a process known as “Proof of Concept.”

This is when you create a pilot version of a project in order gauge your idea against the feedback of some real world experience.

This works not only for developing products, but also for developing your self.

If there’s new book you’re on the fence about buying, find a podcast interview or YouTube video of the author talking about the ideas. If that experience makes you want more, then you have your proof of concept. You now have a better indication that you’ll enjoy the book. If the experience makes you bored or irritated by the author’s communication style, that might be a good indicator that your time is better spent elsewhere.

If you’re considering a new approach to exercising, commit to trying it out for one week. That might be too soon to notice visible results, but it’s not too soon to notice how it makes you feel. Does it make you want more? If so, try two weeks. Does it make you feel less inclined to work out? If so, maybe it’s time to put something new to the test.

Marriage is a wonderful practice, but not everything in life needs to be approached as if it’s a marriage.

Instead of making a lifetime vow to eat a certain way, to get up a certain amount of time, to read a certain number of books, to work a specific set of hours, and so on, try the art of trying things out.

There’s no need to declare a dogmatic opinion about all your strategies and techniques. Being open-minded is good enough. You can get the rest of the information you need by taking a little action and measuring how that makes you feel.


Develop a Rich Mind

Abundance doesn’t just mean “having a lot of things.”

It means “having a lot of ways to think about things.”

It’s possible to have a lot of talents, connections, advantages, and opportunities, but still feel like “it’s not enough” or “I’m not enough” if you only have 1-2 ways to think about what you have.

There’s no form of wealth that can’t easily be undermined by an impoverished imagination.

Become rich in thought by expanding your definition of abundance to include more things than obvious stereotypical examples of wealth.

You Already Have It

Some fantasize “If I were rich, I’d use the money for good causes.”

Why wait?

Instead of putting off generosity until you’ve accumulated more assets, find a way to make a difference with assets you might be undervaluing.

You don’t have to be rich to start practicing the mindset. Generosity is the willingness to share what you have to offer with confidence that someone will be enriched even by your smallest contribution.

It’s a way of declaring “I will not wait on more abundance before embracing the life-giving power of what I can share in this moment.”

Nathaniel Smith,  Fellow at The Mercatus Center, wrote :

We all have two hands and a heart…ears?…these are all in high demand. Undervalued assets indeed.

On the surface, Smith’s words might sound like just another way of saying “Accept everything crappy about your life and never strive for more.”

But it’s the opposite.

If you want to GET more, you have to use what you already have.

The same is true of generosity.

If you want to GIVE more. you have to use what you already have.

The path to a better life always leads through a willingness to affirm something in your life that’s already worth building on.

Never Write Checks That You Can’t Cash: Career Edition

Here’s a career-building spin on the old principle “Never write checks that you can’t cash.”

Whenever you turn down a job opportunity, you’re writing yourself a check.

The amount of the check you just wrote for yourself = how much that company was going to pay you + any other perceived value you would have gained from the role (ie. knowledge, experience, and connections).

If you can turn down an opportunity, completely own it, never look back, and create more wealth or happiness elsewhere, then you’re writing yourself checks you can cash.

If you turn down an opportunity, find yourself wandering around in limbo, feeling anxious about how you’re going to pay your bills, and getting paid less or equal money to do something that makes you less happy and gives you less hope, then you’re writing yourself checks you can’t cash.

So here’s an example:

Let’s say you want to be a public speaker.

Someone offers you $300 to speak at an event.

You respond by saying “Nah. I don’t get out of bed for anything less than $1000 per talk.”

You just wrote yourself a check for $300 + the knowledge, exposure, and connections you would have gained from that experience.

Now here’s the question: can you cash that check?

By “cash the check,” I mean “afford to turn down the offer.”

Now since this concept varies from person to person, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you figure out if you’re writing checks you can’t afford to cash.

1) Can I say no to the offer without stressing out over my ability to live without the money that was offered to me?

2) Do I have alternative options (ie. actual offers, not imagined possibilities) that offer better monetary or non-monetary rewards?

3) Am I willing to fully own this choice if the other possibilities I’m imagining don’t turn out to be what I’m hoping for?

Let’s go back to my example:

If you turn down the $300 and you find yourself complaining about not having enough speaking gigs or speaking income, you’re writing yourself checks that you can’t cash.

If you turn down the $300 and you’re now forced to take less money doing other things that make you less happy and give you less hope, you’re writing checks that you can’t cash.

If you turn down the $300 because you want to test the market and you’ve already made up your mind that you’re okay with losing the opportunity if they balk at your higher price, then you’re writing checks that you CAN cash.

If you turn down the $300 because you already have another offer that either pays you more OR offers you something really valuable that’s more important to you than the money, then you’re writing checks that you CAN cash.

This invokes consideration of Isaac M. Morehouse’s infamous three words: Compared to what?

The next time you reject or dismiss an opportunity, ask yourself “Compared to what?”

Some offers may be a long way from your dream, but they also may be a long way from zero. They may be a lot less than your ideal, but a lot closer than where you are now.

In the end, you have to go with your gut. If you know you’re going to regret saying “yes” to something, don’t say “yes.”

But whatever you do, don’t write yourself checks that you can’t cash.

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