Change the World for Fun & Profit

Howard Thurman wrote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

And yet, that is precisely the opposite of what most people do when they strive for social change. Contrary to Thurman’s advice, societies tend to tackle problems by either legislating solutions into existence via politics or by pleading with the rich and powerful to share their resources via philanthropy.

Doing things like starting a business or pursuing a career in the arts is usually regarded as selfish and greedy. And even when we do support the people who pursue these things, we’re still hesitant to think of them as revolutionaries and freedom-fighters in the same way that we’d think of politicians and philanthropist.

As materialistic and consumeristic as everyone says our country is becoming, we’re still by and large a nation that thinks a little bit less of those who do what they do for fun and profit. While we may not believe that money is evil, we certainly don’t regard the pursuit of it as being on the same plane as ventures that claim to be “not for profit.”

As odd as it may seem to someone who understands the economics of customer accountability, telling someone “I won’t make or lose any money from this transaction” is still a more effective way to build trust than saying “I care very deeply about my bottom line.”

As odd as it may seem to someone who understands public choice and the nature of incentives, telling someone “I’m running for office” or “I’m going to work for a think tank” is far more likely to make you sound like someone who’s interested in doing good than saying “I want to follow my dreams” or “I want to work for a cool start-up.”

This weekend I’ll be giving a talk at the Young Americans for Liberty Denver Spring Summit about “Changing the World for Fun and Profit.” In this talk, I’ll make a clarion call for young people to return to the wisdom of Thurman’s advice. I’ll dismantle common arguments about why profits are bad and I’ll show how our individual passions and priorities are more of a powerful force for liberty than what we’ve been previously taught.

The optimal path to creating a freer society lies in following your own self-interests. If you want to change the world, stop trying so hard to change the world and start paying attention to the things that fire you up. That’s the punchline with which I’ll begin tomorrow’s talk. If you’d like to see where I take it from there, come join me at The Summit Conference & Event Center at 2pm. You can find out more information about the summit here

To learn more about how I’m changing the world through fun & profit in my everyday life, check out the work we’re doing at Praxis.

Also check out some of the links below to see some previous talks by my colleagues and I on how to adopt this strategy for changing the world:

Criticize by Creating – Derek Magill

People Over Politics: How to Change the World | Isaac Morehouse

Education 2.0: How Philosophy, Not Tech, is Disrupting How We Learn (TK Coleman)

Entrepreneurship As A Theory of Social Change: T. K. Coleman

Have A Little Pride

Never ask someone to buy your product or be your friend as if they would be performing some great act of charity in doing so.

As an alternative, get clear on your own value and come back with a proposition that’s based on the conviction that you have more to offer people than a mere plea for unmerited favor.

The problem doesn’t lie in your requests for support. The problem lies in the assumption that you don’t have any value to reciprocate. Treating yourself as if you have nothing to offer always results in more of the same until you break the cycle and start respecting your value.

If what you’re offering people is truly worthless, then you shouldn’t make their lives worse by burdening them with things that have no value.

If what you’re offering is actually worth something, however, then walk and talk like it’s actually worth something.

You Belong Here. Act Like It.

The world isn’t doing you some kind of great favor by letting you exist.

You have as much of a right to pursue happiness as anyone else. You have as much of a right to carve out your own path as anyone else. You have as much of a right to form your own ideas as anyone else. If you don’t have a right to be here, no one else does. If everyone else has a right to be here, so do you.

Hold your space with confidence. Stand your ground with poise. When you walk, walk with dignity. You don’t need to avert your gaze when standing in the presence of others. You don’t need to bow your head and whisper softly when you ask questions or express opinions. Be who you are without apology.

No one owns the air you breathe. Inhale it freely. No one owns the thoughts you think. Dream freely.  No one owns the convictions you feel. Feel what you want to feel. No one owns your body. Stand how you wish to stand. No one owns your voice. Say what you truly want to say. No one owns your capacity to choose. Live as you believe.

Some people say you only get one life to live. Others say you’ll get an afterlife when this one is over. Then there are those who say you’ll get many lives after this one.  Here’s my question: which life do you have to be in before you give yourself permission to live with a little self-respect?

All you will ever have is the present moment. The future is an idea that you’re contemplating right now. The past is a memory that you’re contemplating right now. The notion of another life at another time is an idea that you’re contemplating in this life at this time. When the future finally gets close enough for you to actually experience it, it will become the present moment. Whether you have one life or many lives, you always have only one moment in which you can live it: now!

Always keep working to increase your future value, but don’t wait to start carrying yourself like someone who has current value.

Start respecting yourself now. Start thinking for yourself now. Stop putting other people on a pedestal now. Stop waiting for external validation now.

You belong here. Act like it.

Now.

No Time for Begging

If you have to beg someone to be in a relationship with you, you’ll have to beg them to stick around down the road.

If you have to beg someone to be your friend, you’ll have to beg them to remain loyal when times get hard.

If you have to beg someone to buy your product, you’ll have to beg them to keep liking it after they buy.

If you have to beg someone to invest in your business, you’ll have to beg them to not regret the decision when they start to question themselves.

If you have to beg someone to go to a party with you, you’ll have to beg them to have a good time once you get there.

If you have to beg someone to believe what you want them to believe, you’ll have to beg them to stop falling apart once doubts begin to creep in.

If you have to beg at the beginning, you’ll have to beg midway through.

If you have to beg midway through, you’ll have to beg at the end.

Begging always begets more begging.

When people aren’t interested in what we have to offer, we often make the mistake of twisting their arm in an effort to guilt-trip them or frighten them into changing their mind. That kind of strategy might bring short-term relief, but it’ll also guarantee long-term headaches.

Here’s why:

No matter what course of action a person decides to take, there will be inevitable challenges and inconveniences along the way. This is true of every person and every path.

Do you know what happens to people who choose their own path? They almost always own up to the obstacles they face. Even when they suffer, they almost always take responsibility for their experiences. Do you know what happens to people when they feel like they’ve been coaxed into doing something that didn’t initially feel right? They almost always react with a spirit of bitterness and blame when things go wrong.

When you use desperation tactics to get what you want, you’ll almost always get more than what you bargained for. In addition to getting what you want in the short-term, you’ll also get a babysitting job in the long-term because someone is going to expect you to comfort and console them whenever they’re inconvenienced by the situation you dragged them into.

Avoid these kinds of situations with haste. As Mike Murdock once advised, “Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.”

Work with people who are happy to work with you. Surround yourself with people who are happy to have you in their circle. You don’t need to require a hero’s welcome everywhere you go, but you can always do better than begging.

Speak your truth, walk with conviction, and let your life speak for itself.  If someone isn’t buying what you’re selling, run quickly in the direction of the next possibility. Sell yourself well, but don’t sell yourself short. Keep pushing yourself to be great, but don’t push anyone to acknowledge how great you are.

As Jack Canfield wrote, “Some will. Some won’t. So what. Someone’s waiting.”

Adventures with someone who cherishes you and your gifts are waiting. There’s no time for begging. Move on with your life and don’t waste any more time on those who are unmoved by your life.

Prospering as a Franchise Entrepreneur with Terri Jacques | Small Business Edge Podcast

With the rise of outsourcing jobs overseas, automating jobs, and rapid advancements in technology making certain industries obsolete, many people feel helpless in their careers.

Terri Jacques, a prolific Massage Envy franchisee, knew that her job in IT would someday be outsourced and decided to go into franchising to build her own career and her own life.

Terri went from struggling to get a small business loan to now having 100+ employees, and is going on four (extremely successful) franchise locations.

In this episode of Small Business Edge, Terri talks with me about her path to franchise entrepreneurship, the difficulties she had to overcome, and the period of her life when she worked 100-hour workweeks.

There is Only One Way to Save Our City

MORPHEUS: Commander we need a presence inside the matrix to await contact from the Oracle.

LOCK: I don’t want to hear that s***. I don’t care about Oracles or prophecies or Messiahs. I care about one thing…stopping that army from destroying this city and to do that, I need soldiers to obey my orders.

MORPHEUS: With all due respect commander, there is only one way to save our city.

LOCK: How?

MORPHEUS: Neo.

LOCK: G*dd*mmit Morpheus, not everyone believes what you believe.

MORPHEUS: My beliefs do not require them to.

The Matrix Reloaded

When free markets succeed, people bet against the unknown by saying “Well, sure, that one situation worked out okay, but we can’t be absolutely certain that the free market will successfully handle every possible situation. So don’t jump to any optimistic conclusions.”

When government fails, people gamble on the unknown by saying “Well, sure, that one incident turned out very poorly, but we can’t be absolutely certain that better politicians won’t come along and make everything better in the future. So don’t jump to any overly pessimistic conclusions.”

When it comes to free markets, people encourage relentless skepticism and unyielding caution. When it comes to politics, people encourage relentless faith and unyielding loyalty.

No matter how much good the free market produces, we’ll always need to see more evidence before we place faith in it. No matter how much evil or inefficiency is produced by politics, however, we’ll always find a way to keep placing more and more faith in it.

When it comes to free markets, we wait to believe. When it comes to politics, we refuse to doubt.

“Don’t lose faith in politicians just yet,” they say. “Reform is on the way.”

Ah, yes, “reform.”

I’m beginning to fear that when people use the word “reform”, all they really mean is something like “no matter how many times the existing system fails, I will continue to assume that everything will be okay as long as we can get an honest man to pull the lever.”

Will a great man or great woman actually come along and save us?

Yes, but that great man or great woman has to be you, me, and everyone else. We can’t afford to keep placing our faith in a worldview that says “Just wait until we get the right person or the least evil person in a position of power.” We need to understand power in terms of voluntarism and individualism. There is only one way to save our city and it’s you. You are The One.

While many of my friends and colleagues wait in hope of “reform”, I’ll continue my quest to change the world by investing my voice and my votes in an entrepreneurial theory of social change. While the world at large insists on celebrating and fearing great leaders, I will celebrate the power of the individual as expressed through innovation and voluntary interaction in the marketplace. While political commentators debate over which system of coercion is best, I’ll devote myself to spreading faith in the power of creativity.

The majority of people will probably never come around to believing that free markets are more ethical and efficient than authoritarian interventionism, but that’s the beauty of the entrepreneurial theory of social change. In politics, you don’t get to be powerful unless you can get the majority of people to think like you. In the marketplace, however, you can alter individual lives and entire incentive structures simply by creating value regardless of what people claim to believe.

If you’re still placing unshakeable faith in politics, have fun. Have fun being angry at all the people who vote differently from you. Have fun trying to change the minds of thousands of people that you can’t control. Have fun knowing that no matter how much you seem to be winning at the present moment, that you will still have a moment in the future when you’re forced to acknowledge someone you despise as your overlord.

If you’re interested in another way, however, try the free market. Instead of living as if the fate of the world relies on your one tiny little vote that you get to place on election day, vote with your dollars and deeds multiple times every single day for the rest of your life. In the free market, you can create products, services, and experiences that allow people to gain more enjoyment from their already existing freedoms. In the free market, you can create tools and technologies that allow people to fight for new freedoms in ways that are more accessible, efficient, or creative than their previously existing options.

Instead of spending all your energy trying to change the way people see the world, use your creativity to change the world that people see.

I truly believe that this is “the only way to save our city.” Perhaps you do not believe as I do. My beliefs do not require you to. That’s why I’m going to keep creating regardless of how much people trouble themselves over politics. While I may never alter people’s beliefs about the world, I at least have some hope of altering the world that people form beliefs about.

In spite of traditional schooling’s emphasis on the myth of the great man as the key to societal change, I’m free enough from the matrix to realize that revolutions have always been the result of small remnants who subverted outdated systems through innovation while the confident majority lulled itself to sleep through the same old tired debates about who should get to control the existing system.

Rise Up From Your Chair of Self-Condemnation

“Take back your right to be yourself and get up from the chair of the defendant.” -Vadim Zeland, Reality Transurfing Book I

You vowed to exercise at least three times this week and you failed.

You set a goal to blog every day for a week straight and you missed a day.

You promised yourself you’d cut down on the sodas, refined sugars, or whatever your personal vice happens to be and you stumbled a little.

You lost your cool again, said a few hurtful things you shouldn’t have said, and now you feel like a jerk.

Here’s a distinction that might be useful for you:

Remorse versus Self-condemnation.

Remorse is when you feel bad for violating your moral code, for failing to live up to your standards of right and wrong. It’s when your conscience tells you “That wasn’t right.”

Self-condemnation is when you respond to the sensation of guilt by berating, belittling, and beating yourself up.

“Yikes! I really dropped the ball this week. My behavior was unacceptable. I need to make some changes and step my game up.”

That’s remorse.

“I’m such an idiot. I always do stuff like this. I just feel so horrible.”

That’s self-condemnation.

Notice a few key differences here:

  1. Remorse focuses on the specific pattern of wrongdoing that needs to be fixed. Self-condemnation focuses on personal identity. The former says, “What I did was wrong.” The latter says “I am a bad person.”
  2. Remorse focuses on a specific time frame (ie. “this week”). Self-condemnation focuses on permanent-sounding conditions like “always” or “never”. The former says “What I said yesterday was wrong.” The latter says “I always put my foot in my mouth.”
  3. Remorse focuses on what needs to be done in order to get back on track. Self-condemnation focuses on wallowing in the feeling of unworthiness and shame. The former says “I messed up. Therefore I’ll clean it up.” The latter says “I always mess up everything and it just feels so horrible to be this way.”
  4. Remorse leads to constructive change. Self-condemnation traps you in a negative feedback loop where you feel bad for failing, wallow in feelings of shame, and keep on failing because you feel too unworthy to try again.

Here’s the ironic thing: Most people get stuck in guilt-trips because they sincerely believe it’s the morally right response to have towards personal failure. After all, what could be more irresponsible and disrespectful than walking around with an inspired countenance after you just let everyone down? A truly good person, it seems, would be one who punishes himself or herself after doing something wrong.

The logic makes sense, but it’s still flawed. For starters, being self-confident and inspired doesn’t have to take the form of rubbing your enthusiasm in someone else’s face. You can still feel inwardly motivated while also understanding and respecting the fact that other people are upset.

Imagine walking into a funeral ceremony for a complete stranger. Your life is going well and you’re in a peaceful mood, but everyone at the funeral is sad. You’re not sad, but everyone else is. Do you run around giggling while trying to cheer everyone up? Do you engage in a bunch of happy-go-lucky chatter about how awesome your life is to everyone there? No. Because you have respect for the moment and what it means to others, you conduct yourself compassionately and considerately while remaining grounded in your own internal sense of well-being.

The same is true of remorse. You don’t have to put on an exaggerated display of guilt-ridden sadness just to establish the fact that you mean business. In fact, this kind of behavior usually has the opposite effect. When you engage in melodramatic performances of “whoa is me”, people might begin to wonder if you have the stability and resilience to handle the job of turning things around. Moreover, by making the whole issue center around how bad you feel, you cause valuable time, energy, and attention to be spent on comforting you. Do you know where else those resources could have gone? That’s right: towards creating and executing a concrete plan that would have made things better.

Instead of relying on dramatic declarations and theatrical gestures to prove to others that you really feel bad, carry yourself with confidence and dignity as you showcase your seriousness with action.

Avoid the mistake of equating moods with morality. You are never righteous or sinful merely because of what you feel. Your integrity is determined by the responsibility you to take for making good things happen.

Have you failed recently? Go ahead and own it, but from now on start owning your commitment to winning as much as you own your confession to wrongdoing.