There's a strange notion floating around out there that if you follow your bliss, follow your dreams, you'll be a starving artist or something.
Somehow, and nobody ever explains how, when you follow your heart, bliss, dreams, and desires, you are supposedly doing something that is worth less, or possibly even worthless.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me show you how when you are doing what you love you create wealth in the best way possible.
Economics 101 - Why Does Our Standard Of Living Rise?
Have you ever wondered exactly where wealth comes from? Why is our standard of living higher than it was in times past? What causes our standard of living to rise? Why do we live better now than at any time in the past? What creates wealth?
To answer these questions we need to look at the basics of economics. What exactly is an economy?
The foundation of economics is the exchange of one thing for another. You have potatoes, I have chickens, let's trade some of one for some of another. Then we both have chickens and potatoes. Susie has carrots and I have carrot peelers, we trade and are both happy for the exchange.
Now, in modern times, say the last few thousand years, trading goods for other goods hasn't been the best way to do this. We use money instead. The beauty of money is that it allows me to get your potatoes even if you don't want my chickens and to sell my chickens to Susie who has carrots I don't need. She pays me, I pay you, everyone is happy. Money is a form of freedom and one of the most powerful inventions ever devised, quite possibly on a par with fire and the wheel.
But there is a subtext to these transactions. Why not raise your own chickens, potatoes, carrots, and create your own carrot peelers? You could, of course, do these things but that's not very efficient. You see, I'm an expert at creating carrot peelers with years of experience with the process. You know exactly the right way to plant and harvest potatoes and have a large plot of land cultivated for that purpose, whereas my land has rocks on it from which I fashion the peelers and is not suitable for growing much. Susie has especially soft and sandy soil that is perfect for carrots. Chickens, well I raise them using a special feed I've developed that makes them grow extra meaty.
Efficiency Is Key
By distributing the tasks this way we achieve efficiency.
Extending this to a more modern example, it is less overall effort for a car manufacturer to make cars than it is for you to make one yourself. You may be able to raise chickens, and grow potatoes and carrots, but in truth, most things you use daily you can't make yourself, not ever. As creating goods and services becomes more efficient our standard of living increases.
Efficiency is the key driver of economic growth.
Increasing efficiency is what makes your standard of living higher than the standards of living in some other places and broadly compared to the past.
To give you some idea of how much more wealthy Americans are today than they were in the past, take a look at this graph adjusted for inflation to year 2000 dollars:
This graphs shows the U.S. per capita GDP growth adjusted for inflation from 1790 to 2005. The mean growth rate is 1.71% per year. Log scale. Source: EH.net
What was $1 worth in 1790?
$916 is the year 2000 inflated rate of $48 in 1790 dollars. Inflation has decreased the value of $1 over 19 times to around $.05. That works out to an average annual rate of 1.36%. I guess it's time to replace "A penny for your thoughts?" with "A quarter for your thoughts?"
Comparing the bottom, at $916 to the top, at $37,232, you see that our overall standard of living has increased over 40 times during those 215 years. Impressive, don't you think? Can you imagine living on $916 per person per year? That's roughly the standard of living in Afghanistan. Even at that low level, Afghans are taking advantage of the efficiency of a broader economy.
Why The United States Is Rich
The US is wealthy for a whole host of reasons including great natural resources, a strong work ethic, and good governance. Most of all, it had all the right pieces in place to take advantage of new and emerging technologies without being burdened by large investments in traditional methods that were being superseded. All of these features contribute to economic efficiency.
America could, and did, build railroads across the country which lowered the costs of raw materials and increased their availability. That's efficiency.
America could, and did, use machines to replace people whenever possible which lowered product costs and increased quality. That's efficiency.
America could, and did, invent computers to handle massive amounts of information that people can't keep track of well which lowered all sorts of business costs and increased reliability. That's efficiency.
You can see these same changes taking place in emerging economies, like China, at light speed. The efficiencies are just waiting to be applied. There is no need to invent them, just to put them in place. That's why you're seeing growth rates around 10% in emerging markets.
Efficiency is economics 101. Efficiency is the engine that drives wealth. Once you understand that, you understand economics.
How You Can Create Wealth
We did a masterful job of using efficient machines to replace farmers and to create factory workers. Then we used efficient robots and automation to replace factory workers and to create knowledge workers. Now we are using efficient information technologies to replace knowledge workers. Each step of the way we increased efficiency and increased our standard of living as a result.
But as we use information technologies to replace knowledge workers, what is the next step that people are supposed to take?
Sure, there will be the persistent jobs, the teachers, firemen, construction workers, food service people, and such, but they only make up about 20% of the population and that hasn't changed much in the last 200 years. So what are the rest of us going to do?
Forget about getting factory jobs back, they're in decline even in China and have been for a long time. That's not the path. We need a better way, a new approach.
I think I have a plan, one that we can follow without changing any of the fundamentals of economics or inventing some new "killer app" on a par with the steam engine or the computer.
What we're looking for is something that increases efficiency and involves people in the process.
Here's my solution: Happy workers.
Get Rich Being Happy
Do you love doing what you do every day? I think for most people, unless they are retired, the answer is a resounding "NO!"
That's a sad state of affairs. And it's a huge inefficiency in the system.
It is also a huge opportunity. Not just for companies but for employees, investors, and everyone else, too.
Do What You Love, Love What You Do
Businesses have been wonderfully efficient at squeezing out every spare bit and piece of technical and administrative inefficiency. Companies run much leaner than they used to. So what's left?
You. Are you running a peak efficiency? If you answered "no" or "sometimes" above then you are not running efficiently. Think about it this way, if you aren't doing what you love, how likely are you to invest the time and energy in something that doesn't speak deeply to you? What will you be thinking about in your spare time, something you want to do or something you think you are supposed to do? A job which isn't a job or a job you must endure?
Which are you going to look forward to, Monday mornings or Friday evenings? What would your work quality and endurance be if it seemed like you were just playing most of the time instead?
That's what following your bliss, acting on your dreams, looks like. Everyday is a good day, even when it's not perfect. You wake up looking forward to work (how strange, don't you think?) and are sorry the end of the day has come already. That's bliss. And that's efficient.
Bliss means business.
Will You Get Rich Doing What You Love?
I don't know. But let me ask you, what are the odds you'll get rich doing something you don't love?
Working for anything other than love, bliss, dreams, desires, and happiness is wasteful. It's working against your nature and not utilizing the best of the wonderful person you are. And it's inefficient.
To paraphrase Gandhi, human efficiency is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all in harmony.
Imagine how productive you would be if you were following your dreams and engaging life fully as yourself.
Now imagine everyone else doing this, too. How much more fun would interacting with people be if they all loved what they were doing? Imagine or even think back to that customer service person who just loved talking to you and helping solve your problem. So much nicer than the one for whom it's "just a job," isn't it?
Whether or not this translates into material wealth and riches for you personally is an open question but it will most certainly translate in to a higher standard of living for your society and our world.
We won't get there quickly but it took 160 years for agricultural employment to decline and stabilize where it is now, 115 years for manufacturing to reach its peak in the 1930s, and knowledge work has been on the rise for a mere 75 years. We don't need to get there all at once but it's time we started down this path. These cycles are getting shorter and shorter and this might be the last one we spend as pure, non-technologically enhanced beings. We might as well make the best of it.
There are no guarantees in this world but this much I can say, if you follow your bliss, you may or may not have material wealth but you will most certainly have the wealth of a fulfilled life. And that's what matters most, isn't it?
Whoever had the best life when they die wins.