Like many, the carrot that keeps me working toward my professional aspirations is that I might one day “make it”. For various reasons that I hope to one day expound upon in greater detail, I do not expect ever to be rich and my psyche has shifted to an almost contented resignation to that fact. And while I recognize the important role our market economy plays in fostering the inherent spirit of innovation that burns in all of us, I sometimes wonder if our businesses might be better, might make our society better, by surrendering to some similar resignation. What if, instead of making greater and greater profits, we could all be content with simply making a living. What if we could all just get by doing what we love doing and trading that for the goods and services we need that others love just doing.
From Om Malik’s excellent, Gone Fishing:
About a year ago I met a shoemaker in Italy. We got along famously, despite the obvious language barrier. He is as analog as they come, and when I asked him if I should help him set up an Instagram account or a Facebook page, he looked at me and said, “I want to make shoes for people who love shoes. I don’t want to run an industry.” He knew exactly how many shoes he could make in a month. And thus he knew how much money he could make in a year and what he could do with his life that wasn’t spent making shoes. His story has stayed with me, and as I have embarked on a process of simplification and cleansing of excesses from my life, I always ask myself, “Why is this important, and why should I spend my time on this?”
I am not very aggressive in saving for retirement, partly, if not mostly, because I yearn so much to enjoy some of what I have now. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’ll regret this philosophy one day. Or maybe I won’t.