Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Only Way To Get It Is To Give It Away

What do any of us want out of life?

Economics is the study of scarcity. To get things you have to be frugal, make choices between competing ideas, and live without certain things.

Looking at corporate America, it is very much a fixed pie scenario. There is only so much pie, and to "maximize your utility," as they say, you have to take it from someone else. This is not all cold and hard business, of course; different people want different things. There are opportunities to expand the pie in some cases.

The classic example from the negotiations class is two people who want a lemon. If they cut the lemon down the middle, each should be happy, right? Not if they want the lemon for different reasons. One person may want the juice for lemonade, and the other may want the skin for baking. Dividing the lemon according to pulp and skin is an example of trying to expand the pie.

Business easily misses ideal solutions because they are so intent on protecting their piece of pie. I think small business gets these things better, because it runs on a more personal basis, but business myopia is still hard to combat.

When most people discuss what really matters in life, it is not merely money and power. Some may not act like money and power are unimportant, but few people actually say the purpose of life is money and power. The problem with business becoming the purpose of life for so many people is that they think business principles apply to everything.

So, back to my original question: What do any of us want out of life? Almost everyone will list things like family, friendship, happiness, faith, hope, love, and the list could go on. The only way to get these things is to give them away freely.

In a terrific book called Six Events, Steven R. Covey describes the difference between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality. "People with a scarcity mentality," he says, "have a difficult time being genuinely happy for the success of others, even family members or close friends" (p. 53). What a sad state, yet it is so easy to feel that way.

On the other hand (now I sound like an economist), "Charity, or the pure love of Christ, produces an abundance mentality so that we're never threatened by the success of other people" (p. 54).

I am convinced that no matter what we really want in life, the only way to get it is to give it away and help as many other people find it as possible.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Great post! I am reading, "Never Eat Alone" and I forgot the name of the author. He also believes the best way to get something is to help others achieve it. Of course he wrote it in a little better way than that.