The Difference

A farmer / forester friend speaks eloquently and passionately about the nature of forests. To thrive, they need a mix of trees. Some spread their roots wide and shallow to provide stability in high winds, others drive deep tap roots to anchor them in place. Together they thrive. Difference is strength.

The same is true of our economy. An economy based soley on the worship of money is shallow. We need more.

There is a difference between getting paid to do something and doing something to earn money.

It is, I think, all about the work and our relationship with it. When we do something to earn money, the money is in charge, and what we do to achieve it becomes the variable. It is a dangerous path, and like anything addictive, it evolves to become an end in itself.

Doing something to earn money is slightly different. The “something” is in charge and the money more of the variable.

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We all operate on a line between doing something for the love of it and doing something for the tangible reward it brings us. We travel along that line every day, between a shallow attachment to money, and a deep connection to place, purpose and community. We need both.

I think what matters is understanding that and being aware of it.

Lockdown has given many of us a glimpse. The problem with a regular monthly salary is what it brings along with it. The ability to service debt and to use it to buy “shiny” things that provide short term satisfaction, and only then realise that the debt now owns us. We adopt habits, like commuting, to earn that regular monthly salary. We compromise those promises we made to ourselves about lines we would not cross because of our monthly salary demands.

Taleb is right, and we have built a whole industry – “financial services” – that provides for those who need to mainline debt. I wonder what removing our level of addiction to monthly salary would have on our creativity. If we had the provision for universal basic income that we have seen, dressed up in other terms, during the lockdown, would we see people pay more attention to the type of work they do? Could we see people move a little down the line to doing work they love, and if they did, what the impact would be?

It makes me shudder little when I read this morning that enabling re-skilling is to be part of the Queens Speech for the next Parliamentary term, but that it will be done via loans. Just how I wonder, do we re-skill creatively when we put debt in charge?

What is coming next, in a time of artificial intelligence and rapid adaptation to the Planet’s survival (or, to be accurate – humanity’s. The Planet will do just fine. It has longer to put things right than we do.)

The U.K is known for its creativity, and it seems a shame not to capitalise on it.

We all have a part in this and choose who we follow: shallow debt or our deep potential for creativity.

If we really want to break free and do what we could do, we must stop debt from killing creativity.
It may take several generations, but it’s no reason not to get started.

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