Monday, June 29, 2009

Job Searching in Galt's Gulch

I went to a lecture this morning about embracing change this morning, and it was a relatively unique lecture. What I've found interesting thus far about these groups is that the primary messages seem overwhelmingly obvious, but it's some of the side, ancillary information that has really been informative.

One of the things we were asked to do was draw pictures of the first thing that came to mind when you thought about a variety of concepts. Leadership (I drew a crown.) Vision (I drew an eye.) Power (I drew a gauntlet in a fist, reminiscent of that Metallica album cover that shall not be named.)

But the one that struck me most was when the lady asked to draw what represented success. The first thing that popped into my head was a dollar sign. For a few seconds I thought, no, that's selfish, I'm not a money person. I went back to my head, and after concentrating, my mind went to a set of scales. But before I drew it, I recognized that wasn't true. Dollar sign is what I meant.

I was immediately grieved. I do not like to consider myself someone who defines their life by their ledger or back account. While money is important, there are a great many decisions I have made in my life that were not motivated by money. In general, those were the things that made me happiest.

But as I gave it more deliberation, I was increasingly okay of defining success with the dollar sign. I have read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and I think there is a fair amount of criticism that can be levied at Ayn Rand's work. I think it ascribes men to gods and deifies fallible people. Despite what Ayn Rand argues, Atlas wouldn't be able to shrug, the world would have crushed him.

That said, Ayn Rand juxtaposition of the taggart siblings showed why it is perfectly acceptable to associate money with success. For Dagny Taggart and the laborers of the world, money was the physical manifestation of their labors. It was the quanitifiable measurement of their contributions to the world.

But for James Taggart and the looters, money was a means to an end. It was the ticket to a luxurious life they felt they not only deserved, but what life owed them. Their meaning was not work, it was the accumulation of money. For Dagny Taggart and Francisco D'Anconia, their meaning was work, and money was its byproduct.

Without getting into a lengthy dissertation on the virtues of selfishness, in this context, it is perfectly acceptable to define success with a dollar sign. For me, if my contributions to the business world are effective and efficient, I will have generated more business for my company either directly or indirectly. Perhaps I sold more and generated more direct business for my firm. Perhaps my advertising was more effective than my competitor and differentiated our products better, generating more business. Maybe I was more ingenuitive in the engineering of my products, making them a better value than my competitors products, and earning more market share, and more dollars.

In the above analogy, my success is measured in dollars. To that end, I am not hung up on making $40000 or $400000, but it is important to me that I am compensated commiserately to my abilities and accomplishments. If a good copywriter makes $50000 a year, to pay me $12 an hour reflects that either I am not contributing successfully (and by extension achieving success) or you are dishonestly withholding from me the quantitative metrics of my labors.

If I am successful at my job, an honest employer will recognize it and compensate me fairly. If I do not perform to abilities, I will not be compensated. My internal acceptance of this is why I was able to work on 100% commission for as many years as I did. I do not desire dollars for the luxuries they entail. I only desire that I be treated with the same fairness that I treat others, and I am confident that in a quality employer, this role is fulfilled.

To that end, I don't feel like a jerk who defines his success by his paycheck solely because it allows him to buy a television that's 12" bigger than his buddy. Because I believe the fruits of my labor have value (defined by supply and demand in a macroscopic labor economy) I can morally define my success in terms of income and still be motivated by life's greater callings.

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