Money: Is it a Measure of Value, or Worth, or What? (the surprising truth)
As I prepared for a recent event, 'Coaching Skills for Social Impact', I got curious about the 100 people who signed up almost immediately the email went out. That was more, and more quickly than the organisation I'm co-hosting with anticipated—so we decided to survey them and find out more.
I shouldn't really have been surprised to see that the #1 reason people were attending—and these were coaches as well as executives and professionals—was to deepen their leadership skills so that they can make more impact with what they do.
It reminded me of something that Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate, pioneer of microcredit and founder of the Grameen Bank, said at a talk I attended last week.
When we chase profit, it diverts us from chasing social impact and social impact is where we should be looking for the future of business.
Now, I don't necessarily agree with Professor Yunus about future business being 100% about social enterprise—I think anything that prescribes a model of the world limits human creativity—but he is right to divert attention away from money.
Money Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means...
Money is a means of communication, a means of exchange, just like the words on this page are a means of communication.
Sure, in 2017, it's tough to pay my rent with an email, but I can trade words for money and money for a place to live.
The model of trading words for rent, though, isn't completely unknown—it worked pretty well for Shakespeare and it works for artists, thought leaders, and others who lived and live by patronage. Go to the website of any newspaper or broadcaster and you'll be asked to support them financially—a kind of crowd-funded version of what kings and queens have been doing for centuries.
And yet, somehow in the evolution of our economy, the amount of wealth and earnings we have has been conflated with our personal worth. We've been led to believe that it means something!
What if it didn't mean what we thought it meant?
What if we dug down a few levels and started to communicate and connect from our essential value as a human being, rather than looking at the access to money someone has as a measure of anything meaningful?
Good, or Bad?
I was reminded of this at my own recent event on 'Delivering Powerful Social Impact', when one of the social entrepreneurs craved 'freedom' from her part-time job so that she could grow her social business and more of an impact in the world.
But, just as I don't see why we should value money in itself, I also don't see why we should avoid it. She lives in London, an expensive city, and she too has to pay rent and bills.
What's wrong with having a part-time job? Why is it better to be spending all her time growing her social business? What if she could make just more impact where she was and grow her social business at the same time?
You see, when we start to make meaning out of money, good or bad, we lose a sense of what it is to make a difference. We think that money has to be there first, and then we can do something; that it's a precursor to doing something positive—the model that many modern-day (and ever latter-day!) philanthropists adopt.
No, it's neither good nor bad; it doesn't mean commitment, energy, or anything at all. We make up stories about all of those things and each of us, in the moment places a different meaning on it. Underneath the stories it's simply a means of communication and exchange—an intermediary for what we want.
I wonder, as you read this, whether it's shone a light on some of your beliefs and ideas about money? If so, I'd love to know what they are and whether, on reflection, you can see that there might be another way of looking at things.
A way that gives you more freedom to go where your wisdom is guiding you.