Money Isn’t the Point

I’m decompressing from the World Domination Summit, trying to piece together the themes from this year, and understand what I’ll take away long-term.

The older I get, and the longer I’ve been an entrepreneur, the more I keep asking myself “what’s the point?” As in, what’s the point of goals we work towards, and accomplishments we hold up and celebrate in ourselves and others?

This can be a dangerous road. Sometimes you get deep into the meaning of life. I ended up in some deep existential conversations at this year’s WDS because of where my head has been. I think it’s a good thing, but it can scare some people off.

By orienting myself around asking “what’s the point” over and over, I notice myself observing which goals and accomplishments are at the center of conversations around me.

More importantly, I notice the goals and accomplishments that seem to be driving behavior and emotions in my friends, co-workers, customers, conference attendees and the speakers and leaders of a conference like WDS. I notice the goals and accomplishments that drive my own behavior and emotions.

The outward context of WDS is non-conformity, changing your life and the world around you, being your best self, and other noble goals, but the subtext I see is more aligned with traditional values: money, status, accolades.

Maybe it’s just who I hang out with. Maybe my perspective is just colored by what I’ve been thinking through. And I’m not singling out WDS here, it’s our sphere of entrepreneurs and world-changers in general.

But all around me, and inside my own head, I see anxiety, worry, and inevitable depression and burnout all happening because of two things:

  1. The comparison game we all play when around other ambitious people
  2. Alignment with goals that ultimately leave us empty

These two things work hand-in-hand, and fuel each other. The comparison game ends up taking place along a couple of dimensions: money and “more.”

Money is ubiquitous. In the entrepreneurship space, we’ve all read the public income reports from some of our more successful peers. These set the bar high, and most of us just assume the bar is what we should be focusing on. It’s the default “point” of it all. The One True Metric. Either you make a boatload of money, or you don’t matter as much as those who do.

“More” is subtler, but just as insidious. Maybe you’ve asked yourself what the point is, and decided money isn’t it. But without money to focus on, we all still feel the need to strive for more of other things that can be measured and compared against: more projects, more published content, more subscribers, more speaking gigs, more employees, more reputation. More, more, more.

Someone will always have more money, more customers, more subscribers, more [fill in the blank] than you. If these are what you measure, when will you be happy?

Now, this is the part of the blog post where you might be expecting me to offer up an alternative. If not money or “more,” what is the point?

I’m still searching for that answer myself. I don’t have the answer, but I’m leaning towards this: the searching is the answer. The journey itself. Working every day to get to a place where you know more about what the point is, that’s the point.

But if I don’t have the answer at least I know this: money isn’t the point. The reason we all make money our default comparison tool is that it’s easy to measure, and we assume people who have more of it are better than we are. It’s human nature, and it sucks. The comparison game makes all of us unhappy, no matter what the metric is, but especially when it’s money.

And I also know that no matter how sure you get that money isn’t your point, it will still impact you. You’ll still catch yourself feeling inadequate because so-and-so had some incredible product launch or record earnings month, or because some hot startup sold for gazillions of dollars.

I’d love to see this: no more income reports, no more launch revenue figures, no more bragging about anything money-related.

Instead, let’s talk about qualitative factors:

How much does what you do actually help other people?

How does your work make you feel?

How close are you to building your ideal lifestyle?

How close are you to making the impact you want on the world?

How close are you to discovering the real point, your real purpose?

Unfortunately, like the title of this post says, money isn’t the point, but we all default to believing it is anyway.

The next time you read about someone else’s success, or the next time you catch up with a friend about the projects they’re working on, observe carefully how you feel about the interaction. How much does money and the “more mindset” influence how you feel about yourself and your relationships?

How confident are you that your happiness has nothing to do with how other people are doing, monetarily or otherwise?

And most importantly, what is your point?

How hard are you working to answer that question?

Because if you don’t work to answer that question, society and human insecurity will be happy to answer it for you.

The upside is, this struggle all happens between the ears.

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