It’s all about the money, honey

This piece was published in a college newspaper

Costs, revenues and profits. That’s what drives all of human activity in our part of the world. It’s a pretty bold thing to say.

But think about the last time you went on a date, the last time you bought a present for someone, the last time you got wasted at a bar, just for the fun of it. Everything you do, from travel to food, health to education, no matter how luxurious or mundane, involves — directly or indirectly — money flowing out of your wallet and into complex layers of businesses, professionals and the government. For simplicity’s sake, it’s all collectively referred to as “the economy.”

Look at our simple morning and evening schedules, for instance. You sleep on an IKEA bed with a mattress, pillow and comforter; you wake up and brush your teeth and wash your face using your preferred toiletry brands. You fix yourself some coffee or cereal, using a coffee maker or a microwave purchased at Wal-Mart. You open your MacBook or surf your iPhone (Android for the win, by the way) to check email. You use a Targus backpack and you walk to your class in Nike shoes, wearing clothes purchased at a few of the hundreds of retail outlets in that business. And then you go to class to become a critical thinker — a sophisticated way of saying you are training to become part of this system.

Such simple processes consist of industries employing management consultants, tax consultants, investment bankers, marketing professionals, designers, drivers, mariners, salespeople, cashiers, accountants, educators, administrators, etc. (Phew!) For them to make their dollars, you need to spend your dollars. For you to make your dollars, they need to spend their dollars. Your costs are their revenues, and vice versa. See?

What got me to think this way, for better or worse, about our society?

The past summer and this semester, I’ve been working at an energy consulting company where I work with small businesses, primarily restaurants, to help them manage their energy use. What I observed, after working with about 40 such businesses, intrigued me. The simple energy needs of a restaurant — gas and electric — are served by a complex market of hundreds of energy companies, each vying for as many businesses and as wide a profit margin as possible. In Prince George’s County alone, at least 5 suppliers of natural gas and 15 suppliers of electricity compete for business.

So, you may ask, what’s my point? Depends on how you look at it. Different people may interpret this message in different ways.

For the entrepreneurs out there, my point is that the best way to create value (aka make money) is to create something people will buy. An idea that’s archaic or ahead of its time will not work because people will not pay for it.

For those aspiring to be working professionals, my point is that the best way to make a living is to develop skills that will be useful for the entrepreneurs who create the things people buy.

For those who seem to be disillusioned by the pointlessness of all this, my hippie friends, reconsider your life philosophies — to survive, you need to be a part of this system. It is how it is. Whoever said “No money, no honey” was a very wise person.



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