We’ve all had that moment when we look around and go, “How the eff did I get here?”
We hate our jobs, our friends, our clients, our bosses, our industry, our commute, our body. The only respite we have is pizza and vodka.
“All I do is make rich people more money,” we say as we fill our vodka glass with self-pity.
Marketer, investment banker, engineer, lawyer…doesn’t matter the industry, we’ve all said some version of this to ourselves.
And we have a million legitimate justifications for why we continue on a path we hate. Private school, bills, paying off loans, giving back, travel, sick mom.
Boomers (and the Silent Generation) swallowed their pain and turned it into pride. “I made sacrifices for my family,” they’d say. Millennials quit their jobs and try to get VC funding for a terrible startup idea they think will save the world.
They’re both doing the same thing: trying to reduce the amount of guilt they feel for not “doing something important with my life.”
Somewhere along the way, we decided that “making rich people richer” is not noble.
“There are children in Africa suffering from AIDS! I should be helping them.”
Let’s pose a hypothetical. Let’s say you are Bill Gates’ financial planner.
Do you still feel like shit about yourself for “making rich people richer?”
No. You feel like you’re doing God’s work.
The problem is not that we hate making rich people richer.
The problem is that we don’t believe what we do matters.
Social good businesses are great. I’m a big TOMS fan and love everything at Soko. Ethical supply chains are important, B-Corps are awesome, and raising consumer awareness around this topic is fantastic.
But that’s not the only way to do good.
And the fact that we think there is only one way to do good is a problem.
Too many people today think they’re either above the work they do or long to do something different because we rank order what it means to “do good.”
If you’re not directly working on a perceived noble cause, then you’re not doing good.
This is bull.
Recently, the DOL had to put a fiduciary clause into your financial planner’s contracts.
Because people who are fiduciaries only act as fiduciaries if there are consequences to not doing so.
Which is crazy. But here we are.
Let me pose an alternative approach: caring.
Sounds fluffy, but stay with me for a second I’m going somewhere with this.
When you care about the industry you’re in, about the people you work with, about the customers you serve, about the quality of output you produce – something strange happens.
You begin to believe that what you do matters.
If you want the world to be a better place, if you want to “do good” you don’t need to go volunteer in Africa (though you can, I’m not discounting that that’s important work).
You need to start giving a fuck.
When you describe someone as “doing a lot of good in the world” you mean “they help the needy and underprivileged.” And “the needy and underprivileged” is a euphemism for homeless, sick, hungry, has-less-money-than-me, and/or anything to do with a third world country.
And those are noble.
But so is calling your grandmother twice a week and confronting a friend you think is suffering from depression or being kind and compassionate and friendly and giving a fuck about the things you do and the people around you.
(AKA: Behaving like a fiduciary when THAT’S LITERALLY YOUR JOB and not because of your fear of consequences).
Those are noble. Those things can and will change the world.
But those things have been left out of our paradigm because they aren’t “sexy” and don’t require overseas travel.
When you start to see yourself as part of a system that works together – you begin to see that your role matters.
That’s what people mean when they say we live in a “connection economy”
The way you do business matters.
The type of customers you choose to serve matters.
The quality of your work matters.
There are too many people, especially in my line of work, who just lie. We call it other things like “how you play the game” or “just doing my job.”
Deep down, you know it’s wrong.
Sure, it worked when the game was smaller. When your reach wasn’t as far. When you couldn’t penetrate public opinion and behavior in quite the same way.
Take the fake news stuff. Those are Direct Response marketers who were “just playing the game.” They were equal opportunity liars. They followed the perfect DR formula:
See what pulls.
Keep running the ones that pull.
They targeted everyone. Hillary people, Kasik people, Trump people – only altRight people clicked, so they kept targeting them and making a profit.
This is what happens when you don’t take responsibility for your behavior. When you do believe that what you do matters.
In today’s connection economy, no action exists in isolation. It’s all (wait for it) connected.
“Doing good” is not “just” about those who we judge as “needy.” It’s about recognizing that what you do affects others and that matters.
It’s about recognizing that who you target with your ads, what you tell them, and what it makes them do matters.
That who you choose to do business with and who you say no to, matters.
Imagine what would happen if you cared about your customers. Cared about your vendors. Cared about the quality of your work, the deals you make, the bargains you strike, the proposal you send out.
It doesn’t matter what industry, position, or state you are in.
When you care, you’re never just “making rich people richer.”
You’re changing the world.