There is a strong pull to spend one’s career maximizing a company’s revenues or one’s personal fortune.
A dollar is a dollar and everyone can agree on that. With this objectivity, comparing people becomes possible. Therefore increased money leads to increased respect.
Respect is deserved and money is important. Creating wealth is not easy and takes years, if not decades of hard work. However, intangible assets are without a doubt more important.
It may sound presumptuous, but I feel that 99.9% of people dramatically undervalue life’s most important, intangible assets such as social impact, relationships, and personal growth. The problem is the value of these assets are extremely variable and subjective. There is not a common measure, and I’m not sure there ever can be.
As a co-founder of the Empact Showcase (http://www.empactshowcase.com/), I have seen this first-hand. Last year, we recognized 500 young entrepreneurs with an average age of 28. These young entrepreneurs employed 9,000+ people, had revenues of $1.2B+, and have raised $300M+ in capital. We feature these statistics because they are the easiest to measure. We ask other questions to measure impact, but these are harder to tabulate, because they’re variable and subjective.
So, a challenge of focusing one’s life on intangible assets is the lack of external recognition. While this external recognition isn’t theoretically important, the reality is that we’re extremely impacted by our peers and culture. Once high school ends, the popularity contest doesn’t disappear. It just changes. It takes an incredible amount of maturity and confidence to break out of this mold.
I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to build a massive company, because that is what is admired, growth for growth’s sake. In 2011, Empact surpassed the $1M mark, a goal I had had since being a teenager. Reaching that goal was instructive for me in two ways:
- It had no impact on my life. The satisfaction that came from it was very transitory.
- I realized that playing to the idea of growing for growth’s sake was not playing to my strengths or passions and where I can ultimately make the most impact, grow the most as an individual, or build the deepest relationships.
I am now going through the process of building confidence in who I am and expressing that to the world. This process doesn’t happen overnight simply because I want it to. It comes through letting go of other people’s opinions, faith in the journey, and constant awareness of my insecurities/fears as they arise.
Frankly, part of me wants to demonize money/size because I’m not making it my personal focus to maximize and there are many people who are better at it than I am. However, doing that would be based on insecurity and the desire to make myself feel better.
I will still always have personal and business financial goals. I just know that my life will mean a lot more than the sum of those goals. Being true to one’s self is its own reward.
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