I sometimes hear or experience something that cements my way of thinking. Sort of a “eureka!” moment, I suppose, but on a personal “philosophical” level. I had one of those moments earlier this week.
Someone made a comment, a standard cliche heard in corporate circles all the time: If we aren’t growing, we are dying. Naturally, I’ve heard this comment before. And I’ve had a fundamental disagreement with it, but this time a bunch of thoughts came together at once for me.
I am a consumer. Not quite a BMW driving, Latte sipping, Armani wearing Yuppie, but sort of the techy equivalent. I don’t feel a need to apologize for my life. But in recent years, I’ve made some decisions regarding the balance between “more!” and “happy!”. I’ve jumped off the career fastpath, taken an effective pay cut, and started doing work I enjoy more. I haven’t gone to live in a sod hut, or stopped buying computer upgrades: but I’ve made some changes. So maybe that’s made me more sensitive to the extreme side of the capitalist/consumerist ethic.
So what bothered me about the “we gotta be growing or we’re dying” statement? Basically, its at the root of the dotcom bubble, and its part of the “evil” of the stock market.
Ten years ago I disagreed with this statement, when my employer at the time started laying people off because we “only” grew our profit by 10% that year. Years ago, you didn’t lay people off unless you were losing money. In the 90’s, it became normal to dump people just because you weren’t growing fast enough. But I didn’t really meld this into a personal philosophy.
I think a better personal statement for me would be “if you aren’t improving, you are dying”. I don’t think growth or expansion equals improvement. If it did, cancer would be the most successful form of life: it grows really well. An individual or a company that is becoming more efficient, that is learning and correcting its “bad habits”, that produces a better product, that delivers faster and provides a more satisfactory solution to its client, that is “happier”…that company is better than a company that simply gets bigger.
I’d like to think that what I’m saying here is just common sense. But it doesn’t seem to be that way. I still hear that cliche statement, and it continues to bother me…
Getting better, not necessarily richer…