I enjoy debates, I also prefer people telling it straight to my face. So recently, someone debated me on the topic of transactions and altruism. He debated that I wasn’t much of a company oriented individual, and preferred to do things based on transactions and incentives.
Now, let me let you in onto one of the iron law of nature: the power of incentives. Everyone, whether you admit it or not, is pushed or pulled based on incentives.
Love is an incentive-based game. You wouldn’t be with her if she didn’t meet certain physical or psychological criteria. Employment is an incentive-based game. You aren’t at your company for 12 hours at a go if they didn’t compensate you an agreed amount of money.
Is it morally wrong? No. That is mere evolution.
One of the points brought up was that I’m characterized to perform duties in a transactional manner. It shouldn’t be like that if you’re working for your company. You should be a company oriented man, not an individual-oriented one.
Now, here’s where I disagree. If I was managing employees, I’ll always look to take care of the interests of my employees. I shouldn’t expect them to take care of my interests altruistically. That is the iron law of nature.
Everyone is selfish and are looking to advance their own interests. There’s intrinsically a trade there, whether be it monetarily or not. It’s on you as a leader to find a way of advancing their interests, so they can advance yours. Talented people in general, know their worth. To retain them, you need to constantly ask yourself: how can I persuade him/ her that I’m the best choice, as compared to the rest of the opportunities out there?
To Do Or Not to Do?
These days, I don’t really care if I’m made to do something extra out of my job scope. Life is short. If you’re engaged to sweep the roads, it’s your duty to sweep the roads to the best of your abilities.
‘If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’
I used to be the guy that’ll cut all corners in life. I got good at cheating life. I got good at figuring the fast and quick way out. I cheated during exams. I was disinterested in University. Instead of enjoying classes and the curriculum, I exam hacked. Eventually, I figured that’s a piss poor way to live my life.
If you think about it. Your time and Elon Musk are equally precious and valuable. You and Elon Musk are on level playing fields when it comes to time. Seconds, minutes and days are what life is made up of. I decided I wasn’t going to waste this gift trying to cheat my way around things.
The Selfishness of Altruism
So my friend argued that I was over delivering because of the potential future benefits for me. He argued I wasn’t being genuinely altruistic. Now, let me debate you on the philosophy of altruism.
If you’re doing something beyond your own selfish desires, you’re still doing it for your own selfish desires.
Let that sink in for a bit.
If you didn’t get my point, it just means that it’s all a selfish act at the end of the day, whether it’s an altruistic act or not. Humanity is wired to be selfish. However, selfishness in an altruistic form can benefit society and others at large. The contribution of great men throughout history were arguably selfish endeavours. However, did civilization benefit from them? Yes.
Let’s take writing as an example. You can argue that I’m writing to… make money? Sound smart? Teach something altruistically? They are all selfish endeavours intrinsically. I still derive a certain pleasure or benefit from doing it.
Okay, if it’s too metaphysical for you, don’t worry, let me scale it down to you on a practical level.
You can argue that an employee goes an extra mile for the company because he believes there’ll be a future benefit for him. That’s… fundamentally transactional, right? However, why the hell not? If there isn’t any future potential benefit, why the hell go the extra mile? Why would anyone perform at their best then?
Life Lived in the Seconds
I don’t know about you, but personally, life is short and brief. Unfortunately/fortunately, I’m here, and I need to do something about it. I’d like to enjoy, savour and get the most of every single second of my life.
If that means by putting in my all in whatever I do to maximize and stretch it, then so be it. It’s difficult, however, I attempt to see all of life as a never-ending improvement process. If I’m engaged/forced to do a certain something, I’ll try to do it to the best of my abilities. The future benefit is a mere side effect of it.
Life is lived in seconds. Why not make the most of out it anyway? If you’re a burger boy, why not try to make the best burgers? If you’re a life coach, why not create the best programs and publish the best form of life advice to your current abilities? (Read: I’ve been both.)
If you’re compensated for putting in your best monetarily, then good, if not, you’ll have built character. You’ll have built a work ethic. It’ll eventually be a win for you down the road.
That’s the art of the good life: fully utilizing and savouring every second of your day, for that is what life is made up of.