What is Your Great Going?

I remember watching a talk given by the Blue Zones guy about cultures that have unusually long lifespans. He said there were certain commonalities among them that helped to explain how many people over the age of 100 continued to live in these areas. The one bit that really stuck with me was the “ikidai” in the Okinawan community. I can still picture the image he put on the screen of a man who was 102 or 103 dressed in a gi and choking a fellow martial artist. It looked like a Judo match to me. As it happens, I studied Japanese in high school for a bit, and I know that the roots of the word, “ikidai” mean “great going.” As in, what is your great reason to keep on living? For me, my great going has always been personal freedom. As far as I can tell, I’ve had a problem with people telling me what to do since I was a child. I have continued to look for ways to free myself of the systems of control that are prevalent in every society. And that’s been fairly effective as a great going for the past decade or so. But now that I am married and a new father, I have found that, cliched as it is, my daughter has become my great going. I want to show her the world and help her learn how she can live a life of freedom. So that’s my reason for getting out of bed and working hard to develop my business systems. What’s your great going?

Giving to Charity is Stupid

File this one under barbequed sacred cow. I think giving to charity is dumb. And harmful to the people you think you are helping 99% of the time. So before you get out your pitchfork, let’s examine what the point of charity is: helping people. But helping them to do what? There are cases where if a person does not receive help right this second, he or she is going to die. Great, give that person food, water, shelter, or whatever and feel good about it. That’s your 1%. The other 99% of the time, giving people things does not solve their problems. There are all kinds of problems with formal charities like corruption, how much money actually goes towards the cause it purports to help, and so on. But even if all that were perfect, giving to charity would still be stupid. Let’s take poverty as a classic example. We have a great deal of experience with giving poor people housing, food, and so on. Does it help them to get out of poverty? In the vast majority of instances, the answer is no. It may solve the immediate issue at hand, but it actually harms that person’s ability to care for him or herself – in other words, it  harms the ability to grow wealth. And wealth is really the key to all charitable situations. Why do people need help? It’s because they don’t have enough wealth to live in some degree of comfort. Remember that the natural state of humanity is wandering the savannah. No houses, no easy to get food, no clothes, nothing. Every single thing that we have now that makes our lives pretty easy to survive has come from the building of wealth. So, the real question is not, “How can we give the homeless a place to stay?” Instead the real question is, “How can I help this homeless person develop his own wealth – and thus not be homeless any more?” Fortunately, over the past couple of thousand years, humanity has found the answer in markets. The markets tell us that if we create value for someone else, that person will trade us money for that value. The trick, of course, is to create so much value so cheaply that the money we get pays for the creating and then some. This is called profit. So how do we help people profit? One of the most exciting developments in this area is microfinance. These are small loans made to individual entrepreneurs who are trying to raise capital in order to start or expand their businesses. Side note: one broker in this area, Kiva, is a total scam. More on this in another post. By lending money for business development instead of giving it no-strings-attached, we are making sure that the borrower is at least attempting to serve his fellow man and provide value to the world. Imagine a world in which every man, woman, and child was really concerned with what they […]