Not Making the Income You Want? Maybe You’re Being Selfish.

MushroomsSomehow people who do well in a free enterprise system have been made out to be greedy and selfish people.  We have images of Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Burns, JR Ewing, and Gordon Gekko when we think of Capitalists.  We’re always told that corporations are greedy and anything big is bad.  Small businesses are good, unless they do well and then suddenly they’re bad.  The person who makes a good salary or runs a successful business is bad while the minimum wage employee or the guitarist who pays for donations on the street is good.  People who are wealthy should pay high taxes because they are somehow evil, while people who do nothing and make no income should be supported because they are virtuous.

In the area of art, an artist who paints things that appeal to people is considered a sell-out.  A singer who sings popular songs likewise is a sell-out.  Every artist wants to “be true to themselves” and “be true to their art” and complains that people don’t appreciate (and buy) the things they want to produce.  In proclaiming how wonderful Obamacare would be, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked about how it would free people to chase their dreams like play the guitar instead of going to a job each day that provided their health insurance.  Their happiness in what they were doing was more important than spending the day doing something that benefitted other people.

There’s an odd thing about free enterprise, however, that many people miss.  People who are the most successful are not the ones who are greedy, or selfish, or cheaters, or swindlers.  It is the people who are the most selfless,  The ones who give the most of themselves to help others and meet their needs.  It is those who treat others fairly and provide their customers more in value than they receive in payment.  It is the guy who gets up at 6 AM and works until nine or ten at night building a business to take care of some need.  The restaurant that is open nights and weekends when people want to eat.  The drug store that is open 24 hours so that people who are sick at 2 AM can get the medicines they need.

The same goes for employees.  Employees who are always watching the clock and running home right at the end of their shift don’t tend to do as well as those who stay to get the job done.  The ones who “set their hourly rate” by slacking off and wasting time don’t do as well as those who get as much done as they can.  The employees who are cheerful and helpful to customers do better than those who treat customers like a nuisance.

The same is true for artists.  There is no difference between an artist who “paints what they want” and someone who sits and watches football games on TV all day or spends all day fishing or spends all day gardening.  If you are doing things that you like for yourself, you are spending your time on a hobby.  Just as you would not expect someone to be paid for watching football all day (unless they are a sports announcer or a sports writer and thereby do something that someone else wants), you shouldn’t expect to get paid for producing art that no one else wants just because you like to make it.  If you can paint a painting that others like, and maybe matches the couch or fits the room of your customer, you can make some money.  If you are a great musician who can play songs other want to listen to, you can make money.  To make money you need to do something for someone else.  Not just for yourself.

So if you are not making the money you want, think about what you do all day.  Are you being selfish, doing things for yourself, or are you being giving, doing things for other people?  Are you working a shift to get a check, or are you providing your employer with your best efforts to meet her needs?  Are you spending your time doing what you want to do and getting a check from the government in the mail, or are you out meeting the needs of other people?

Be giving of yourself and your time, and wealth will follow.  Your income is in direct proportion to how many people you help during any given day.  The person who provides for the needs of others gets rewarded.  The person who meets the more pressing needs makes more.  The person who meets the needs of a lot of people gets rich.  The person who meets the most pressing needs of the most people gets ultra-wealthy.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.


  1. This is so true. We are given rewards ($$$) for the value that we bring to others. Pro athletes and superstars are only paid so nicely because people line up and pay big bucks to watch or listen to them. CEOs lead and make decisions that directly affect their company. We shouldn’t penalize those individuals that provide so much value to our economy by taxing them so heavily.

    • Or in the very least, demonize them as if others are losing money because they are making money, It is not a zero-sum game. I’m a big advocate of the Fair Tax since it would tax spending beyond basic needs instead of income.

      I’ve also advocated for a direct tax credit for charitable gifts up to 10% of your income to charities that do things government services now do, like providing food to low income families, so that we could cut the government out of the welfare game. The money going to these things comes mainly from wealthy families (and middle class families in lower amounts each) and only flows through the government to get there, so maybe the families should get more credit. In the least, I’m sure it would be distributed more efficiently and there would be less fraud.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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