Over the past year, my work life has transformed a great deal. On the drive home tonight from Des Moines Local Live, I realized what I'm becoming.
I recently said to a friend of mine that what we do at work is not nearly as important as what we become through the work. Labor, earnest and passionate, is transformational. If we allow it, work expands us and broadens our vision and capacity.
I've said many times that ideas are cheap. It costs nothing to conjure up an idea, and ideas, frankly, are worthless. Give me a day, I can cook up twelve "killer" ideas. Big deal.
But taking the idea and making it become reality, then the idea begins to have value.
Too many entrepreneurs place a valuation on their idea before the idea is market-tested and proven to be sturdy and reliable under use.
That's what I'm doing at DMLL - I'm taking an idea and turning it into reality. Yes, it existed already, but frankly its technology was shaky and its web site sucked. By my revision of it, I'm creating something of lasting value. Each day, my efforts make it worth more than it was the day before. If someday it makes money, it's in part because I drove value into the company, and the more value I drive into it, the more purchasable it becomes.
That's what I'm doing for ESI, the HVAC industry provider. They came to me with an idea and I created a web site that gives the idea shape. In one month, Alliant Energy will begin using it, and there are talks with Best Buy underway. The idea is worth more because I drove value into it.
And that's exactly what government can't ever do: drive greater value into a company or enterprise. Only individuals can drive value, by their energy and expertise, to make it more valuable than it was before. A carpenter takes plain pieces of wood and fashions them into something usable. A farmer takes a seed and dirt and feeds people. A loan officer assesses risk and provides a means to borrow money for people and companies.
What does government do that you would pay money for? For every effort of government that you wouldn't purchase, that effort has no value and is therefore a subtractive force on the economy. The bigger government is, the more subtractive it is.
Driving value is an additive force in the economy. It creates purpose and use from nothing and makes it attractive to purchase, which increases the velocity of money around those driving value.
My son, Nick, and I got into a discussion over the weekend about whether socialism and capitalism can be successful economic systems. We came to the conclusion that only capitalism can be a successful economic system because its primary goal is exactly that: expanded economy. Socialism can't be a successful economic system because its primary goals are not economic but social.
To take the point further, as an economy expands, the stress on society diminishes because needs and wants are fulfilled.
If an economy subtracts, the stress on society increases because needs and wants go unmet.
Therefore, I question whether socialism can ever be a successful social system, even if everyone in it craved its purported social outcomes: equality and fairness. Every socialist system ever tried collapses and leads to unrest and poverty.
On the other hand, what if every person believed that a chief purpose of their life was to drive value wherever they worked?
"What do you do?" I'll soon be asked.
"I drive value," I'll reply.
Through my direct efforts, do I leave whatever I touch more valuable than how I first found it? That's a hell of a question...