Daniel Pink, in his thin paperback Drive (2009), says that “purpose maximition is taking its place alongside profit maximition” thanks to “baby boomers reckoning with their own mortality.” Unfortunately, Mr. Pink is too young to be a “baby boomer” and therefor does not understand us. I spent 30 years as a practicing government manager and another 10 years as a management consultant not in the pursuit of higher profit as an equal to my life’s purpose. My generation was about putting Purpose before Profit.
Lest you come away thinking that I – and for that matter John F. Kennedy – are communists, or at the very least socialists, you are wrong. One can make a profit in the pursuit of purpose. Let me give you a new age meme! Profit made in the pursuit of your life’s Purpose is good. It goes along with the concept of enjoying your work. If you want to create a small business in the pursuit of profit, then go for it. That is what a guy named Jeff Bezos did. He was a broke baby boomer driving across country from New York to Seattle in his beat-up car with his wife on the way to create an online bookstore called Amazon. It is a laughable image. Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, this young eastern dude was crossing the Great Divide thinking about how to pay for his food and lodging. There is this great picture of Bezos sitting in his pathetic little one room office with a sagging handwritten banner that says “Amazon.” That my friend is the quintessential Purpose before Profit motive. Bezos had a passionate purpose.
Before there was the new age X, Y and Z there was us. We, the baby boomers, are their parents and grandparents. The Daniel Pink crowd doesn’t get us. Our parents, the Great Generation, wanted merely to survive. The Baby Boomers wanted more. We wanted to create a new world. And we did. The 1960’s was a cultural revolution of feminism, racial equality, and exploration of the new ideas and new boundaries (space)
The new generations want subsistence over greatness. A $15 minimum wage, health care for all, and black reparations is all about getting by in your parent’s basement. It is a political theory that is built on the idea that someone owes them a minimum existence for some reason that they can’t quite articulate.
The recent Democrat party debates underscores this mentality. Andrew Yang said he would give people $1,000 each month. He went on to say that he would demonstrate this by paying “freedom dividends” to three families and that the money would be funded by his own campaign donations. The stupidity of this is staggering on so many levels I can’t even go there. What can anyone do with $1,000 per month? That not enough to keep some dork in pizza and pot. And he is going to pay for it out of his own campaign donations? And this guy made it to the finals? The Democrats are falling all over themselves trying to outbid each other in the Great Socialist Give Away. This is perverse Profit Before Purpose. By that I mean, they want to seize someone else’s profit in order to pay for their purposeless lives. It is socialist wet dream of Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, Alexis Tsipras’s Greece and the Mayor of Seattled.
One of my daughters summarized this purposeless thinking by telling me that she couldn’t be out of money because she had more checks. Of course, she was only 17 at the time. Back then people still used checks. Now its credit cards. I can’t be out Bitcoins because I still have my credit cards!
Maslow’s Hierarchy moved from physical (surviving), security (safety), social (belonging), ego (recognition), to self-actualization (enlightenment). Today’s generations have reverted back to the bottom rungs. It is the deevolution of our species. We, the baby-boomers, are to blame for creating these generations of self-indulgent, purposeless, socialists. The later generations are not even good communists. A communist is willing to sacrifice a lot for the betterment of the collective. A socialist just wants a regular minimum wage in order to vape some THC and play a video game version of life rather than live a life. But I digress.
In the 1960s, JFK, RFK and MLK had a vision built on life as a higher purpose – not a minimal subsistence existence. Jeff Bezos wanted to pursue a vision of Internet commerce for books that he lost control of. To put forward the theory that it is time for purpose to come “alongside” profit misses the point by a wide margin. We should not settle for a lesser purpose. We must put Purpose before Profit.