I think we can all agree the most miraculous usable feature of our smartphones is the built-in argument settler. I mean, can you imagine a world in which you can’t immediately prove to your buddy how stupid he is for thinking Miami is the capital of Florida, or that Michael Jordan is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer?
It would be chaos.
But while the ability to access an ever-expanding database of information at any moment from the palm of your hand is impressive, the mere existence of the world’s most frequently accessed directory on all things relevant is, in and of itself, downright crazy beans.
Picture this, an online encyclopedic database, built by the world’s largest technology company and maintained by an expansive team of engineers, scholars and statisticians, working around the clock with the explicit purpose of giving anyone with an internet connection the ability to find usable information on any issue imaginable at the click of a button.
Pretty cool right? Now picture this product rapidly losing market share to a collaborative project of anonymous users from around the world writing articles on whatever topics are of interest to them with no monetary compensation involved whatsoever.
The slaying of Encarta by Wikipedia is perhaps the most tangible example of the power of intrinsic human motivation. The fact is, there are very few great things that happen in this world as a result of purely financial compensation.
The genesis of even the most successful corporations is the very human desire for fulfillment. It’s this craving to affect the world, absent any guarantee of financial gain, that drives entrepreneurs to act on their vision. It’s also the reason most people hate their jobs.
The amount of satisfaction that can be derived from purely wealth-based means is finite. It’s not necessarily true that money can’t buy happiness, it’s more so true that it can only enhance an already inherently gratifying existence.
The bottom line is that you can never make enough money to enjoy doing anything that wouldn’t be of interest to you otherwise. And that’s for real, son.
Its also true that you’ll never work as hard at something you have no intrinsic attachment to as you will at something you find interesting or enjoyable on its own. So if you don’t care for your work, the financial upside will always be limited.
The reason Wikipedia has helped shape the modern world is that its contributors genuinely enjoy being a part of it. In fact, if the organization were to start paying those that submit articles it’s likely their willingness to contribute would be significantly diminished. (For a more thorough argument regarding the use of extrinsic reward as a productive hindrance read Daniel H. Pink’s Drive)
That’s not to say that being well-compensated is a deterrent. Rather, compensation operates outside the correlation between motivation and fulfillment. Money can only make you happy in the short-term because human beings are incredibly skilled at adjusting to their environment.
There is nothing that can be purchased that will provide ever-lasting satisfaction and so the pursuit of financial gain through means that we don’t find satisfying in themselves is inescapably fruitless on a longer time horizon.
The bottom line is that if you’re not happy with your job, it’s not because you’re underpaid. Find what motivates you, what enthralls you, and strive to live within a dynamic that fulfills you chiefly through action and experience, and only secondarily through financial gain.
Your soul, as well as your wallet, will thank you.