Find a need and fill it.

on Monday, February 27, 2012

Getty Museum

Today, a lot of people tend to think that setting grand-goals and working to fulfill them is the path to wealth and success. This line of reasoning is exactly backwards. As John Paul Getty offered as advice for those seeking wealth: “Find a need and fill it.”

Generally, today, we tend to think only about our own needs, and how to fill them. To become wealthy, we need to think about the needs of others, and how satisfy them (at a reasonable cost).

If it can't be done at a reasonable cost, can we innovate? Can we figure out a way to solve other people's problems at a lower cost? Can we find ways to make life better for other people? If we can find some way to improve the lives of others (an improvement for which they voluntarily pay), we have created wealth. Creating wealth is the honest path to success.

Alternatively, we can become wealthy via violence or fraud -- by stealing from others, or by forcing them to transfer wealth to us at the point of a gun (or government's gun), and this is the method a lot of people on which many (economically illiterate) individuals tend to focus... but there are two paths to success.

Making the world better for your neighbors is ignored far too often in modern assessments of economic growth, and the desire for material gain. If done honestly, material gains are only acquired when someone makes the world better; profits are impossible for an honest businessman unless he has helped another human being.