Category Archives: Creating

What Motivates Us to Work and Create

I recently read Mind the Gap, an essay by Paul Graham on wealth, industry, and incentives. It’s almost 5 years old now, but it seems timely as our nation appears to be on a road toward socialism.

Wealth is not money. Money is just a convenient way of trading one form of wealth for another. Wealth is the underlying stuff—the goods and services we buy….

Where does wealth come from? People make it. This was easier to grasp when most people lived on farms, and made many of the things they wanted with their own hands. Then you could see in the house, the herds, and the granary the wealth that each family created. It was obvious then too that the wealth of the world was not a fixed quantity that had to be shared out, like slices of a pie. If you wanted more wealth, you could make it.

This is just as true today, though few of us create wealth directly for ourselves…. Mostly we create wealth for other people in exchange for money, which we then trade for the forms of wealth we want.

If you suppress variations in income, whether by stealing private fortunes, as feudal rulers used to do, or by taxing them away, as some modern governments have done, the result always seems to be the same. Society as a whole ends up poorer.

You need rich people in your society not so much because in spending their money they create jobs, but because of what they have to do to get rich. I’m not talking about the trickle-down effect here. I’m not saying that if you let Henry Ford get rich, he’ll hire you as a waiter at his next party. I’m saying that he’ll make you a tractor to replace your horse. (Emphasis added.)

Similar ideas can be found in a monologue from Francisco d’Anconia, the wealthy mine owner in Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged.

“Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade—with reason, not force, as their final arbiter—it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability—and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward.

“…you will see the rise of men of the double standard—the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money—the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law—men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims—then money becomes its creators’ avenger.

“When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed.

“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose—because it contains all the others—the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity—to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created….” (Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged. pp. 411-14. Emphasis added.)

Why an Aspiring Author Should Start a Blog

My aunt recently started a blog: Great Books for Children. In her ambition to become a published children’s author, she felt compelled to start a blog but was hesitant. She considered blogs to be the “junk mail of the Internet” and didn’t want to “stoop” to blogging. I think she’s off to a fine start.

The following email was meant to persuade her to think more highly of blogging, at least considering it a neutral publishing medium with the potential to garner an audience:

1. People should consider your blog a great resource, a bookmark worth keeping, something worth talking about, not a glossy brochure for you as an author.

2. The Internet allows you to connect with an audience despite not having a publisher. If you produce great work, you’ll attract an audience. This is called micro-celebrity:

3. Cory Doctorow is a sci-fi writer who released his entire book online, got an audience, then got a publishing contract. How could a publisher turn away a writer with an existing audience?

4. Do you know the Nie Nie story? It’s the blog of a young Mormon woman who was in a plane crash earlier this year. Her blog has a huge audience. This is an awesome article in the NY Times:

5. Blogging can be grand. Play the medium to your advantage by including pictures and video. Don’t think it’s a lesser medium.

6. Some of my favorite posts on blogging:

7. Bookmarks on publishing:

Tools are for building

In two days Apple will release a new version of its Mac operating system, so last Saturday I watched the guided tour and read about all of the 300 new features of “Leopard.”

I thought my strong interest in the new operating system was justified since I’m going to take the opportunity to replace my 4½ year old Titanium Powerbook with a new Leopard-powered notebook. But then I got thinking, it’s just a tool. Using a Mac isn’t my goal per se. I might as well get exciting about all the tools at Home Depot — and I do — but if I don’t build anything with them, they’re useless.

Jon Udell refers to himself as a “toolsmith” — someone who loves the tools of his trade — and I think I have a bit of that in me. Being a toolsmith means knowing the ins and outs of one’s tools, with the potential to be very productive with them. But Merlin Mann warns against continual “fiddling” with tools and systems and methods at the expense of just Getting Things Done.

Use whatever tools work best for you, but use tools to build something.