Money Is A Neutral Indicator Of Value

How do you know when you’re “making a difference”? When faced with infinite possibilities but only limited time, how can you choose the option with the most “impact“?

Derek Sivers has a straightforward suggestion: Do what people are willing to pay for.

Here’s how he describes the idea to Cal Newport in the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You:

“I have this principle about money that overrides my other life rules,” he said. “Do what people are willing to pay for.
Derek made it clear that this is different from pursuing money for the sake of having money.
Remember, this is someone who gave away $22 million and sold his possessions after his company was acquired. Instead, as he explained: “Money is a neutral indicator of value. By aiming to make money, you’re aiming to be valuable.”

Note: the link in the quote was not part of the original text. I added it for additional context.

The free market is an impartial and relatively accurate indicator of what people consider valuable. By aiming to make money, you can harness the market as a feedback loop to find something worth doing.

That’s not to say “making money” should be the only guideline when deciding what project to pursue and how to spend your time. Family, community, hobbies, charity work, those are all worthy activities and deserve time allocated to them. But if you feel a call to do something you are proud of, something genuinely useful, at least for some people, then you could do worse than finding something people will pay for.

At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t plug my own attempt to use money as a neutral indicator of value: If you found this post useful, unlock additional weekly content, previews of upcoming articles, and advanced access to future projects by becoming a premium subscriber

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