When I was a kid, there were a lot of things I couldn’t get because they were too expensive.
New clothes for example. The right new clothes was another thing we couldn’t afford. In the day, Converse Chuck Taylors were the shoe among the cool set. Anything else was a “butter cookie.”
Don’t ask. I don’t know what that meant. Except “you’re poor.”
Anyway, butter cookies were my mom’s purchase-of-choice. Embarrassment and harassment was the result every time I wore those dang things. Same with my older brother’s hand-me-down shirts. Same with my pants, which by summer became my shorts.
My mom, divorced and raising three boys on her own, had good reason not to spend “good money” on Chuck Taylors when the “generic drug” analogue to Chuck Taylors covered my feet “just fine”.
“It’s too expensive” “Those cost too much” “We can’t afford it” were nearly always the response whenever my brothers and I wanted something beyond general purpose necessities.
Interestingly, this had a profound effect in my life. Enjoying life, the pre-teen me reasoned, required a good-paying job to buy things I would want. My mother reinforced this admonition with her own versions liberally shared throughout my school years.
I could say that reasoning served me well. There are opposing opinions that say had I followed my passion while young, rather than followed the money, I would have lead a richer, more rewarding life.
Maybe. Maybe living a richer, rewarding life would have meant me not creating Copiosis…
Opportunity: the holy grail
I don’t blame my mother or me for what is my life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy my path. And I realize I missed out on some things. Nearly every person, and nearly every company, misses out on the unaffordable.
Some people’s unaffordables are decent food, clothing that affords respectability, healthcare, a roof over their heads, quality education, or a life just out of reach, whatever that looks like. For many, many others, the one thing that would make the biggest difference in life is the most expensive—opportunity.
Working long hours at a job you can’t afford to lose costs the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones. Having to put food on the table and a roof over your head as a young adult entering the working world costs time one could take to figure out who one is, and then follow one’s passion toward the convergence of passion and mastery which is true success and often leads to the highest incomes.
For companies, as I pointed out in an earlier post, the unaffordable is costly. They don’t take time to care about customers, so they lose them. They don’t create products that last, so they consume resources inefficiently. They can’t afford to keep institutional knowledge, so they find creative ways to fire older employees. They can’t simultaneously earn a profit for shareholders and increase Earth’s health, so the Earth gets the short stick.
Some would argue that it’s people’s fault that they can’t afford things. Get better work, don’t spend so much. Some would argue companies are at fault for doing what they do. Have a backbone, get more creative, where’s your moral compass? Cut CEO salaries.
Rather than trying to place blame, isn’t it time to create a society where everything is eminently affordable? I think it is.
What do you think?