Why we work

Posted on Monday, Mar 30, 2015

$75,000, that is the annual salary that a great deal of research has shown “happiness” stops increasing with income. I was reminded of this statistic by attending the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship Summit this weekend in Columbus, Ohio.  The reason I mention this statistic now, is the question of how much impact our jobs have on society is far more important than how much money we may make in a given pay period. Of course there are problems with this statistic, for instance how does one define “happiness” much less quantify it, but I would suggest that the amount of research that supports this claim at least makes it compelling. People seem to forget what is truly important, our lives are made by the interactions we have with one another. Imagine going through the next month, working everyday the same you would any other day, imagine you go out on weekends and you go to sightsee, but there is not a single other person to share that experience with. Continuing to work wouldn’t make any sense; there wouldn’t be any joy in going to see a monument or going to a restaurant. We live in order to share with others. This may be my optimistic side, but there is a great deal of hope in this belief. When people get past the necessities, once they become comfortable ($75,000/year) they will need to find something more then just money to find satisfaction.

There was one other quote from a speaker at the summit this weekend that resonates to this point, he said passion from its Latin roots means “to struggle”, and therefore what we are passionate about is what we are willing to struggle for. Once we have reached that bar of happiness from money, we look for struggle. Unfortunately this does not necessarily always coalesce into helping others. Mein Kampf is translated to “my struggle”, Jihad in Arabic means “struggle”. This drive for finding a cause that is worth fighting for, for having an impact on the world can be incredibly destructive, and it seems to be a driving force for why people have migrated to Syria in order to fight with ISIS. Our system needs to change in order to provide people with a greater purpose then more abundance of resources. Social business is a wonderful way to provide people with both enough money to be content and a cause that is worth struggling for. Currently capitalism does not incentivize people to struggle for a greater cause, it only incentivizing abundance. The concept of social business is the tweak to capitalism that is needed to make it more satisfactory, and more equitable.

I purposely avoided talking specifically about the societal impact of my own job because I have already written about it multiple times in these reflections, but I will provide a fast overview. Our goal at GCCA is to create sustainable and impactful economic growth in countries all around the world that are currently struggling. Not by handout, but through equitable partnerships. By contributing to development in this way, we can “help” while allowing the people in these countries to keep and grow their dignity and their personal freedom. I am very fortunate to be working somewhere that my contributions are more directly involved in improving people’s lives than most jobs. Although I am realizing that even this work almost seems too indirect for me, I am fairly sure that when I begin my official career I will try to find a job, or potentially create my own that is more personally involved in helping others develop their own communities. 

Bryce Watson
Global Cold Chain Alliance
Washington, D.C. – Spring 2015

Tags: DC, happiness, Washington, work