Take-Home Message: If you are not pursuing your valuable idea, you are keeping your standard of living and the worlds’ lower than it has to be. Become the hero in your own story.
What if I told you I know your dirty little secret? What if I told you I knew how many hostages you’re holding right now? I know how you’re keeping them quiet. I know why nobody’s going to do anything about it.
So, what’s your number? Is it one? Two? Maybe more. How many dependents do you have? How many people do you interact with each day? How many neighbors, relatives or friends do you see regularly? Think about everywhere you frequent.
Now, think about the grocery store where you shop. Think if it wasn’t there. How much further would you have to drive? What about your favorite barbershop/salon, what if the stylist you always visit wasn’t there, where would you go, instead?
I want to paint a picture for you about what your standard of living would look like if someone else had not taken a risk, however small, to open their business in proximity to you. Your life would at least be different, right? I think so.
I think about where I would eat if the restaurants I frequently patron weren’t nearby. I think about how much more I would rely on Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and (God forbid it) USPS to deliver the things I might need in lieu of the entrepreneurs in my area.
And when I think about that, I also think about my portion of the exchange I take part in on a regular basis. I’m not talking specifically about the exchange of my money for someone else’s labor or service, though. I’m talking about the exchange that happens when someone else offers their service that makes my life better, and being able to only offer them money or a “thank you,” as payment. Something is missing. Where’s the value I’m creating, in return, for them?
This is what I mean when I ask how many people are you holding hostage. It’s a question I asked myself last week when I got my haircut. It’s a question I asked myself yesterday when I went to the coffee shop. It’s a question I asked myself today when I ate lunch. Where is the value I’m creating in return for all of the benefits to my lifestyle others have contributed around me?
So, when I ask you how many hostages you’re holding, I’d like you to take a moment and reflect on your own standard of living. Reflect, too, on all the people whose lives could and would be better if you turned one of your ideas into reality. Who would be stopping by your store to pick up one of the latest products you were offering? How would this change their lives? How could their standards of living be improved?
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned in the past year can be summarized in one word: alternatives. I could rant now about opportunity cost and foregone preferences, but I won’t. Let’s focus on the positive alternatives. After all, it’s the lack of these that holds the world hostage.
So, what positive alternatives do some of the ideas you’ve been contemplating hold? What are you working on that’s better than what the world already has? What’s your secret ingredient? What angle do you have that no one else does?
The answer is simple. It’s you. You are unique. You have your own background, story, experiences, and ideas. Without you, the product or idea you’ve been thinking of or you’re going to think of next could never come into existence the way that it has or will by your mind.
“Because there are people out there looking for you—your people—who need you to be you, and do things exactly how you would do them. (And will ultimately pay you to do them your way.) They need your experience. Your skills. Your stories. Your thoughts. Your visions. Your advice. Your opinion. Your recommendations. Your ideas. Your expertise. Your knowledge. Your fuck-ups. They need you. No matter what you’re selling, YOU are the main product.” –Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts
So, when I ask you how many hostages you’ve taken, what I’m really asking is what kind of value could you add to your life if you pursued one of these ideas, made it a reality, and offered it to the world? By refusing to follow your dream, ambition, and vision for a better world you are effectively holding yourself hostage.
You’re holding your family hostage. You’re holding your neighbors, relatives, and friends hostage, too. You’re holding everyone in the world hostage, too, whose standard of living would be better off through your creative idea.
You’re holding them all hostage to the status quo. You’re holding them hostage to the “way things are, and the way they’ve been” mentality. You are the one holding them all hostage, though, because you are the only one who sees the world the way you do, and therefore, the only one who can imagine, design, create, and implement YOUR idea the way you could.
Now, I’m not condemning you for this. Neither am I attempting to say you should feel obligated to do this for others. You shouldn’t. I don’t like altruism. What I do like, though, is the idea of man as the hero in his own story. i.e. You are the hero in your own story. You’re the one living your life, after all. So, don’t make yourself out to be a villain by keeping your idea locked away, forever untested.
You have the ability to test out your own vision on the world if you’ll just try it. Just give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. That’s it. No shame in that. Plus, there’s something about taking that risk that will change you in the process.
It will yield confidence, self-assurance, and alertness. You’ll become sensitive to the needs, wants, and behaviors of others as you begin not only to look at them as acquaintances, friends, or family, but also as customers or potential customers. You’ll begin to care about bettering their lives through your labor.
You’ll come to appreciate the risk others have taken, too, in their own enterprises. You’ll begin to witness the whole world as a series of exchanges, not just the kind where money is traded for stuff, but where creativity and labor are transformed into value for others.
But, sadly, you’ll begin to see others who abuse this, too. And when you do, it will reinforce your drive to make the world better. It will make you want to accept your fate as the hero in your life. So, what’s stopping you?
Do you really want to make the world a better place? Good. Set the hostages free.