your soul’s value (will you sell it?)
“Never dare to sell your soul for money, because no amount of wealth would buy you an air conditioner in hell.”
Ok. This isn’t a religious post. Nor is this about selling your soul to the devil. Its nothing really that deep.
Ok. Maybe its deep .. just not that kind of deep.
This is simply about how far someone is willing to go to sell something in business. Or maybe better said how far someone will go to get money, or fame or power or something they desire?
What got me thinking about this? Business life. If you ever want to learn what your soul is worth go work at a smaller to mid sized advertising agency (although I envision a lot of people in sales also face the question at some point or another).
“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”
While I chuckled when I read this quote it was admittedly a painful chuckle. Painful because I cannot tell you how many times (suffice it to say … too many for fingers and toes) I have been in new business meetings when it was painfully obvious that whatever new business we were discussing was so wrong for us as a client. And yet the conversation kept rolling around and rolling around under the guise of “they would be a good client” (because they have money).
Don’t get me wrong. I like money. But not all money is the same. Some money fills your soul and some empties your soul … by soul I mean your inner value compass.
People who are defined solely by money can argue this until they are blue in the face. In fact … they do … there is even a selling “event” called selling your soul.
“The live Selling Your Soul event in NYC is over, and we’re all rolling on a wave of vivid business-building bliss. It was a high-gloss experience, where we intimately unpacked Burning Questions on messaging, marketing + online money-making, the myth of work-life “balance,” fearless price-raising, prosperous collaborating, and getting Witnessed for what you’re worth.”
Attitudinally one of the owners summarizes it by “I make my own economy” (philosophically, I actually kind of like that thought).
And (to be fair). That same owner uses money to balance her moral compass: “I kicked off GirlUp with their first substantial donation, proving once again that lots of cash can = lots of impact. Philanthropy is the bottom line.”
Yet. Here is my struggle with her philanthropic angle. I would argue with the owner in that philanthropy is not her bottom line. Her bottom line is money. And she uses her money to create her balance (note: although their website is strewn with words & thoughts that their soul is defined by a combination of fame & fortune so it seems like the philanthropy is just a ‘thing’ done to ease their soul angst).
Regardless. I wish it were that easy for me. Because it is not.
Look … I recognize the issue … who wouldn’t want to be recognized or have a generous income or a dream vacation home?
Face it. We all do. But at what price? And does the end justify the means? And, obviously, WHICH end justifies the means? That is what I mean by emptying your soul or filling your soul. Because in the end (whether that be mid life or at ‘the big finish’) you are judging your actions not by tangible things but the intangible balance of self worth (I purposefully chose ‘worth’ because it is some combination of fruits of labor and self esteem).
It is interesting because I have seen a variety of ways people justify how they sell their soul but one word continues to stand up as the face of behavior over & over again:
To these people its all about winning. Winning at any cost. Or just being able to say “I won.” But (here is the news) winning is not always good. There IS such a thing as a bad win. Unfortunately, the people who define their soul by winning don’t see that (or they may but justify their actions based on “we won”). Am I suggesting this aspect should be about fair play? No. not really. This is about playing by your moral compass.
The thought that everything leads to some magical pot of money that will erase all of their problems. These people believe that fancy cars, designer clothes and big houses will make life better. This person may try to balance it with some philanthropic aspect (typically toward the end of their lives – see Andrew Carnegie as prime example) but they are consistently willing to ignore any moral compass within their pursuit for money.
Yes. The spotlight is a dazzling temptation. And that same spotlight can blind you as to the wreckage around you. But to the one seeking fame maybe that is the beauty of being in the spotlight – the only thing you can see under that glaring light is yourself. What can I say more than that? I guess if you really want someone to worship you maybe consider becoming a benevolent dictator instead.
Oh. And the worst of all?
This is a sneaky one and may sound odd associated with selling your soul. Think about it: maybe its you want people to like you … so you sell your soul to the highest bidder (again, especially IF they are someone who holds a prominent position, this is an action leading to personal moral decay … if not total destruction). This one is insidious in that it creates self definition by having NO self definition. You may as well have sold your soul to the highest bidder … just make sure it isn’t the devil.
Anyway. In the end I know the decision I have made. And that is always to be true to myself. Tell the truth. Seek good wins (not any win).
And I have found I cannot work places that don’t feel the same way. Not really just because of me … but because I find that companies that sell their soul doesn’t create a corporate culture which I like nor a culture which I ultimately believe is healthy.
And lastly. And maybe most importantly to me. I don’t believe it teaches young people growing up in business the right thing. The senior ‘leaders’ (and I use that term loosely in this situation) simply do not recognize the repercussions of their decision to ‘sell out.’ And that is a shame.
The hell to be endured hereafter, of which theology tells, is no worse than the hell we make for ourselves in this world by habitually fashioned our characters in the wrong way.” -William James
“Habitually fashioned our characters in the wrong way” as the hell we make for ourselves.
That is good. Really good words to think about.
Selling your soul, even in business, just to get something to have it (regardless of the practical or unpractical reason) is making your own hell you will have to live in. And when you get to that hell maybe you can convince yourself you are a warm weather person and enjoy living where it is always hot … but … you are in your own personal hell.
I know I cannot convince all leaders of organizations to recognize this (because when a leader is in a personal hell it reaches out and encompasses his/her organization and poisons it … either slowly or quickly).
But I do know we can make personal decisions about this:
Say no and mean it.
Subdue that which tries to destroy you.
Avoid the temptation to do what you know is wrong.
Face the truth that you are doing nothing but being untrue to yourself if you get blinded by money or fame.
In the end, in every decision, each person has to hold on to the core value of what defines themselves at their soul. Because every decision either diminishes or grows your personal purpose. And, yes, these decisions in organizations also unify or separate a group of people even more strongly than a similar language or history (at least in my eyes) because, well, this is part of what some people call “a business purpose.”. When people live by their core values and convictions the “center” is stronger.
And. If you don’t have a center, don’t you just fall apart as being just parts?
So. All that said. I am not a big self reflection guy … but I do believe it is worth a minute or two to identify what is your soul, or your core if you don’t want to get hung up on the word soul because, if you don’t, you may end up selling something you don’t want to, uhm, like your soul.