The Answer Is “Money”

It’s obvious, and everyone knows it, but I’m still regularly surprised by how often this is true, both for the people and events I’m trying to get a read on and for myself.

Why does the popular fashion Youtuber suddenly talk about everything under the sun, including many topics she knows absolutely nothing about? Why does my email service provider automatically charge me more when I get more subscribers but not charge me less when I lose some? Why does the writer I know is dying to publish a book continue to churn out Medium posts day after day? Money, money, money.

Most of the time, money’s magnetic force is fairly obvious. Sometimes, however, the irresistible incentive hides behind higher aspirations — especially when it’s you it wants to fool. I can tell myself a great story about why I send out sponsored emails, why I put together big list posts, or why I still promote products whose owners have not treated me fairly, but in the end, the answer is money.

It’s not a nice realization. Even if we’re somewhat aware of how money-driven we are, few of us understand the full extent of how often money is the deciding factor in what we do, and almost no one would want to have the full picture even if they could — because in that picture, we just wouldn’t look like the kind, purposeful, altruistic people we aspire to — and can — be. Unfortunately, looking into the mirror and pointing at those ugly specks of greed is the only way to actually live up to those aspirations.

When you’re sniffing around for people’s incentives, make “Is it money?” one of the first questions you ask. Find the many roundabout ways a desire for more coin manifests itself, and slice through bogus motivations at lightning speed. Most importantly, however, don’t forget to turn the question on yourself in everything you do — especially when it hurts.

Sometimes, money is exactly the right mark, and when it is, we should be honest and unashamed of it. But whenever short-term dollar blinders actually prevent us not just from our true goal but even from maximizing our financial returns in the long run, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves and others is to take those blinders off.

When in doubt, don’t do it for the money — and if you find you are, perhaps it’s time to do something different altogether.