Who Are We Changing The World For?

( I mailed a shorter version of this post to the Listserve community, under a creative commons with attribution license.)

It’s not easy being an Entrepreneur. It’s not easy deciding that it’s something you want to do and learning all of the many, many skills required to actually make a living.

It’s especially not easy to learn how to ask someone to pay you for a thing.

It’s hard. And there are a lot of different ways to go about it.

I’ve been working in the online entrepreneurship industry for a little over 6 years now — it’s where I thrive, and where I can bring a lot of value.

And even though this is my industry — even though I am a participant, and I sell training and information in my business, Newbie Academy, and I love the tools and strategies that are available to people now there is something going on that distresses me hugely.

I see it everywhere in the community. It’s on Twitter and Facebook Groups, it’s in webinars and eBooks and coaching programs and blog posts.

It’s deeply unkind and, in my opinion, deeply unwise.

Stop me if you’ve heard one of these:

  • If people really value you, they’ll open their wallets for you.
  • Most of the people on your list are losers who will never pay you — the important ones are the ones who can.
  • Make sure you charge premium prices — you’ll REALLY be able to help people who can pay you enough.
  • If someone wants to succeed, they’ll find a way to pay for you.
  • Outsource the boring work for as little as possible so YOU can do the high value stuff ONLY you can do.

All of this from people who almost unanimously say they want to change the world. People who say, passionately, that they want to make a difference, make an impact, and make things better.

So it makes me wonder…

Who do they want to change the world FOR? Because a lot of the people who need to see change the most can’t demonstrate their worth to you with their bank accounts. And really — should they have to?

Let’s look at things a little differently.

When someone earns $10 an hour, you can be very sure that that hour is valuable to them, and they are careful about how they will spend that limited resource — if it’s on you, be grateful.

There are many reasons someone might not have a lot of income to invest in coaching and training programs — none of them is that they aren’t talented, capable, creative or worthwhile.

There are considerably more people who can pay a little than can pay a lot. (And let’s be honest — that number is growing.)

If you consider yourself and your time too valuable to do gruntwork, and instead try to get it done for pennies on the dollar — what are you saying about the people performing that labor?

I don’t have all of the answers — these are hard questions, and reconciling a desire to change the world with a need to make a living is something that many, if not most of us struggle with.

But I want to be having these conversations, and I want to see people asking themselves these questions.

As an entrepreneurial community are we really and truly comfortable with saying that those who have ready disposable income are better, more deserving, more talented and more capable than those who don’t?

Do you feel good about that statement?

Would you Tweet it?

Would you post it on Facebook?

I want entrepreneurs — the people who are in the unique position of being able to challenge existing business models, create jobs, generate new products, systems and ideas — to consider that the culture of denigrating those who have less in favor of those who have more is a toxic one, and numbs us to the huge, systemic problems that exist in the world in favor of an idealized version of reality where people who are worth your time and energy are the ones who can pay you the most.

I’m not saying to stop selling $2000 products.

I’m not saying to stop charging rates for your work and time that allow you to support yourself and continue your business.

I’m not saying you should start giving away everything for free, or that you shouldn’t want to earn a living doing what you do.

But I am asking you to stop talking about people who have less as if they are less valuable than people who have more, and start thinking, seriously, about how you measure value.

The value you give and the value you need.

Those who are able to be entrepreneurs — those who have the time or money to get started. Those who have the social privilege to wield authority and persuade. Those who have the education and access to reach large groups of people. Those people (we people) need to consider very carefully how we talk about ourselves and others and the way we interact with each other.

Language matters.

The words we use to talk about things influence how we feel about them — and the more we talk about people who don’t have a lot of money as if they’re not worth our time, or about the work we find boring being worth only tiny amounts, or how ANYONE, regardless of starting point, can achieve A, B and C if they just invest in themselves enough, the less likely we are to question the way things are done now — and explore NEW ideas about how things CAN be done.