After thinking about it for a couple score of years, it is my opinion that doing something for money is one of the dumbest reasons for doing something, if not the dumbest. I’ve seen so many people miserable in jobs they hated because the job paid well. I’ve seen people ruin their lives pursuing a career option they made while young and stupid because they thought money would buy happiness.
An acquaintance of mine got a tip from his son one day after he’d had a realization. The boy said,
“Dad, money is only dirty paper.”
An oversimplification yes, but he was only eleven years old. Of course money is more than dirty paper, but not much more. It’s a good idea that went terribly wrong because man is inherently a self-serving machine. It was one of the Khans who came up with the idea of exchanging valuables for paper that could be used in trade. Money was easily printed, weighed nothing compared with precious metals and gems, and could be manipulated in ways real valuables could not. Value is a strange thing. Someone once said,
“If the earth were made of gold a man would die for a handful of dirt.”
Money and wealth are different because of values.
A friend stopped by the other day and wanted to know how a joiner’s mallet I was working on had come along since last I saw him. He noticed a new chisel I’d acquired. After examination he was gobsmacked by the quality and beauty of the tool. He asked, rudely, how much it cost. He’s my friend so I told him. He was shocked that I’d paid a little over a hundred dollars. It’s a chisel I’ll use more than any other chisel I have. Every time I use it I will hold the perfectly formed, beautifully figured handle in my hand and appreciate a real craftsman spent hours perfecting the finish. It will inspire me to work with excellence and patience, as the craftsman who made it did. Using it consciously will give me the drive to reach higher and not just do the task good enough. Good enough is the enemy of excellence.
I pay the price because I’m a patron of the arts. The people who make these tools use the finest materials available. They aim at precision, beauty and functionality. They keep alive a dying art form that needs to be preserved. I’d rather not go out to dinner and a movie so I can have the chisel because I value the preservation of better work ethics than Hollywood does. It’s a small price to pay so that people who have a passion for excellence can make a living doing something worth doing. When I look at the chisel and look at the dirty paper I ask myself,
What would I rather have? The chisel or the dirty paper?