Every year, I appreciate reaching Labor Day weekend, not necessarily because of any particular activities I may engage in, but because it is one of the milestones in the year that naturally help me break it into segments that are small enough for me to understand life’s flow and digest it better. It is the door to the last three months of the year, a time to start focusing on the year end harvest, where I consciously try to quantify the fruits of my labor and the outcomes of the relationships I have nurtured during the year, whether new or old. Labor Day reminds me every year of the need for me to take stock of the fruits of my labor.
I ask myself, and I encourage you to ask yourself, if during the first three quarters of the year you put in the best effort you could to increase your wealth. Did you? And I don’t mean in material terms, necessarily. The question I encourage you to ask is: Have I made my life richer this year? Have I truthfully worked hard toward my goal during these past 9 months since we celebrated the year’s beginning, welcoming it full of dreams, energy, and ideas? When we take stock of our personal wealth (again, not strictly, and not even necessarily measured in material terms), are we on our way during these last three months to be able to check off this year as one of positive growth?
Adam Smith explained back in the 18th century that wealth is caused by the division of labor. He said that this division of labor should be as big as possible. The wider the division of labor, the more people will be included in it. We will all be wealthier in material terms, according to Adam Smith, the more of us are involved in building our society’s commercial life through production and exchange. Freedom, and serving each other by finding value in each other makes us all wealthier in the end. This has always made a lot of sense to me.
Wealth, in the way I want you to think about it at this Labor Day milestone, is more about the richness of your life. Have you made yourself richer by surrounding yourself with the right people? Are you actively contributing to this personal exchange, enriching as well the lives of those people you have chosen to associate with? Are you investing in others as much as they are investing in you?
In a strictly commercial environment, scarce goods are exchanged, and supply and demand driven markets optimally allocate these goods to maximize the wealth of the market participants. Not everybody gets wealthy, but those who engage in the exchange have equal opportunity. Adam Smith and many other economists have written extensively on this.
From a human personal growth perspective, it is not a stretch to realize that by exchanging ideas among ourselves, as engaged members of our communities and society at large, we have the capacity to infinitely enrich ourselves and those around us – again, not strictly in a material sense. This is so because ideas are not scarce goods. They are not property. They can be reproduced an infinite number of times, and we can shape them in infinite ways.
So there you have it. As entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, engage in your market, and compete freely and ethically to arrange all the material scarce resources in the best ways that will allow you to create the most material wealth for you and your customers. On the human side, don’t lose track of your duty to also enrich the lives of those around you by means of the ethical and free exchange of ideas that will infinitely enrich us all, and make the world a better place with peace, compassion, prosperity and goodwill for all.