For certain types of people, the conventional path will never be a viable option. Even in early childhood, I knew there was something I didn’t like about the way most of the adults around me had structured their lives. I couldn’t understand how the majority of them could be happy spending their time working in jobs that had nothing to do with their passions, and which barely paid more than enough to cover their basic living expenses. I felt like it was the accepted social norm to give up on dreams, adventure, and curiosity so that we could better fit into the hole others had already carved out for us. I knew there had to be other ways to exist.
It wouldn’t be until I was a little older that I would finally have the power to explore my innate curiosity about the many possible ways a human could live on this planet. On my 18th birthday, I moved out of my parents’ house in southern California and lived comfortably in an oversized Ford Econoline van, finishing high school and supporting myself through freelance guitar lessons and other independent means in San Diego.
The lifestyle experiment didn’t end there. The level of freedom I experienced during that initial unguided adventure couldn’t possibly compare to the perspective I gained from international travel after high school. Building my profession as I traveled forced me to become adaptable and resourceful. It was difficult at times, but my desire to live and make money on my own terms kept me on my chosen path until I could become financially comfortable.
A multicultural lifestyle also showed me that the world was not how I had been told it was supposed to have been. I experienced extreme cognitive dissonance for years as I continued to experience things which contradicted my previous worldview.
Traveling the world on my own terms taught me that human beings make decisions based not on the reality of things, but on the stories that fill their heads about how things are. I’d been told that Latin America was a wholly dangerous and unstable place. Instead, I found some of the nicest and most functioning communities on earth. I learned, as well, that stories could be used to alter and manipulate the mentality of people for a specific purpose quite easily.
As part of my global journey, I worked as an educator in countries like China, Thailand, Iraq, Italy, and different parts of Latin America. Having this kind of direct exposure to the developing children of so many societies gave me a unique outlook on the many ways in which people are conditioned to think from a very early age. Volunteering in Ghana with the Africa Youth Peace Call Liberty and Entrepreneurship Camp, I helped the young adults and teens who attended learn to see the world through the eyes of an entrepreneur. This meant not just creating value, but learning to communicate it to a world which would be very unforgiving of foreign appearances.
The stigmas that they will face as young entrepreneurs rising out of poverty into a worldwide marketplace are the same stigmas you will face as you introduce any new product, service, or proposition of value to people who think they already know what they want. Communication is the bridge which will break down the default barrier others hold towards new ideas, and all that occurs as a function of your compelling brand identity. Education removes the resistance to new ideas inherent to each of us.
Shortly after I started my travels, I met a man in his seventies named John A. Pugsley, or Jack to those who knew him. Jack was a very influential writer on free market economics, his most famous titles including The Alpha Strategy: The Ultimate Plan of Financial Self-Defense and Common Sense Economics: Your Guide to Financial Independence in the Age of Inflation. At the time, I felt lost about the role I was going to play in the global human civilization I was gradually becoming more aware of. He was kind enough to spend much of his time mentoring me in the subjects that he understood would help me make sense of my life.
John Pugsley passed away only two years after I met him, but during those couple of years I learned a lot through his writings and the time we spent together discussing how large-scale human society did not have to exist as the random chaos I perceived it to be. It was all part of an elaborate order called the marketplace. This was the first functional filter through which I could make sense of the world of exchange. I realized that an entrepreneur was someone who created new processes for producing value, and could convince people to make beneficial decisions they hadn’t previously known were possible.
Before this pivotal paradigm shift, I had been struggling to understand how the human race could ever progress from its present state of political and economic adolescence. Despite my newfound perspective on human culture, I didn’t know what to do with my life, or what it meant to play an important role in the human world. I know now that every intentional human action is performed in the pursuit of happiness, or in the avoidance of unhappiness. We are all trying to make our own lives better. Everyone else is simultaneously doing the same thing in their own lives the best way they know how.
We all have different ideas about what happiness is and the best way to acquire it. That’s where we run into conflict, and it is only with respect to the larger system of free market exchange that a solution to that conflict becomes obvious. You begin to see the human race and every way we interact as a system of mutual happiness pursuit, irrespective of our subjective variations on happiness. It doesn’t matter if what you want is completely different than what I want, so long as there is a way for us to interact where we are both getting closer to our respective goals.
When you understand such a simple concept, you will see that money is just a vehicle through which people exchange happiness, and that businesses provide a method for people to do this in a tailored and systematic way.