Do You “Pay” for Yourself in this World?

In my previous job as a salesperson in the IT industry, our CEO made an interesting point when addressing our sales team during a conference call of the motivational (or, maybe more accurately, kick-in-the-ass) variety. He described his background as a salesperson himself, rising through the ranks before venturing off on his own to start the company that I was then working for. He said that when he first started his sales job, one of the first things he did was ask his boss what sales numbers he would have to hit in order to pay for himself at the company. In other words, at what point does the amount of money he is bringing in (via making sales) equal or surpass the amount of money that his company is paying him–thereby providing a benefit to the company that hired him, and making himself valuable to his employers. In other words yet again: at what point is he “worth it” to his company? 

I thought this was an interesting perspective, to think about the point at which the company was better off than they would have been, had they not hired him at all. The applications to the world of sales are obvious–as the tangible benefit of a salesperson is to make sales and generate profit–but this same concept can be applied to our lives in general:

At what point do you pay for yourself on this earth? 

It is far too easy to look at “success” inwardly. By that I mean, we are often preoccupied with how much money we are making, and how many things we accumulate–cars, homes, jewelry, etc–and that becomes our barometer of success. We compare it against our peers, our friends, our idols, etc, and typically, we think that the one that HAS the most, is the one that is most successful.

But what if we thought about this with a different perspective? In sales, my CEO measured his “value” to his employer as the revenues he brought in, minus the amount his company was paying him. In life, we can determine our “value” in this world, as the result of contributions we make to society, minus the resources we use up.

We are all using resources on a daily basis. Eating food, using energy, gasoline, taking up physical space and real estate, etc. At what point are you “paying” for yourself? At what point do the contributions that you make to the world in general, justify that amount of resources you use up in order to exist?

Measuring success can be difficult and subjective. But measuring success by value created minus resources used may be a much healthier, much more objective perspective. Far too often in the corporate world, pay raises are tied to tenure and seniority, rather than based on merit, or value created. Even worse, promotions often lead to less responsibility. We all know someone, or maybe have had a boss, that makes a huge salary, but doesn’t seem to ever really DO anything or work very hard. How does this happen?

Consider when that same phenomenon occurs in a professional sport. Any athlete that is the highest paid around the league, had better be producing, or else he becomes expendable, and even a liability. Is Alex Rodriguez successful within the world of baseball, JUST because he makes $275 million dollars? No, he must be providing the value–he better prove he is worth it–by being the best in the league, and contributing to more wins for his team, championships, etc. If he doesn’t he is considered “a bust”, overpaid, etc.

Why doesn’t it seem like we ever apply this same concept to life in general? If we see a friend that is making the big bucks, driving a nice car, and living in a big house, we immediately consider him/her to be successful–regardless of what kind of value they are actually providing to the world. If they are using that amount of resources, shouldn’t we be holding them to a higher standard in order to be considered successful? Shouldn’t they be providing a huge amount of value?

As you progress in your career, begin to make more money, and maybe even accumulate more things in your life, make sure you justify this by also increasing the value you are providing to the world. If you step back and look at your life, and feel that you HAVE way more than you GIVE, then something needs to change. The person of the highest value in the world is the one that provides the most and uses the least.

Be “worth it” in this world.