Do Better Better #2: Why Do We Exist?

Quinn Emmett
July 27, 2020
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Humanity, along with the ecosystems that humanity relies on, is facing stress tests unlike any we’ve faced before, and all at once. These are not exclusive to America.

Among others:

COVID. A volatile market. A changing climate. A jobs crisis. Civil rights struggles.

Each of these has worked in isolation and together to expose the fissures in our economy and society. Systems thinking is essential to understanding what we’re dealing with, and what we’ve wrought.

To expand:

We face a novel virus, but one exponentially more likely to jump from animals to humans because of where we live and how we eat. This is a virus we consciously chose not to be more prepared for.

We are in a market more or less untethered from the reality of world events, and even more so, from the day-to-day challenges of most Americans, most of whom cannot even begin to comprehend the ease with which America’s tiny but massively wealthy and influential upper class makes money. 

Compound interest means two very, very different things to America’s increasingly distinct socioeconomic classes.

We endure a climate that is hotter and more combustible than any in humanity’s relatively short tenure as alpha species, and due almost entirely to our growth-desperate stewardship.

We work jobs, if we’re lucky, that are untethered to that growth and its attendant major costs, that create no lasting benefit, tangible or not, and that are increasingly challenged to provide for the most basic of human requirements: water, food, and health care, to start.

Civil rights in America are forever tenuous in a country designed by slave owners on a platform of personal freedom and a pursuit of happiness (for the slave owners, anyway), both of which — at best — seem impossibly unattainable when you uniquely subject to pre-existing conditions that make you more susceptible to such a virus, when you are unable to invest in such a market, when the heat affects you first, when your job driving a car doesn’t provide you with health care or childcare, but only rallies the market for the rich while it makes the heat worse, for everybody.

In nearly every case, what we sowed in the 20th century, for better or worse, has been harvested in the 21st. These problems will not go away easily, or with one election, or be fixed with big tech. Many will suffer. Many are suffering.

But you, and your company, no matter its size, industry, or reach, can look at these problems as opportunities. On the international level, national, and local.

In fact, we need you to. We need you to help rebuild capitalism, and society, into something vastly more equitable for everyone.

Do you produce textiles? Offer insurance? Design organic chemistry experiments? Distribute food? Teach children? Market new products? Sell advertising? Write for TV?Conduct M&A? Preach?

Whatever the case, I encourage you to step back, and ask: “Why do we exist?”

And, in light of your answer, with these problems that so many millions face, right now, as context, you have the opportunity to make your business be more timely and necessary than ever. And potentially, vastly more successful.

Don’t believe me? Look at how well ESG-focused companies and funds have performed in just the past few months. Investors are investing, and consumers are paying attention. 

(The same goes for our prestigious, over-priced universities, too, by the way. Fighting for relevance, to justify your existence? Then stand for something, and re-orient your majors to be interdisciplinary staging grounds to attack these exact problems)

Worried about market size? GTFO. These are the biggest markets of all time.

Look around at the people in the streets. Imagine your perfect customer. Just one customer. How can you relieve that person’s pain points? How can you help them better understand what’s happening? 

Take it further: how can you help them get ahead? Ask what you need to do to become essential to that one person. 

Now imagine 300 million of their friends, in this thing together.

Imagine a business landscape where the reaction to your company’s product isn’t “huh” or “cool”, but rather “this...this is exactly what I need. Thank you.”

— Quinn

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