We are all born naked and neutral. However, this neutral state is short lived. Our first experience in life is consumption related. Being cut from the umbilical cord, which we had been physically connected to and consuming from for the past nine months, can be seen as symbolic of the beginning of our life long journey of consumption.
We start by consuming food, then clothes (diapers), then shelter (crib), then entertainment (toys). As we grow, our consumption intensity increases (more food and more refined food), more clothes (a larger and more diversified wardrobe), and more sophisticated and expensive types of entertainment (Xbox, motorcycle, etc.)
Over the course of our lives, we grow into Negative Beings who consume obscene amounts of resources from the environment.
Obviously this process of living is unsustainable; as without creating resources, our would would be in shambles and all its resources would vanish over time.
So how does the world endure this much consumption? It survives because there are multitudes of people who are Positive Beings. These are the farmers, the manufacturing laborers, the cooks, the seamstresses, the carpenters, and the people who use resources to create the food and products that enable us.
Unfortunately, the Western World is shifting rapidly from manufacturing of real products to creation of services. This means that more and more of us are aspiring to become lawyers, investment bankers, consultants, etc. (while there are less and less producers). Although each profession has a reason to exist, the professions previously listed are pure consumers and not producers. Believe me, I have been both a management consultant and an investment banker; I can tell you with certainty: the only thing we produced were ideas, and we charged a lot of money for them. Our goal was to make money, so we could personally consume more products and services.
The chart below illustrates employment growth, from 1939-present, in terms of manufacturing vs. service industries.
As we produce less and consume more — for our basic survival and aspirational being — we become Negative Beings and increase our debt to the environment and fellow beings.
Each of us needs to calculate our personal Being score and ask ourselves: “Am I a Positive or Negative Being?”
The formula for your Being score = Consumption – Creation
If you come to realize that you are in the Negative Being zone, your next question should be: “What can I do to become a Positive Being?” Most of us can’t change our profession; can’t (or don’t want to) become a farmer or a carpenter. So, the question remains: what can we do?
We can reduce our consumption! Reduce the consumption of the stuff that you don’t really need and can live without, it might be as simple as skipping a trip to the mall or passing on that refill of the soda. As you reduce your consumption, there are fewer resources that need to be spent to maintain your existence, and your Being score will increase. With some planning and practice, you’ll become a Positive Being.
You can do it! Start your journey to become a Positive Being by thinking of three things you don’t need and can live without. Write them down and commit yourself to not consuming them anymore! If you do this, you will take the first step to becoming a Positive Being.