Capitalism harnesses our selfish desires to fuel the growth of society. It rightfully assumes that when freedom is combined with desire, individuals will obey their self-interest and work hard to improve their position.
While I’m a rabid capitalist, the system is not without flaws. When most of our focus is on growth, material goods, and financial returns, it is inevitable that we’ll constantly lack fulfillment. And that lack has powerful negative implications. This has led me to the realization that our endless desire for more must be counterbalanced by the cultivated appreciation of what we have. Without that appreciation, the personal fulfillment we all seek isn’t possible. Just think of the multitude of parents obsessed with their children’s future achievements rather than enjoying the pure bliss of their child every day.
This same lack of appreciation is a major barrier for both individuals and organizations looking to manifest their magic. Our capitalistic obsession with growth, material goods, and financial returns is in direct opposition with our ability to manifest the truly unbelievable. For a simple example of this look no further than publicly traded companies. These organizations are slaves to growth, as their stock price and therefore value is based on future earnings. If they don’t hit their quarterly numbers, their stock goes down and the company is worth less. This often leads to companies making short-term decisions like cutting great people or killing development projects to achieve quarterly results. Does that make the company more likely to achieve greatness long term? Absolutely not.
The likelihood of manifesting magic increases tenfold when appreciation is cultivated. For example, Tom Brady has four Super Bowl rings and a legitimate claim to the title of greatest quarterback to ever play football but Forbes recently also called him “the biggest bargain in sports.” So what gives? Aren’t the two in complete opposition? While I have little concern for Tom’s overall financial situation, it’s notable that he earns less than almost a dozen other quarterbacks and could easily command significantly more. Why doesn’t he? Well, it seems Tom cares more about manifesting his magic—aka winning Super Bowls—than he does his personal financial growth. Or, simply, he balances his selfish desire for more with a cultivated appreciation of what he already has, in this case his team. And that, along with one of the greatest coaches in football history, is what makes the New England Patriots perennial favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Lacking appreciation is endemic to our society and the human condition. It leads us to believe that fulfilling our selfish desires will lead to the fulfillment we all crave. But that is exactly what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom: our ability not to act on our selfish desires. Only when we stop this force can we truly appreciate the gifts we have already been given and manifest them into magic.
Now take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine you have nothing. Your family, friends, favorite shirt, television, dog, iPhone, even your ability to speak, taste, and hear are all gone.
Take a moment to think about the simple things: a hug, a kiss, a smile from someone special, a warm shower, a conversation with someone close to you, a taste of your morning coffee, listening to your favorite song. How wonderful are each of these small moments?
Now think of your life today, all the amazing people, things, and moments you enjoy every day. When you experience life through this lens, it’s filled with appreciation. And when you cultivate your appreciation, you will experience magic every day.