She expressed how she often feels icky at networking events because of the way so many people are there just to get something. I shared the solution I’ve found for reducing the ick in those situations is to make your entire mission to help introduce the various people you meet to one another. When your aim is giving instead of getting, the whole dynamic changes. People relax, open up, and real connection can happen.
She then talked about how she had come to terms with creating content meant to influence (and in some ways, manipulate) people’s thoughts and choices. It’s a necessary evil in our capitalist system, she reckons, but she refuses to work with companies and industries she feels are inherently unethical. She also sees her income as a means to support altruistic organizations. It’s her hope that, despite the grey variables, the final balance of the equation is benefit to mankind.
These two threads brought back to mind Immanuel Kant’s famous categorical imperative:
“Act that you use humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.”
Kant argues that this one rule can help you sort out pretty much any moral or ethical consideration. Are we acting out of respect for each person’s fundamental dignity and worth or are we simply using others (or ourselves) to get something else? When our “why” is not serving the good of ourselves and others, we can just feel that we’re out of alignment, right?
Of course, this moral maxim is reminiscent of The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And, since none of us wants to be used, we shouldn’t use others either.
Lying and slavery are wrong because they treat others as a means. Addiction is wrong because it is treating ourselves as a means. There are so many situations in which this measuring stick can be applied. For the sake of brevity, I’ll point you to Mark Manson’s excellent blog post where he fleshes out a number of examples of this maxim in action.
If you find yourself in an ethical quandary this week, see if Kant’s rule can shed some light on your way.
Make this week magnificent!