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29 June 2013

Is Money Important as a goal?

I still remember my response to Rajumohan's question, like it is today. 

Why do I remember that respose? Because one comment that I innocuously made that day set my career back by a few years.

The year was 2000. We, me and Rajumohan, were driving down to Kanthal office in Hosur for a review of the ERP Implementation that I was implementing as a consultant.

Rajumohan, being my Project Manager, was on his way to review my work.

Kanthal Industries Limited was my first customer (or 'Client' as they say in IT Industry). I was implementiong Scala, an ERP Application, for this company. Hosur, where the company is located, is about 40 Kilometers from Bangalore, where I was staying. 

We were in Rajumohan's car, with him driving. We were chatting this and that and then Rajumohan asked, "What do you think? Is money important? Should you target money as a goal?"

I was like, kinda naive and kinda bombastic. I answered (feeling self-important), "I don't think money should be a goal. It is a result. Our goals should be achievements. The more we achieve, the more the money will follow."

The moment I said that statement, I started believing in that. I started believing that money was not a goal, it should be a result. With that belief, I blocked my mind to any further ideas, any further discussion, on this very important topic.

From then on, I started chasing 'Achievements'.

How do you do that? How do you add to your list of 'Achievements'? 

As per experts, the classic path is to identify your strengths, and keep doing what you are good at, and it will result in more and more achievements.

And hope the money will follow. 

I decided that my strength was ERP Consulting and I started trying to 'Achieve'. I went and did more and more implementations, for different customers, I filled my CV with successful ERP Implementations. I piled up an impressive list of ERP Achievements. I collected testimonials from customers. I got comments from customers like 'Ramaswamy knows about my company more than my people do'. 

I was happy. I was doing work that I liked and enjoyed. 

But...

money did not come in proportion to my achievements. 

Money followed its own path. As I kept on doing ERP Implementations, money followed the path of 'Diminishing Marginal Utility'. The incremental money from my next achievement was lower than that from my previous achievement. Also, as I was becoming more expensive as a consultant, there was mismatch of expectations regarding my work between me and my employer. The employer was not ready to 'Play my game', he was not ready to allow me to continue my skill of ERP Implementation and pay me commensurately for my experience. As far as he was concerned, the net marginal benefit that I was bringing to the table due to my experience was significantly lower than the cost benefit that he will gain by getting the same work done by a consultant of lower experience. 

This went on for a few years. Me chasing 'Achievements' hoping that money will follow. In fact it went on for about 8 years. 

Suddenly, one day, I woke up and saw the light, as it were.

I realized that by putting money in terms of 'Goal' vs. 'Outcome', I was missing an important aspect of the role of money. Money can also act as a 'Criteria for measurement' of my achievements. By measuring my achievements in terms of 'Monetary Value', I was still focusing on Achievements, but using a different yardstick of 'Economic worth of my achievements' rather than the 'Quantity of my achievements' as my goal. 

This changed the way I looked at my work. The moment I started looking at economic worth, the gaps in my skill set became painfully apparent. By focusing on ERP Implementation, I was missing the structural changes that were happening around me. The world was no longer looking for an ERP Consultant, it was looking for a manager and a solution provider. Solutioning was where the money was. In my quest for achieving 'Numbers', I had forgotten to develop my team skills, my management skills and my 'Solutioning and Packaging' skills. 

And what about my employer? While my customers were expecting these skills, and were ready to pay more for management and solutioning skills, my employer(s) was ready to pay for my business development skills. For example, they expected me to own proposals and win businesses and I had not developed skills in that area. I still remember that in my 'Achievement' focussed days (with the narrow definition of 'Achievement'), I was asked to make a proposal and I had included all the anticipated and unanticipated risks in the proposal and inflated my prices by almost 50% more than our nearest competitor and lost that deal which was mine for the taking. 

In my new, 'Money as a measurement criteria' days, I started learning new skills. I got certified in Project management from PMI, I implemented a few projects as a PM, I worked for a global retail giant as a 'Solution Architect' and started working on preparing better proposals. I also started learning more skills.

The change in perspective to 'Money as a measurement criteria' made me to learn new skills and look for new opportunity whereby I can apply my knowledge.

The change in outlook from 'Money as a result' to 'Money as a measurement criteria' has brought in sea change in the way I look at life and its opportunities.

I am sure that with my changed perspective, I will still achieve stuff and also earn money. Hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later. 

Thats it. I am done. 

I know of many people who are still in the 'achievement' focussed phase and belittle 'Money' as goal. By taking such 'Yes / No' positions, they are blinding themselves to options that exist in between. 

And that is where most of the possibilities exist.

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