Even if you’re not in the medical world like me, you probably still hear a lot about the COVID vaccine. There are people with very strong feelings for and against it, and lots of folks somewhere in the middle. Since I’m naturally drawn to gather as much information as possible in an effort to discern the truth, I almost always end up in the middle.
This article isn’t actually about COVID but something it can teach us about human psychology: the ego likes to align itself with positions. The more polarized we get, the stronger the egoic structure becomes. But having a fixed point of view also entails narrowing our vision so that we don’t encounter any data that would make us wrong.
One of the arguments I hear from opponents of the vaccine is, “Pharmaceutical companies are evil. They only care about money.” The logic behind the argument would seem to be something like: “Because they stand to make zillions of dollars on this, they must therefore be motived entirely by money. Therefore, they don’t care about whether they hurt people. And therefore, they are evil.”
There are several logical errors here. I point it out not because I have any particular fondness for pharmaceutical companies – indeed, drugs and their makers are definitely a mixed bag – but because it’s a good example of troublesome thinking that ends up becoming a double-edged sword for many.
There’s plenty in those pharmaceutical statements that a logician could take issue with, but I want to specifically look at this idea: wanting to make lots of money and wanting to help people are mutually exclusive. Isn’t it possible that both can be true?
I see it all the time – good people doing good work making good money. If we don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot, it’s worth unearthing the scornful mentality that a desire for money – even a lot of money – implies selfish or negative intentions.
With regard to the pharmaceutical industry, my guess is that most people hear stories of price gouging, side effects, and political corruption and develop a position without seeing much of the positive side: a bunch of brilliant, compassionate geeks who find it incredibly gratifying to study diseases and develop cures. It’s easier for me to have perspective because some of these scientists are among my oldest friends. They have husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and kids. They’re well paid and they genuinely want to help humankind. They also want to get back safely to normal life like the rest of us.
When I was a young practitioner working at a clinic in downtown Portland for street youth, I was surprised one day to hear that the clinic had just received a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It made a huge difference in the clinic’s ability to serve this challenged population. “Sure, that’s seems generous,” you might say, “but it’s just a drop in the bucket to Gates!” That may be true, but a million bucks is a million bucks. How many of us are in a position to make such a difference in the world – especially if we oppose wealth because we believe it’s antithetical to our values?
What I’ve taken a very roundabout way of getting to is that I believe it’s fully possible to earn money doing work that’s aligned with our values. Further, if we want to achieve large scale change we’ll need more conscientious, community-oriented people with wealth to direct toward these good works.
Our own desire for positive change is the driving force behind our non-profit Well Life Foundation and the Dragontree Coaching Program. We want to help put money in the hands of people with big hearts. Most participants in our coaching program have been individuals looking to earn a good income in a private coaching practice, making a measurable difference in others’ lives. Some have used their coaching skills to run charitable organizations. A handful have been employed in corporations and chose to go through our training in order to be better equipped to transform the corporate environment – ultimately helping the entire staff to feel more purposeful and connected to the fundamental values they’re advancing.
As the next enrollment period for the Coaching Program approaches, I can’t help but feel proud of how much love went into this training and of the incredible individuals we’ve had the honor to teach. If you’ve ever thought, “I think I could help people,” I agree with you! Check out our program if you’re interested.