Ownership is the most effective way to ensure that you will fully care about the outcomes of your actions. With ownership comes a responsibility to take care of what you own, and to build on top of what you have. Ownership unites and gives people a common purpose. Ownership keeps us motivated to improve and reap the benefits of incremental changes over time.
Unity and Purpose
I’ve been reading Lee Kwan Yew’s book on Singapore's emergence on the global scene in the last century “From Third World to First.” This quote really resonated:
We have made home ownership the cornerstone of Singapore’s public housing policy – the vast majority of the population own, not rent, their homes. Ownership is critical because we were an immigrant community with no common history. Our peoples came from many different parts of Asia. Home ownership helped to quickly forge a sense of rootedness in Singapore. It is the foundation upon which nationhood was forged. The pride people have in their homes prevents our estates from turning into slums, which is the fate for public housing in other countries.
Ownership has the power to unite. Accumulated ownership can bring people together and the combined efforts of all involved can set up the group on a road toward improvement and success.
Purpose can naturally flow from ownership. Whether that’s a new community, a neighbourhood, or employees at a company, the weight of ownership creates a foundation on which great things can sprout.
Getting better all the time
Here’s an example from daily life. As a house owner, I’ve quickly learned the importance of regular upkeep. There’s always something that requires my attention, often non-urgent things. Most of the time, I don’t have to do anything, but the desire to live in a nice home and the satisfaction derived from a seemingly small improvement is a strong enough motivator to inspire action. Over time, all these unrelated little projects and chores end up enhancing the experience of our family. We all benefit from the care and attention we invested as owners.
A word of caution. When we neglect the responsibility that comes with ownership things tend to deteriorate. If you stop caring (and if you are not acting with purpose and desire to improve that’s what it is - lack of care) the thing you own becomes worthless. Like the flame of a burning candle, it dwindles into smoke. Neglect is a dangerous thing because it creeps up on you, silently and gradually, almost unnoticeable. It’s the antidote to the incremental improvements I mentioned above. A low-effort but high-impact occurrence. Neglect doesn’t result in tragedy immediately, it just puts you on a slow but steady pace toward failure. Neglect works in the opposite direction of all the positive forces that spawn from ownership.
Things that make you go hmm…
1) Speaking of Neglect, Seth Godin shared a great post on the topic recently. The Explosion makes us think about the rot that ensues once we forgo our responsibility to do better. The big explosions are rarely as damaging as the slow and steady rot that spreads throughout.
2) The Age of Average is upon us. This, however, presents a great opportunity for those willing to stand up and stand out. Have you ever thought that everything you watch, listen to, buy, or otherwise consume looks and feels the same? It is not a coincidence. There are large cultural forces at play here that feed off of our desire to imitate and please the largest possible group. The result is a bland taste.