Here’s what happens when a frustrated economist thinks about life, desperately trying to sneak into her thoughts bits and pieces of the rusty economic tools inside her brain, when all she remembers from her college Economics degree classes are the market for lemons and adverse selection. This blog is about the reality of life, the power of dreams and everything else in between.
I feel obliged to talk about my dreamer’s dilemma for this blog’s first entry. The truth is, I abandoned my dream field, Economics, 6 years ago. And though I left my heart there somewhere, I moved on. I had to. Life happened. I mean, I literally didn’t have to. But circumstances lead me astray from the original path I wanted to take. I could have worked in the field but without a master’s degree, I’d have to work for the government, which should have been perfect since I have always fancied macroeconomics, public and development economics. The only problem was, I had to make a decent living and I have also always dreamt of helping my family, with a PhP 16k monthly salary, I could only scarcely feed and buy myself some office clothes and shoes. The glaring difference of the life the corporate world was offering me then took the better of me. I jumped into the temptation. It was a sweeter lemon. Or so it seemed at that time. So being an economist became just an item on my life’s waitlist. Promising to go back to the arms of my first love with the savings I’ll earn from the job I chose, I slaved myself in the world of Corporate Finance. I neither applied any of the theories of Adam Smith nor of John Maynard Keynes. And through the years, my economist dream stayed as it was, only a dream. It was six years of gaining expertise swallowing sour lemons and monstrous Excel files.
Why do things like this happen all the time? Why do we keep doing things which were never really aligned with the original longings of our hearts? And why do we live with it day by day trapped into a constant struggle with ourselves?
Do you know how when we get out of college, we have a truckload (maybe more) of plans and ideals about how we want to live our life and make our mark into this world? The contents of that truck represents our demand. In our case, humanly complicated as we are, we have unlimited wants, all categorized into the different aspects. You demand a job that is challenging (intellectual). You demand a job that pays for your clothes or shoes or gadgets or whatever makes you feel physically better (physical). You demand a job that makes you feel respected and accepted by your family and friends (social). You demand a job that provides work-life balance so you can enjoy the better things in life (emotional). You demand a job that would make you post an entry in Twitter or Instagram or Facebook with a hashtag that says ‘I love my job’ and fulfills your inner self for real (psychological). Is there an end to this list? I’m sure you can relate to this. That’s the nature of demand–the unlimited wants of mankind, something we, humans, all share.
In the Philippines, we have a saying that goes Libreng Mangarap (You don’t get charged for dreaming or Dreaming is for free). This is particularly true only in the case where you want your dreams to remain as they are–just dreams. That is probably the best way to explain the concept of unconstrained demand. In the dream world, where the price for dreaming is zero, the demand will be sky-high. But should you have any plan of reaching your dreams, you would have to sacrifice and give something to achieve your dreams; whether it be time, money, or the emotional investment. When it comes to our career aspirations, the price required by the world comes in the form of resources. Our resources, no matter how rich we are, will always have a limit to them. This represents the price. As the resources you have to give up increase, your dreams narrow down from an unending list to a few ‘realistic’ items you reckon you are more likely to achieve. That’s how the demand curve works: if the price is zero, you dream on without end and as the price increases, you drop your other dreams (the other criteria you seek from a dream job). The result is a downward sloping demand curve (with your truckload of desires on the x-axis and the resources you have the ability and willingness to give up on the y-axis).
Now, the probability of your dream becoming a reality increases as you pay and sacrifice the resource requirements dreams requires. In my life’s example, had I given up on my desire to somehow provide for my family some form of financial help and my desire to be able to provide physical comforts to myself, I would have gotten a dream career to start as a junior economist. It was just that, I was not willing to pay the price it required. I cannot give up on one type of resource which that dream required–money, a higher salary. That’s how the supply of dreams work. As the you pay more of the resources and sacrifices it require more, the higher the likelihood of you getting your dream. Think of it as life giving you more of what you dream of, the more resources you give up to get it. The result is an upward sloping supply curve (with the resources you give up on the y-axis, and the amount of desires fulfilled in the x-axis).
You may have realized by now that we can easily juxtapose the two curves together because they have the same y-axis (resources) and x-axis (desires pursued/fulfilled). The result of course is the supply and demand curve sloping on opposite directions meeting at a point somewhere. That point determines where in our dreams we end up in the reality of things. Some of us can be spot on where we have ever dreamed to be, while others may be no where close. It all depends on the mechanisms of the supply and demand curves, the amount of what we can and we do sacrifice to get our life’s desires and the limited nature of what life can offer us with what we give up.
If you find yourself in a career that was never what you dreamed of to begin with. The dilemma has always been the same. Should we shift our demand curves to a higher ground where it meets the supply curve at a higher level, that is give up on whatever demand curve we have right now (our status quo, our current careers). Should we change careers? To answer this, we have to go back to the reality of the price you have to pay. Shifting the demand curve upwards means, for every item in your desires list to be fulfilled, are you now willing to give up more resources than you originally had to (say when you were a fresh grad and didn’t have to give up on a current career or a lifestyle that took you years to afford)? The answers aren’t always easy. It requires deep reflections and knowing yourself and what would satisfy you most. With this, I can start talking about utility, which simply is the quantitative concept of satisfaction. Are you sure you’re going to get more utility shifting your current demand curve? Is the incremental utility greater than the incremental cost of shifting the curve?
I’m sorry that answering life’s questions are not made any easier by my overthinking and economic analyzing. My point is, whatever modelling we use, our decisions will make up what we become. Where the demand and supply curves meet is determined by what we give up and how much we risk and work. So is it a worthy conclusion that we become what we never really dreamed of becoming because we weren’t ready to give up what our dreams required? Or were we, from the start fooling ourselves about our dreams when in reality we didn’t really desired them enough to pay its price? In which case, are we already where we have subconsciously been aspiring to be? If not, what more can we give up to slowly get there?
I’m creating this blog because I know in my heart that to be an economist is my one worthy dream (and so is becoming a designer). Many people would think me confused but I haven’t given up either on what I have achieved right now, with my corporate finance career. That being said, I am shifting my demand curve upwards where I am required more time and risks to write about life and Economics. This in the hope that, some desires I had as a young dreamer would somehow be fulfilled.