The Gift Economy: A Path to a Better Working World

Paul Millerd
15 min readMar 10, 2018

“How much does it cost?”

This question makes less and less sense for the world we are moving towards — a work in which we will depend on people who can create, people who can create art and people who can dream big to solve impossible problems.

I made the leap to self employment because of a burning desire to be more creative and spend more time doing the work that matters to me. I have been incredibly lucky to write things that change people’s minds, create tools that helped people make career changes and spend a large amount of time having discussions and working with people trying to do the work that matters to them as well.

However, when my conversations or projects evolved to the point where you are supposed to set a price or engage in a transaction, it felt awkward. I felt it cheapened the experience. I wanted to help people because it’s what I love doing, not because I was in it for the paycheck.

Yet, the advice says we need to build a business. We can’t let people take advantage of us. We need to price ourselves high to demonstrate our value.

It never sat right with me.

So when I learned about the potential of the “gift economy” it helped explain why I felt worse when money entered the picture and it also helped free my my mind to imagine incredible possibilities for our world.

The current system doesn’t care about your gifts

As Godin argues in Linchpin, “The educated, hardworking masses are still doing what they are told, but they’re no longer getting what they deserve

For decades, we have had a virtuous cycle of a growing economy, generous organizations that took care of people with fair wages, health care and pensions and people who were ready, willing and able to sign up for that offer.

People compromised being creative and doing what matters to them because they were being taken care of AND everyone else was doing it. Now we are in those same organizations wasting our gifts and genius without any of…