“You have to decide whether you want to make money or to make sense because the two are mutually exclusive.” – Dr. R Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller
Frequently repeated and generally not understood, this quote
represents a critical reason why Buckminster Fuller was so successful in
making a huge differnce in the lives of millions of people AND having a
income of over $1,000,000 per year in the 1950’s. In 1927, he was a
complete failure in business and comtemplating suicide.
On the verge of killing himself, he had an epiphany – spiritual
experience. Not knowing what to do next, he entered into several months
of silent meditation, contemplation and pondering his purpose. The
result of that period was his great experiment to determine and document
what a single individual could accomplish that could not be achieved by
any corporation, government or institution no matter how large or
powerful. One of the key elements of that 56 Year Experiment in which
he used himself as “Guinea Pig B,” was his resolve to never again work
for a living.
Fuller decided to make sense rather that to make money. He did not,
however, decide to starve, be homeless or shirk his responsibility to
support his family. Instead, he resolved to keep his intention focused
on making sense on behalf of the most people possible rather than trying
to make money for himself and his family at the expense of others as
most people were (and still are) doing.
What To Do And Why Does This Always Work?
This discipline could be restated that, when embarking on any new
endeavor, a person whose intention is to make money will probably fail
while a person whose primary intention is to make sense and contribute
to others will most likely succeed and be supported financially. It’s
not about the overall action or money. It’s really about the intention,
especially the initial intention as that’s what drives the entire
Over the course of his 56 Year Experiment, Bucky proved that this
strategy works well, and in the 1950’s he had an income of over
$1,000,000. Realizing that Nature never hoards but only saves enough to
sustain a project, Bucky quickly “reinvested” his income in the next
project that he saw needed to be done and was not being attended to.
Fuller’s rationale for trying this strategy was quite simple. As
humans, we are all part of the great whole we call Nature, and Nature
always supports whatever is supposed to be. There is no artificial in
Nature, and Nature always and only allocates the exact amount of
resources necessary for any “project” be it a tree, a rainstorm or a
Nature never uses too few or too many resources, and if something is
not in sync with Nature, it is not supported. In fact, it does not even
exist. We human are a unique species in that we often attempt to
create projects that are not in sync with Nature, and those always
fail. They may appear to be working for a while, but anything that is
not in accord with Nature and her generalized principles will fail.
A Real Failure – In Our Daily Lives
This is particularly true of projects or inventions that are designed
to make money and not make sense. All we need to do is consider the
internal combustion engine. In its short tenure (a century is a spit in
the ocean in the great cosmic time scheme), the internal combustion
engine and the fossil fuel it requires have destroyed a great deal of
our planet’s natural resources and habitat. It is literally killing us
and much of the life on Earth.
Nature and Earth will survive with or without humans, but because
they were designed to make money rather than make sense, internal
combustion engines will (and already are) fail. And they may also
result in the extinction of the beings that created them (human beings).
Failure Is Not An Option
Fuller realized that Nature is always successful in every aspect of
her work, and he modeled his actions on the thriving templates he found
in Nature. At this critical juncture in humankind’s evolution when we
stand on the verge of extinction as a species and in an era of what
Bucky called “humanity’s final exam,” “we the people” must always make
sense rather than trying to make money at the expense of other people.
This is not some pie-in-the-sky idea. It’s the mandate of a man who
devoted the last 56 years of his life to finding out what works and how
we can all implement such best practices into our work and our lives.