Our Best Interest.

Some have accused me of not acting in my own best interests often enough. It’s possible. I think the line between acting in one’s best interest, and being straight up self-centered is a thin one in some cases. Unlike many people more successful than myself, I’d much rather err on the side of not acting in my best interests, than on the side of opportunistic prickdom.

I realize there are healthy ways to pursue one’s best interests, whether as institutions or as individuals. And I certainly understand why we want to avoid destructive choices. What I have a harder time grasping is why so many people and communities and organizations opt not to try something, or allow something, or explore something that holds zero risk to them. In other words, something that may not enhance best interests, but certainly doesn’t hinder them either.

A few months ago a friend of mine told me about an idea he had for an artistic project, which would have required the cooperation of a certain company. The details are too involved to go into here, but suffice to say my artist colleague drew up a proposal, presented it to the appropriate individuals, and was turned down.

Yet he wasn’t turned down because the company felt they would suffer any particular negative impact as a result of their involvement. Indeed they mentioned to my friend that they were impressed by the proposal, and appreciated that the project would not cost them a single dollar in lost revenue, or require them to in any way alter their daily operations. But, as they told him, “Taking part in your proposed project would not enhance our best interests.

Meaning, I would gather, that while no damage would be done to their bottom line, the very act of cooperating would not bring them more money or business, so it was a no go.

It annoyed me far more than it annoyed him. Reason being, as I alluded to before, I think “best interest” as a concept is taken a too far too often in our value-assessment obsessed society.

People need chances. Access. Knowledge. Community. Such commodities  don’t fall out of the sky for most people, so when we have a chance to open those doors for someone without throwing our own journey into disarray, I think we should do so. Truth be told, I think we should sometimes do so even when we do have to sacrifice something. That is being human. But for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with the times when impact of involvement is negligible or non-existent for us, but could mean a great deal to someone else.

This isn’t about charity, per se, as my artist friend stood to make no money from what he proposed. He in fact would have had to spend some. He isn’t destitute and would have been able to afford it, so cooperation in his case would not have been an act of charity per se. Rather, it would have been an act of inclusion. Of community. Deciding that reaching out in a low-risk proposition to someone who has an idea and needs a venue can be in one’s so-called “best interests” in and of itself.

We must work to thrive, and we must protect ourselves. However does this mean that by default, “my best interest” must be the metric by which we measure every step we take in life? I hope not.

What do you say?



  1. Erik Anderson

    I don’t really understand this. I was under the impression that companies like contributing to the arts because it enhances their reputation of being culturally relevant and active members of the community. I for one greatly appreciate that the McCutcheon jam factory allowed Yemi to use the side of their factory for the Pillars of Frederick project. No, they don’t directly profit from it, but it certainly adds life to that boring old factory facade they’ve got there, and it gives folks just one more reminder of why it’s a good idea to support local business: because they care about the community in which we live. So really, in what sense could this type of project *not* be in their best interest?

    • I don’t honestly know, as we didn’t get into details as to the why. Only that it seemed the company in question didn’t feel they were in anyway directly enhanced by the proposal, so it was rejected. A bottom-line decisions I suppose.

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