If Everyone Jumped Off a Cliff … (Find Out What REALLY Happens Next!)

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f everyone jumped off a cliff ...Here’s one of the weirdest arguments I hear against the themes of Afford Anything (ditching your 9-to-5, growing wealth, escaping mediocrity):

“If everyone did that, society would collapse.”

What? Elaborate, please.

“If everyone quit their cubicle jobs, we’d have no more workers left. Businesses would stop running and the economy would collapse.”

Uh-huh. What does this have to do with me?

“You’re a part of society.”

That. Makes. Zero. Sense.

You could make that argument about anything. If everyone became doctors, we’d have no teachers. If everyone became firefighters, we’d have no accountants. If everyone was blonde, the world would have no brunettes.

The “if everyone did it” argument is an irrelevant excuse. You are not everyone. You are only yourself.

If everyone paid their credit cards in full, Visa and MasterCard would go bankrupt. Does that mean you should carry a balance?

If everyone maintained a healthy body weight, the job market for obesity experts would shrink. (No pun intended). Does that mean you should gorge on 11 pounds of hot dogs?

If everyone treated animals kindly, anti-cruelty groups would become irrelevant. Does that mean we should start kicking puppies?

Obviously not. You’re not responsible for keeping MasterCard in business. You’re not responsible for keeping the economy afloat. You’re only responsible for yourself.

Our egos like to imagine that the world would stop turning without us. That existence itself would shrivel up. But contrary to everything we’ve been taught, our actions affect only ourselves and our “circle of influence.”

What the heck is a circle of influence? It’s the people around you: friends, family, Facebook stalkers. In a world filled with 7 billion people, that circle is too weak to tear down the fabric of society.

I know, your ego doesn’t want to hear that. You want to start a ripple effect. You want to impact and inspire others.

And you might. Or you might not. You can’t control what other people do. Everyone’s choices are ultimately their own.

Including yours.

Thanks to epSos.de for today’s photo of a puppy. Don’t kick it!

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40 Responses to “If Everyone Jumped Off a Cliff … (Find Out What REALLY Happens Next!)”

  1. William @ Bite the Bullet
    02. Apr, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Amazing the short memories we have. For all of recorded human history people have worked from home: general store owner, farmer, blacksmith, baker. Then we had this unusual technology, the industrial revolution, which created the notion of jobs, commuting and big companies.

    Now we have another technology revolution allowing us to go back to our roots. Why is that so weird? We’re just going back to our roots. I, for one, think that’s just awesome.

  2. Julie @ The Family CEO
    02. Apr, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    I like William’s point. I recently heard Seth Godin talk about that very same thing.

    Also, to take the “if everyone did that” argument to it’s conclusion, consider that if enough people did this it would create a shortage of cubicle workers, which would make them more in demand, and employers would have to respond by making those jobs more rewarding to lure workers back. That could only be a good thing, right?

  3. Stephanie
    02. Apr, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    It would truly be a threat to the economy if everyone saved enough money to support themselves after they don’t want to/can’t work. Yes, that would really be a drain on society. I totally see their argument there.

  4. JoeTaxpayer
    02. Apr, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    To its logical conclusion, if everyone did what you do, or what I do, the system would collapse. The choices that you make also means that everything you don’t do or don’t purchase would have zero demand.
    In my case, I’m not a sports fan, so if everyone were me, every major league sport would vanish. (I don’t wish that on anyone, of course, I’m not anti-pro-sport, I just don’t care).

    As much as PF bloggers talk about savings and frugality, yes, if everyone took our advice, there’s would be issues. I’m not too worried that will happen anytime soon.

    • Afford Anything
      02. Apr, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      @JoeTaxpayer — I like your term “anti-pro-sport.” :-)

      At the moment, I don’t have a dog. If everyone on the planet also refrained from dog ownership, the system would collapse, kennels would be even more over-capacity, and the entire dog-food/leash/grooming industry would go up in flames.

      So … what does this have to do with me? I’m not “everyone.” I’m just one person. And I can only make the choices that are best for myself. :-)

  5. Rob
    02. Apr, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Is there an award for best PF blog post ever? If so, this one deserves it with three criteria that matter but are rarely used to effect in the blogging (or personal finance) world:


  6. Mark
    02. Apr, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Unfortunately, we don’t have to worry about even the smallest percentage of cubicle monkeys adopting our approach to life. I’ve been working online full-time for five years now. Every time anyone asks what I do, and I explain it, they always say “Well, must be nice.”

    Yeah, it’s more than nice. But I’m not actually a lot more smart and talented than you, so why aren’t you asking me the next logical question: “How could I get into that kind of working situation?”

    Nope. Tragically, most people will stay in their comfort zones, on the treadmill.

    • Afford Anything
      02. Apr, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

      @Mark — Oh, I can relate! I hear that so much. “Must be nice.” Yeah, it is. And I didn’t achieve it by sitting on my butt daydreaming. I’m a pretty ordinary person, and if I can do it — there’s no reason you can’t.

    • Meredith
      03. Apr, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      So Mark, how could I get into that kind of working situation?

  7. Financial Black Sheep
    02. Apr, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    I find this to be one of the stranger arguments against working for yourself or changing the normal way of doing things. Sounds more like an excuse to not do things, instead of a real argument. Maybe this person is scared by your ideas and won’t admit the reality behind the argument, and instead would rather argue. In any case following everyone else is a safe way to do things, but isn’t always the best way of handling things.

  8. Jen of Hens
    02. Apr, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    This post made me laugh out loud (while drinking water of course!) Please never stop doing what you’re doing!

    Now I will proceed NOT to buy “stuff”, use credit cards except in an emergency, not own a car and grow my own food. I’m sure the downfall of capitalism rests in my dirt-stained hand.

    • Afford Anything
      02. Apr, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      @Jen of Hens — I’ll be sure to pinpoint the downfall of the economy squarely on you :-)

  9. TB at BlueCollarworkman
    02. Apr, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Right on! And to add to that, for everyone who starts making good financial and health decisions in their life, there is someone else who’s starting to make bad decisions. Because we all go through different phases and learning stages. So if every single person who has ever read your blog and my blog and 5 other PF blogs started making the right financial decisions 100% of the time, the economy wouldn’t change at all! Because that many people are making dumb decisions at this very moment. We can only really care for ourselves, dudes!

  10. maria@moneyprinciple
    02. Apr, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    This argument is annoying, agreed. But the one I find even more annoying is ‘oh, we can’t all do that’. Why, what is stopping you? But at the end, in both cases we can be responsible only for our choices.

    • Afford Anything
      02. Apr, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

      @Maria – Exactly. I hear people say that a lot, as well. “We can’t all do that.” What they really mean is, “I’m too scared to try.”

  11. Ross
    02. Apr, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Sometimes I think about what would happen if we all decided we no longer needed something inncessary, lime luxury vehicles. Sure it would change the economy, but so what? The economy is always changing and if you don’t figure out how to play by the new rules, then its your loss

  12. Spencer
    02. Apr, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Visa and MasterCard would be fine if everyone paid on time because of the fees they charge merchants. Much less profitable, but they probably wouldn’t go under. Like you said, the argument that if everyone pursued their dream career the economy would collapse is false. If the worker bees started leaving the hive in drones, companies would still need to get work done, and so would start paying more for worker bees to come back to work for them. A free labor market is a beautiful thing.

    • Afford Anything
      03. Apr, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      @Spencer – A free labor market is definitely a beautiful thing. There would, of course, be growing pains. Visa and MasterCard would have to downsize substantially, laying off thousands of workers. They may even consolidate, since there might not be enough of a market for both of them to co-exist. Of course, people who used to spend their money on finance charges would instead spend their money elsewhere, creating new jobs and new opportunities in a different sector. One door shut, one window wide open. :-)

  13. Skint in the City
    03. Apr, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    Ha, this reminds me of one time I got into an argument with an acquaintance who lived near a market. He didn’t like the market, I loved it. He argued that it was taking custom away from the high street. I argued that it was where people who were either savvy or cash-strapped went to shop and so was providing a great alternative to high street shops. He actually used that line: ‘If everyone shopped at the market there would be no high street shops.’ So? What do you want low-income families to do about that? Pay twice the price for their socks on the high street?
    Strange argument isn’t it?

    • Afford Anything
      03. Apr, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

      @Skint in the City — It’s a very strange argument. It ignores the fact that people want a huge diversity of goods. We don’t live in a communist regime with one centralized clothing store. “Here are your government-issued socks.” That would be terrible. Instead, we live in a free market with a wide variety of goods for every type of consumer interest.

      To bring that analogy closer to home: If everyone only read blogs, there would be no books. And if everyone only read books, there would be no blogs. Fortunately, we have both. :-)

      (If everyone only listened to Madonna, there would be no Justin Bieber. Hmmm … )

  14. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer
    03. Apr, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    You go, girl! Excellent post! Thanks for helping us to remember that we can be leaders, not followers, if we choose to!

  15. The Norwegian Girl
    04. Apr, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    so true. Everybody is responsible for their own lives, so the “if everyone did…” is just an excuse many people make because they don`t dare to do the things they really want to.

  16. Ms.W @ GrowingHerWorth
    04. Apr, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    I’ve seen the “if everyone” argument on every personal finance blog I read, and this is hands down the best response I’ve ever seen! Awesome post!

  17. nicoleandmaggie
    06. Apr, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    From an economic perspective: If everybody wanted to quit their dayjobs, then salary jobs would start paying more, so the folks on the margin of quitting would tip towards staying. That’s the way economics works. Less supply => higher price at equilibrium.

  18. Kyle
    06. Apr, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    This reminds me of the “if everybody indexed, it would stop working” argument. Nicoleandmaggie is right: flipping burgers would start to pay pretty damn well if it got to the point where the majority of people started quitting their dayjobs. All those entrepreneurs and real estate moguls have to eat, and they would be too busy to cook all their own meals at home. There is no chance of this happening, ever. There will always be a huge population of people who prefer a paycheck for whatever reason.

  19. Darwin's Money
    06. Apr, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Game theory at work here. You can never get “everyone” to act unilaterally because there will always be “cheaters” or the allure of asymmetric gains is too strong. Look at OPEC – the oil cartel could in theory, send the price of oil to any price they want and their margins would skyrocket. But since there are multiple players in the game, they often cheat. And when one country sees another country cheating, they do too. Next thing you know, the price of oil is roughly reflective of the true market value, including matching that of non-OPEC countries. It’s the same here – it’s human nature.

  20. Steven J Fromm
    07. Apr, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    I get what you are saying and it is most important to keep the focus on ourselves to keep our sidewalk clean and neat. We definitely overestimate our influence over others, whether it is our kids, parents, co-workers, clients.

  21. FF
    10. Apr, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    I think we’d be OK if everybody did it, or at least if everybody moved in that direction. Society falling apart? Perhaps but I doubt it. I suspect instead we’d figure out how to make things even better (the smart people would do that, not me). Nice problem to have really… I don’t believe in Utopia, and I don’t think this would ever happen, but I bet the world would be a better place if it could happen.


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