The French economist Jean-Baptiste Say famously identified the basic law of markets: “Products are paid for with products.” In order to purchase goods or services in a marketplace, you must first produce value with which to trade. Most tersely: Supply constitutes demand.1
This does not mean that if you create something, people will want to exchange their goods or services for it. Rather, it means that if you want something that other people have, you should make something of value so you have something to offer in exchange.
I love the simplicity and fundamentality of Say’s Law. And, as I’ve explained elsewhere, it’s an application of a deeper law, a metaphysical law—the law of causality—which serves also as the foundation for objective morality. (In the realm of morality, the law is: If you want something, you must take the actions necessary to gain or keep it.2 As Ayn Rand points out, this moral truth, which is the essence of the Objectivist ethics, is neatly summarized in the proverb, “God said, ‘Take what you want and pay for it.’”)3
Because Say’s Law is vital to objective economics—and because it’s a great conduit for grasping the essence of objective morality—I’m always on the lookout for explicit or implicit applications of the law by intellectuals or writers. So I was delighted to read a recent article by Laurie Barber in which she (implicitly) applies the idea to the realm of “networking.” Her article, “If You Want to Get Better at Networking, Stop Networking,” begins:
How do I find cool people? How do I make smart and interesting friends? How do I find a good mentor? How do I get business partners? How do I get better at networking?
These are all great things to want. Having valuable friendships, work relationships, and connections with like-minded people who have shared interests and can challenge you to be better is important.
But here’s the paradox: Wanting to get better at networking or trying to find friends decreases the odds of you actually finding them.
Stop looking for smart people. Stop searching for mentors. Stop looking for cool friends. Stop scouring conferences and networking events for opportunities to give everyone your business card. Instead, focus on these three things, and the people will come:
1. Do cool stuff
In your search for interesting friends and meaningful relationships, what qualities are you actually looking for? Are you looking at their IQ? Their grades? Their social status? Their job?
What you should usually be prioritizing are shared interests and people who can challenge you to be better at the things you want to be good at. The best way to find those people is to forget about the friendship component and just focus on engaging your interests. If you’re doing that, it becomes pretty difficult over time to not intersect with people who are interested in the same things.
Act on your passions. Start doing cool stuff. Start building things. Chase the things you’re interested in. Work your butt off wherever you’re currently at to create value for others.
The best way to be interesting is to be interested. To be exciting, be excited. To be engaging, be engaged. To be fascinating, be fascinated.4
Laurie’s second and third recommendations are are applications of Say’s Law as well. Check out her full article here.
Create, create, create. Supply constitutes demand. It’s the law.