Thursday, March 29, 2012

Should we even try?

It's hard to go a full day without hearing someone talk about how bad the economy is now days. A lot of the time we blame political leaders, but how much of it are we really personally responsible for? We decided to find out if Americans would rather help someone build a business and grow the economy or help someone remain reliant upon others. 

Where the Idea Began 

This idea came as I was trying to raise capital to expand my business. I started a Kickstarter project to raise the money needed. The goal was 10,000 and I only had a certain amount of time to get it. If I didn't raise the full amount in that time I would not get any of the money that was raised and it would go back to their rightful owners. In order to accomplish my goal I had to get $200 dollars a day in pledges. The first week went really well I was able to do just that. It was a lot of work to convince others to support my project despite the fact that I was providing them with a product in return for their pledge. At one point in the project we hit a wall and pledges stopped. I kicked it into over drive doing everything I could to bring more traffic to my project. I desperately needed to accomplish this goal. I wrote article for multiple large blogs about running projects as a college student, hit all the college campuses, ect. After a week of this with no success I sat brainstorming what I could do to accomplish this goal. In a moment of frustration I thought to myself "This is so dumb. I am offering a great product and I still cannot get the money I need to expand this business. While I know for a fact that there are people who sit on an overpass all day and make over $100 dollars a day." That's when the idea for this video was born. 

How to Test

Its estimated that tens of thousands of dollars are given to beggars daily by individuals. We decided to see if Americans would give the same amount of money to someone to help them start a business if they asked for it in the same manner. So we picked a street corner, made two different signs. One for the Entrepreneur and  one for a homeless student living in his car. We would both stand on the same corner for the same amount of time during the same hours of the day of the same day of the week and see who would get the most money.

The Results  

We started with the Entrepreneur first. He stood for a total of one hour on the street corner. Not a large sample time but enough to get a feel for the public's reaction. In that time he was given absolutely no money. Not even someone's spare change from their recent starbucks run. Next up was to see how much the beggar could raise in this time. It could be that he also would get no money and we would find out that Americans are just plain heartless. That however was not the case. After standing on the corner for 15 minutes as a beggar I had a man reach out and hand me a some of money. I thanked him, the light turned green and he was on his way. Within a matter of 15 minutes it was clear that Americans would much rather give their money to a beggar than to someone trying to progress and grow in their life. I didn't feel it was fair to take advantage of the public more than necessary so I ended the experiment early knowing that I already had enough information to draw my conclusion.

Are we the Ones Cutting our own Throat?       

Does this behavior have a debilitating affect on our Nation? What does this study show us about the Human mind? What motivates us and calls us to action? Each of us inherently wants to help others. It's part of our nature, we are compassionate and seek to help those around us. Do we go about it the right way though? When we see the Entrepreneur on the road we don't feel bad not giving him any money. We say to ourselves there are other ways for him to get the money. He can work for it, get a loan, find an investor, if it's a good idea someone will give him the money and help he needs. We have seen it time and time again with company after company. In our minds he is going about it the wrong way so we feel no guilt passing him by. When we see the beggar, we are moved with compassion. We don't think about the equal amount of programs established for them. The shelters, work programs, schooling stimulus's, ect. All we see is someone that is dependent upon us. Something that each of us subconsciously enjoys and seeks for. It elevates us above someone else, provides feelings of self worth, and brings joy. Do we feel power from making someone reliant upon us? Do we feel that our power is threatened by helping someone become self reliant? Have we hurt the progression of our country because subconsciously we are afraid to try and help everyone become self reliant?

Thoughts a Comments       

Let me hear your thoughts, and feelings. Don't forget to check out the project that started this whole thing right here


  1. Ethan I really liked the idea of your experiment, and I think you do make a good point, but you're making some very drastic assumptions from an uncontrolled and severely flawed approach. The fact that a small assortment of commuters failed to pity or support the "young entrepreneur" whilst feeling sympathy for a "homeless student" looking for $10 for gas does not in any way confirm that "America is a bunch of enablers." You're clearly a smart guy, so you should know better than to make such brazen statements from a flawed experiment just to support your own views.

  2. Altlnit,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with you, this is not enough to say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is how we always function as a society. There are to many variables that come into play to make it scientifically bullet proof. Simply changing a few words on one of the signs could have produced drastically different results. The underlying point that I think we need to understand, that I feel we miss as a society, is personal accountability. The concept that I was trying to illustrate as a whole is that we seek to always place blame on someone or something else. Never taking time to realize that we personaly are the ones causing the problem. If all we say is the economy is bad and wait for some political leader to come into office and fix it, then the economy will be bad forever. If we want the economy to change we each personally and individually need to change it. If ultimately in the end I cannot get the money to expand my business, that's not the economies fault, the Presidents fault, the investors fault, its MY fault. That is what I feel we do not understand as Americans.