Measuring success – of a person, a business, or a country – seems easy enough. You look at the figures. You check the bank balance. But is it really that simple? What about the things you can’t count?
I inherited my first business when I was 20. I lucked into a position managing an insurance franchise where I was able to keep every pfennig of profit I generated. As a young person living and travelling in Europe, having loads of spare cash to indulge myself was all I could ever want. Sure, I was working fifty hour weeks, but I didn’t mind. I was happy. I had more money than I could spend.
Fast forward thirty years; I’m running a different company and my views on profit have completely changed. My goal now is to make sure my staff and I are paid a comfortable wage. I no longer care if my company generates a big net profit because my happiness isn’t measured in profit. Having enough vs having it all is not a difficult choice for me. Enough is amazing and I know I’m fortunate to have it.
Last January, I made big changes to the way my business operates. And while our productivity has improved and the business continues to flourish, success is now measured in happiness and wellbeing. It’s transformed the way my staff and I work and live. As long as the company makes enough money to keep us happy and comfortable (and it does), we’re delighted. We’re not dominated by spreadsheets or profits because these are not the things we value. We strive to make our work environment healthy, friendly, and inclusive. This is what matters.
So when someone comes at me with a GDP warning against Scottish independence, I automatically switch off. Firstly, I don’t believe that Scotland is the only country in the world that can’t afford to stand on its own. Europe is home to an abundance of small, flourishing nations. If you want to look at the more extreme examples, plenty of ex-Soviet countries started out with fewer resources and less infrastructure but are thriving now that they’re able to make their own decisions. There is no reason Scotland can’t do the same.
Secondly, my reasons for wanting independence go far beyond the economic argument. That’s not to discount the importance of a healthy economy which can support and nourish a country and its citizens. Of course that’s vital, and it’s something Scotland, with its wealth of talent and resources, can achieve. Beyond that, though, look at the choices now staring us in the face, thanks to the dangerous lurch to the far right being taken elsewhere in the world.
Given a choice between a future as an independent country in the EU or becoming the 51st state in Trump’s ‘America First’, I’ll choose the liberalism of independence every time. What good is a high GDP if it comes bundled with bigotry, racism, and far-right dominance? Who is likely to be happy living in that environment?
Brexit has already diminished our circumstances. The status quo of 2014 is gone forever. The question now is do we want Scotland’s future in the hands Boris Johnson, Steven Bannon, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and Vladimir Putin? Or would we rather trust ourselves to reject their nasty populism? For me, it’s not a hard choice to make.
The easiest choice of all, though, is to set our sights on creating a happy, healthy, fair and forward-looking country. That’s the kind of success worth fighting for.