Being less to be more

This article was sitting in my drafts. It was an attempt to make a second tentative move to introduce being vs having from Erich Fromm into a wider frame of reference of projects. It was less insightful than I had hoped…


The project finance world I served – through my construction insurance days until 2018 – my more recent mid-career MSc in Project Management, Finance, and Risk – my consulting that is primarily focused on internal control environments – each presents me with a reasonable understanding of how important the relationships of debt is to projects of social and economic infrastructure. Like the great majority of contributors to a capitalist culture, I have also lived much of my life in financial debt.

Perspectival confusion

This article was prompted by my own decision to put debt back into my life project. To help oil my academic wheels as I embark on MSc number two. It remained a draft blog because I knew it had taken a wrong turn. At the time I could not see why.

When being is less than having

Applying Erich Fromm’s having vs being to my decision to move back into being in debt had me stumped. The principles of having are held as less than being, because being (or becoming) is future action orientated which can enable betterment. To be loving, is to contribute to something bigger. To have love, is a possessive state. To be authoritative is to present the characteristics necessary to direct a task. To have authority is to own a position of influence. Only being offers contribution.

My struggle when I first wrote this piece was to find a way to make that work when the state of being is negative, or at least sub-optimal. How could being indebted be better than having debt? And aren’t they just the same thing? Here’s what I think might be going on.

Being indebted

We all owe something to someone

I wonder how often we sit back, and acknowledge our debts? We all inherit benefits or burdens from other ventures. In projects | within project parlance I am calling all of these ventures projects. We all commit to projects today that require us to deny projects of tomorrow. We all wish we had not started some projects yesteryear that now deny us opportunity of projects today. Debt may have a place here.

The process of moving into debt as a state of being was not sitting well with the Fromm notion of being as the better mode than having. We do not want to be in debt. To be in debt, or to have debt to pay, both require us to be a servant to whomever we have borrowed from. The being state we have adopted, in the present, is denying us a freedom to be in the future. We become less free.

If we are agency to change – as agents with intent – taking on debt is intending change that seems a negative. To understand the rationality, and keep to the Fromm notion of being, I needed to see the other projects in play beyond the handicap of debt. Projects | within Projects.

Being | having | being more

Odd that that had me stumped a while – with no real reason beyond my own modal confusion. Quite the admission given my background, and my recent educational revisit to much that outlines how this assessment and decision-making is best done. Investment theory, portfolio management, economics of opportunity cost, all just functional supports to the assessment project. One project decision, that constrains the next. But a decision that enables projects that themselves enable more.

There is a message here, however. I think as a society we take on debt too easily. Have too little regard for the burden we bestow to our future projects. Our future selves. Think upon that in the context of future generations living in the environment we leave them. Perhaps there in sits a reason debt had me stumped a while. It cannot be considered in isolation. Its future impact and immediate return. The projects it enables today, are they worth what we ask others to repay? Perhaps more needs a little rethinking. Interest of a different kind.

Finding this draft post I had clearly parked two months ago tonight prompted a rethink – and a sheepish redraft. A problem solved simply by the repositioning of perspective. Maybe the first of a few…

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: