On Being Greedy

“Greed is good.”

– Wall Street

Last Updated on

Introduction

Hi.

Do you think greed is a good thing? Or a bad thing?

We treat greed pretty badly; it causes economic bubbles, excessive possessions, and detriments to others.

While it’s right, we might not achieve anything without a greedy mind (= zero motivation).

It’s pretty interesting when you think about the dichotomy.

So today, let’s talk about how greed influences us and how to control it.

Be Careful about Greed

At least in the modern liberal society John Stuart Mill defined, greed isn’t something we praise for.

In On Liberty, he wrote “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

This “harm to others,” or known as the Harm Principle, is why we should be careful about our greed.

It’s totally fine as long as we pursue our mission without causing any harm to others. And of course, winning in a fair competition doesn’t count as “harming others.”

I’m talking about the harming in more of cheating, deceiving, and robbing among many.

When people start prioritizing themselves at the expense of their surroundings, our society malfunctions.

On the other end, there is good greed, too.

In the movie Wall Street – Gordon Gekko famously said

Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

Gordon Gekko, in the movie Wall Street

Offering employees stock options, in a way “sharing greed”, is a good example. It makes us be aligned on goals and actions (in this case, maximizing the stock value.)

In the capitalism society, without greed, most people are not incentivized to innovate and sell. As a result, we could easily suffer from stagnation.

So what can we take out from here? We need to control greed inside of our minds.

Dealing with Greed

How to control greed is quite interesting because the answer to it sounds like a paradox.

Greed often means an insane obsession with money.

But to make money, you should cut off the obsession. A study shows that the more someone had an emotional attachment to money, the more likely they were to make mistakes with money [2]

Also, another study reminds us you never get satisfied with more money. Because we don’t have a limit in greed. [3]

While greed gives you motivation, what actually gets you to the goal is something else.

What you need are determination and satisfaction.

There is an online quote: “wake up with determination, go to bed with satisfaction.”

This is pretty much what you should aim for once you want something.

So throw away your greed once you made up your mind.

And remember – you don’t have to harm others to achieve success.

Afterword

“So is greed good or bad?”

It depends on your definition.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines greed as “a desire for a lot more food, money, or things than you need.”

Being motivated to do more is not necessarily a bad thing.

But if you mean “doing whatever to get more at the cost of others”, then greed is bad for sure.

However, whether greed is good or bad, you will suffer living with greed in the long run, because you will never be happy or satisfied even if you get more.

Buddha said, “Those who do not know satisfaction, even when living in a heavenly palace, are still not satisfied. Those who do not know satisfaction, even if rich, are poor. People who know satisfaction, even if poor, are rich.”

Wanting something is good. It gets you to move forward. But you need to know the balance.

Note

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Liberty-Dover-Thrift-Editions/dp/0486421309/

[2] https://www.ft.com/content/f16edc12-65d1-11e6-a08a-c7ac04ef00aa

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201410/is-greed-good

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