Everyone is greedy. Everyone. Don’t believe anyone who says they aren’t, they’re lying. From the devious businessman to the peaceful monk. Everyone thinks about themselves. That’s not always a bad thing. Greed is good. In fact, good greed should be the focus.
The minute I began looking at people this way, my perspective changed. I don’t mean we should look at people cynically. Judging what’s this guy’s motive, and what’s she playing at. No, that’s not focusing on other people’s greed. I’m talking about focusing on my own greed. That’s the point of this rant — focus on your own greed. But why and, more importantly, how?
Green: The driving force
Greed is a motivator, but it can also be a detractor. It’s a motivator when you want to achieve something. You set a goal, write the steps, make milestones, set feedback loops, and even visualize your victory. At every step what’s motivating you is getting to that goal.
You want it, you can feel out, almost reach out and touch it.
It’s everything to you.
Is that a bad thing?
When you want something that doesn’t belong to you, something that you can’t directly work towards, something which you haven’t made a plan to achieve, that’s the deceitful kind of greed. That kind of greed is always bad. The pursuit of that kind of greed will not make you better. And that’s precisely what focusing on other people’s greed will get you.
Instead, focus on your own greed. Focus on those few things that you can directly work towards, build a plan to achieve, and eventually enjoy the feeling of success. That’s the kind of greed you can chase.
Now, in this single-minded pursuit, don’t think that anything that does not directly contribute to your goal is useless. Don’t think that helping others, pushing them to focus on their greed, won’t help you achieve your greed. No, that’s not the case. In fact, helping others is the fastest way to help yourself.
Greed: The indirect help
The greediest people in the world are the most helpful. That sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? When you think of greed, what comes to your mind? Perhaps, rich people. People who have more wealth than imaginable. People with mansions, fast cars, yachts, jets, and sports teams. People who can quit their job and, quite literally, go frolicking through space. I thought these people don’t deserve their extravagant lives, especially when so many people are hungry, disease-ridden, poor, and dying. It’s easy to hate the rich after looking at the poor. But aren’t the rich the most helpful?
Yes, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com is worth nearly $200 billion. But isn’t he the most helpful? Think about it. I can, sitting right here in Bangalore India, order a phone, watch, book, or any of the thousand products on Amazon in a few seconds. These products are likely made outside Bangalore (if not India), but they are shipped here just for my consumption. In a few hours to a few days, the product will be at my doorstep. Isn’t that the greatest help someone can offer me? The same is true for the countless companies helping me and you every day.
People tend not to think of entrepreneurs or companies as helpers. They (as I did too) think of them as people selling a product or providing a service to fulfill their own desires. At first, that might be true, they might be creating something for themselves. But when they begin selling it to the world, it only succeeds because it is wanted. This “want” develops out of a need for help.
Whether we like it or not, we wanted Amazon to make us a website where everything can be ordered in the click of a button. We wanted Ola to give us the ability to order a car at our doorstep. We want a PayTM to facilitate transactions without having to remove our wallets. We wanted someone anyone to build these companies to make our lives easier. And we got them. They’re helping us, and in turn, making their creators rich.
Greed: Collaborative, not competitive
Greed is the driving force for creators, the provider for consumers, and the end goal for both. It is greed that forces the creator to create something to earn millions. It is greed that forces the consumer to consume something to save time. Both parties act on greed, one chases money, the other time. I’m not sure which end goal is greater, but the means are the same.
To ignore the dark form of greed would be foolish. Of course, greed manifests in bad ways. Greed for self-enrichment, self-empowerment, and inevitably self-satisfaction. This form of greed is about taking, rather than giving. The very nature of taking entails one side’s betterment, at the cost of the other side. As one party wins, as the other loses, this form of greed is “competitive.” Acting to gain an advantage through this competitive form of greed creates a “competitive advantage.”
We’ve seen this form of greed play out in history. Empires fighting over scare territory, people fighting over scarce resources, and governments fighting over scare wealth. Parties fight to take a resource either from a common source or from the other party. It’s a zero-sum game, one wins and the other loses.
The greed that forces us to help others offers a different sort of advantage. While the zero-sum form of greed presents a “competitive advantage,” the positive-sum form of greed presents a “collaborative advantage.” A form of advantage in which both parties benefit.
In the modern digital world, the collaborative advantage is evident. Anything that is successful, anyone that is successful did so by building collaborative advantage. And it’s not just a collaboration between the creator and the consumer, there are so many more people involved. Think about Amazon’s collaboration between producers, consumers, distributors, marketers, and employees more. It creates a collaborative advantage for all parties, not just the company and the direct consumer. Byjus’s, the Indian ed-Tech company, collaborates not just between teachers and students, but eases the lives of parents, schools, and provides employment to thousands of people. Canva, the Australian graphic design platform, helps so many creators make simple designs for their business and in turn made its CEO the second richest woman in the country.
The acting principle for each party is, at the very core, greed. But this greed is good. This form of greed makes you focus on what you want. Whether it’s an expensive phone, a fast car, or a mansion. But, in the modern era, the only thing you can do to realize this greed is to help people. And when you help people and act on your greed you’re creating a collaborative advantage. An advantage that’ll not just help you get what you want, but will help so many more in the process. So, the next time you act on greed to help others, know you’re on the right path.