Be Greedy; Be Patient
“People need to be more greedy and more patient” –
Be more greedy. Greed has a pejorative connotation. Here’s the dictionary definition of greed: An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.
But what if everyone stopped thinking, dreaming, inventing, producing, and creating when they had enough to satisfy a basic level of subsistence living? Who would be around to invent the steam engine that ignited the industrial revolution, invent radio that gave us global communication, or invent the airplane that gave us domestic and international transportation in a matter of hours? What if Bill Gates was satisfied just being a computer programmer in his basement? What if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were satisfied with computers as a hobby among friends and never created a company called Apple? Why should any company not be satisfied with just “breaking even”? If you can pass your high school or college courses with a grade of C or D, then why put in the extra effort to get an A? Do you really need an A to pass that course? Perhaps in going after that A you are showing … “An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs…” In general, why do more when you can get away with doing less?
Let’s look at the definition of greed again
An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.
Then we should all be greedy. Let’s call it ambition, or vision, or as Jobs might say, be greedy enough to put a dent in the universe.
If someone’s greed (read: desire, vision, ambition) creates value for someone else, or society in general, then the more greed the better. What’s at the opposite end of greed? Mediocrity? Complacency? If we had more of this, would that be better? What about average? Is average, “good enough”? Do you marry an average person and make them your wife of husband? Average products for average people is exactly what Steve Jobs never wanted to produce. Why? We could do with less.
When I heard Botha’s quote I was reminded of the club scene between Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker in the movie The Social Network. The YouTube clip is below and the dialog important to this posting is below…
SEAN takes a sip of his drink…
A Stanford MBA named Roy Raymond wants to buy his wife some lingerie but he’s too embarrassed to shop for it in a department store. He comes up with an idea for a high end place that doesn’t make you feel like a pervert. He gets a $40,000 bank loan and borrows another forty-thousand from his in-laws, opens a store and calls it Victoria’s Secret. He makes a half-million dollars his first year.
He starts a catalogue, opens three more stores and after five years, he sells the company to Leslie Wexner and The Limited for four million dollars. Happy ending, right? Except two years later the company’s worth 500 million dollars and Roy Raymond jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Poor guy just wanted to buy his wife a pair of thigh-highs, you know?
Was that a parable?
Yes, the meaning of the parable is this – don’t sell out too early. Be greedy.
Last week the Facebook IPO generated 100 billion dollars. Facebook has 800 million active users. What would have happened if Zuckerberg was not greedy and not patient and sold Facebook when the next growth increment was “A hundred schools by the end of the summer.” If you have a good thing, be patient, be greedy – that’s the message of Sean Parker to Zuckerberg and the message from venture capitalist Roelof Botha.
Here is the constraint on greed.. This comes from Jim Collins book: “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All”
So, why do people follow them? Because of a deeply attractive form of ambition: [they].. channel their ego and intensity into something larger and more enduring than themselves. They’re ambitious, to be sure, but for a purpose beyond themselves, be it building a great company, changing the world, or achieving some great object that’s ultimately not about them.
Who would say that Zuckerberg’s greed (read: ambition/vision/commitment) and patience did not result in a good thing (Facebook) for the people on this planet in general? And it made him wealthy far beyond his needs in the process. So what’s the problem?
As long as greed is not about personal self-aggrandizement, and is about ambition, intensity, vision, and commitment that ends up generating value for other people then the more greed – and the more patience for greed people have – the better for all of us.
An interview with Roelof Botha – here
The club scene from the Social Network …
Who can forget the famous quote from Gordon Gekko from the movie, Wall Street
The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.
Adam Smith from the 1776 book “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”
…every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
Read more about the “Invisible Hand” here