Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Do We Define Success?

One of the problems we are witnessing right now is the limits of acceptable behavior in pursuit of success. Perhaps we had to go to extremes to test our own sense of right and wrong.

Consider, for example, some of the execs at Enron, the mortgage companies, the junk bond dealers, the unethical investment bankers, Bernie Madoff and a host of others. They wanted to be rich. Lots of people want to be rich. Who wouldn't like to have so much money in the bank that you can go anywhere you want, do anything you want, have anything you want?

But then we saw people become super wealthy by ripping off their own employees and their own employees' pension funds. We saw people getting super wealthy by taking money out of the company in huge chunks while their company was losing money. We saw people getting fabulously wealthy by making deals with customers that they knew were bound to fail. We have seen people defraud charities and doctors who would defraud government funds for the elderly. We have seen execs lay off employees to increase profits, so that they can collect bonuses, only to have their successor try and repair the damage done to the company. We have seen HMOs and health insurance companies that increase profits by denying members care and claims. We have seen people put out false financial reports to inflate the value of their company.

We agree that making money is why we are all in business. But is there any limit to what is alright to do in order to make your fortune? We have lived through a time when it seemed like being a big success was all that mattered, no matter how the person got there.

Having seen the downside of these extremes, we can now address the question of how much does it take to live the good life?

Perhaps if some of these people didn't have such extreme definitions of the good life, they would not have done such extreme things to be able to finance it. And then everyone would have been better off.

No comments: