Most of us know that famous line from the movie Wall Street (1987).
You know… the scene where corporate raider Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) stands up at the Teldar Paper shareholder meeting and says those three famous words,“Greed is good.”
Ballsy statement, eh?
Except there’s one small problem.
Gordon Gekko Never Said “Greed Is Good”.
Go back and watch the movie.
Just watch the scene from the shareholders’ meeting. A hundred people have posted it on YouTube.
You will not hear Gordon Gekko say “Greed is good.”
Forget the memes and the edited video clips from the trailer.
He never said it.
The actual phrase he used was
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
Hold That Thought And Consider This
Most of us have been taught that greed is evil, greed is a bad thing, and greed hurts people.
In elementary school, when we got caught bringing candy to class, the teacher would make us bring a big bag of candy the next day. “If you’re going to bring candy, bring enough for everybody.”
We were told to do this so we’d learn not to be greedy.
With that in mind, the phrase “Greed is good” runs right into our confirmation biases, causing us to reject it out of hand.
Now, Let’s Change The Frame
Add the modifier “for lack of a better word” and the whole conversation shifts.
Now, we’re no longer saying greed is “good” – we’re saying it’s “something” but we’ve ruled out it being “good”.
That’s…a good thing I guess?
At least the automatic resistance created by confirmation biases is gone.
So what is greed, and how does it rate?
Let’s consult the transcript (IMDb):
The point is, ladies and gentlemen, 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.
Read that to yourself, and think:
Is There Some Real Truth To That Statement – For Somebody?
Do people engage in acts of altruism for selfish reasons?
Example: you gain the trophy, the award, and the plaudits by donating $250,000 that sends 5 underprivileged youths to college. Your ego gets satisfied, yet did a good thing still get done?
That big charitable donation translates into a big tax write-off and could even put you into a lower bracket so you pay lower taxes on the rest of your income… yet did a lot of good still get done?
Are 5 youths now going to college because you did it?
Driving hard in your career and getting the big promotion gives you the time, money, and bandwidth to be of greater service to your community. Did your boundless ambition at work end up helping others?
Can you make a bigger difference by giving up your last dime, or by serving generously from an overflowing cup?
Do we passionately pursue the things that we want?
Do we strive to live at our intersection of our brilliance and passion?
Guess you could say maybe “greed” isn’t so bad after all.
Again, think about it.
What are YOUR reasons?
What is YOUR truth?
Now wake up your business.