Most of the billionaires are innovators – tech innovators or business innovators. Each of the top ten billionaires is an innovator in his own way. A successful innovation is likely to make you rich. For a typical innovator and entrepreneur, wealth can be a prominent motivator. If wealth becomes the only motivator, we can potentially land up in greed. It is like losing track of the path while being overly infatuated with goal. As a result we may tend to speed up beyond limit. This can be disastrous to us as well as others.
Greed has a very bad track record. It is the root cause of the great recession in 2008. The small bankers out of greed gave housing loans indiscriminately overlooking the capacity to repay loans technically called as sub-prime lending. This led to collapse of major investment banks and auto-companies leading to a loss of 15 trillion dollars of wealth in US alone leaving millions of people homeless and jobless. Greed makes businessman to overlook ethics and fall prey to fraud, corruption and malpractice. The ten biggest corporate scams in India led to a loss of 1.8 trillion dollars which is double the funds needed to end starvation in India. According to FSSAI (Food safety regulator, India), one-third of food samples are adulterated. Food fraud costs the global food industry 10-15 billion dollars annually.
Greed takes us off-guard. It makes us over-confident. It paints a rosy picture of reality. It makes us overlook over deficiencies and defects. It makes us lose sight of potential threats. We get illusioned. We lose the big picture. As a result we take short sighted decisions. We take snap decisions. We take wrong decisions. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon once asked Warren Buffet, “Your investment thesis is so simple. Why doesn’t everyone just copy you?” Buffet responded to Bezos by saying, “Because no one wants to get rich slow”.
Greed compels us to look for shortcuts. It makes us anxious, stressed and feel panic. It forces us to slog beyond our limits discomforting ourselves and others. Moreover it tempts us to cross legal, ethical and moral boundaries. It allures us to trade virtue in exchange of perishable assets like wealth, power etc. From Alexander to Aurangzeb to present day Satyam, Vijay Malliya and Nirav Modi, history has many examples. Greed is at most a motivator but should not be a master.
Gita wisdom goes to a great extent in dealing with greed. Greed is an intrinsic human defect. As greed keeps us illusioned, it is difficult to detect it. It makes us lose awareness of our consciousness i.e. our inner world – desires and thoughts. Greed is like an enemy disguised as a friend – a spy. The major challenge lies in detecting it. The first step is to understand that uncontrolled greed is unfavorable and detrimental. Gita educates us on the pitfalls of uncontrolled greed. (BG 2.44)
Greed directed towards material assets and sensuality will lead to loss of focus in life.(BG 16.21)
Greed can ultimately led us to evil and suffering. Once we can understand the harm, uncontrolled greed can cause us, the next step is to equip ourselves with the ability to control it. For that we have to take back the control of our consciousness from greed. Then it will be possible to detect it and then regulate it. For that we need to become consciously aware.
The second step is to enable ourselves to monitor our greed. Unless we are able to monitor a particular defect by knowing its symptoms or with the help of measuring apparatus, there is no possibility to control, regulate, reduce and remove the defect. Equipping our intelligence with spiritual wisdom enables us to become an observer of the desires that pop out in our consciousness and not succumb to them. It also enables us to choose our desires. (BG 2.70)
We can observe our greed and not get obsessed by our greed.
We need to understand how a particular entity is working if we are to control and regulate it. Bhagavad Gita helps us with it too. Greed expands further when we contemplate on the object of our greed. In this way it expands its influence and overpowers us by dominating over our intelligence.(BG 2.62-63)
We should not fuel our greed by further contemplation. We should starve it by conscious neglect.
This becomes easier when we have a more meaningful purpose in our innovation than only selfish and sensuous greed. Spirituality can give us higher purposes for our innovation – self-actualization and social contribution.