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.”Is greed good?
Ballsy statement, eh?
Except there’s one small problem.
Gordon Gekko never said “Greed Is Good”.
At the bottom of the post we’ll prove it.
But stick with us for a moment of contrarian, unconventional wisdom from The Morning Adam™ that could impact the next commitment you make in business and/or life.
Here’s the real deal…
The actual phrase he used was “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”
(Hold that thought.)
Most of us have been taught that greed is evil, greed is a bad thing, 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 shift 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 is gone.
So what is it?
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?
Do people engage in acts of altruism for selfish reasons? Example: you gain the trophy, the award, and the plaudits by donating that $250,000 that sends 10 underprivileged children to college. Your ego gets satisfied, yet did a good thing still get done?
That big charitable donation translates into a big tax-writeoff and could even put you into a lower bracket so you pay less taxes overall… but did a lot of good still get done?
Driving hard in your career and getting the big promotion gives you the time and money and bandwidth to volunteer in your community. Did your boundless ambition at work end up helping others?
Can you make a bigger difference by sacrificing 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 the intersection of our brilliance and passion?
Guess you could say maybe greed isn’t so bad after all?
Again, think about it.
In case you still don’t believe us, or if you just want to enjoy Gordon Gekko in all his malevolent charisma, here’s the full speech:Wow, maybe greed isn’t so bad after all