The End of Greed

Where should we cap our ambitions?

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Bruce Lee once wrote a letter to himself aspiring to possess $10 million. Was he greedy? I don’t think so. I think Bruce did something clever: He chose an end for his own greed. That in and of itself is anti-greedy behavior. Because true greed never stops.

My friend Tony Stubblebine put out a great tweet:

This question shows us that greed is always relative to sacrifice. Greed is relative to sacrifice. Let’s unpack that.

Most people don’t think the complete sacrifice of human connection is worth a billion dollars. But a lot of people would offer 60-hour-workweeks for 10 years for $10 million.

That’s a much better deal. Setting an end to your own greed is about finding such a deal that works for you. A comfortable tradeoff between “more” and “less.”

In his letter, Bruce wrote:

Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000.

That’s the greed part. But he also wrote this:

“In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor.”

That’s the sacrifice. What Bruce was offering. And he was willing to offer it for 10 years before seeing the result he wanted.

That’s a smart way of defusing your own greed. You connect it both to dedicating yourself to a larger purpose that will serve others and find an end point of it that’s meaningful to you.

Humans are greedy. It’s natural. Our default is to want more. But the best way to achieve our own, selfish, long-term agenda is to get it out of the way and have no short-term or mid-term agenda! So we have to find a way to channel our desire.

$10,000,000 is a lot of money. It buys you a life of freedom. $1,000,000,000 is too much money. You don’t really get more freedom, just more pressure to keep it.

Set a crazy goal. Offer a meaningful sacrifice. Utilize your greed. Use it to serve others.

Who knows. You might become an entirely new person along the way. Maybe even the kind who doesn’t care about money at all.


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