Ambition is one of the elements that made the United States an economic powerhouse. The drive to work hard and succeed spawned innovation, efficiency, and opportunity. Over the course of time ambition was a characteristic of millions of Americans and put them in positive financial situations. What some may not have known, but are beginning to realize is that Ambition has an evil twin brother, Greed. Greed has fooled many people by masquerading himself as Ambition. Without careful discernment, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two.
As the U.S. now teeters on the brink of economic depression, people are beginning to see Greed for who he really is. He has left a great amount of financial destruction in his wake. Up until now, most were praising his acts of business-building and financial investments in the name of Ambition, but we’re all beginning to see how Ambition isn’t always who we thought he was. For illustrative purposes, let me point out a few ways that Greed has snuck in and set people up for a great fall.
As stated before, Greed is a cruel look-a-like for Ambition. Whereas Ambition is about diligence and desire to succeed, Greed is about the desire for more. The great American dream of homeownership comes from the result of ambition. Foolishly buying homes through sub-prime mortgages is a characteristic of Greed. Ambition is starting a business and growing it through hard work. Greed is taking a business and stretching it to the limits financially and ethically in order to make the most amount of money possible. Buying a luxury SUV is Greed’s way of exhibiting so-called “status”, while Ambition is content to rest on the laurels of success without showing it to everyone else. Greed sacrifices family and friendship on the way to gathering financial status and power. Ambition accepts financial status and power as long as they are obtained fairly, ethically, and without endangering relationships. Time spent pursuing financial status is one telling indicator of Greed. He will devote long hours to gathering that extra dollar, working 2 jobs, and making substantial investments of time, simply to pile up income. That focus is what subtly ruins families and endangers our economy when Greed can no longer be contained.
Greed on the part of many Americans got us in this disastrous financial mess, and now we should all be closely examining ourselves and which “brother” with which we have personally aligned. There is nothing wrong with desiring financial stability, comforts, and material pleasures. However, once we are no longer content with a good life, we run the risk of letting Greed control us.
I oftentimes catch myself buddying up to Greed and have to ask myself what my motives are for my particular financial actions. When I think about financial investments or other opportunities, I must consciously give thought to whether those risks and contributions of time are necessary to provide for my family or if they are for other reasons like extra money to upgrade cars, buy more expensive clothing, buy a home in a more exclusive neighborhood, or being able to flaunt vacations and season basketball tickets to others. Greed can easily disguise himself sometimes and make me think that I’m simply supporting Ambition. When I commit to taking a good honest look, however, I can see Greed’s burning eyes. As you think about saving and financial security, make sure that you don’t let Greed get in the way and distort what can be a nice, happy life. He’ll do it in a heartbeat if you let him. The downside might not be realized immediately or even many years down the road, but don’t be fooled. In the end, Greed will have the last word and you will not like what he said.