Daily Paradox - Written by John Bittleston on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 20:06 - 7 Comments
Money Tree or Meaning Tree?
This Daily Paradox is by Sandy Oh.
Reading about Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram (zero revenue but 30 million users in 18 months) and Zynga’s $200 million purchase of Draw Something (also zero revenue but 35 million users in 7 weeks) brings back memories of the internet bubble in the 90s. The Facebook IPO will produce the biggest number of billionaires and millionaires at one swoop.
Such success whets our appetites and imagination. Could I create the next Facebook, the next Angry Birds, the next Draw Something? How does this gold rush affect someone seeking their Tree?
Many wish they were that lucky 20-something engineer or artist that got into Facebook early and will cash out extremely rich. I, too, was intoxicated by the internet bubble in the 90s and left my banking job to set up an internet start-up.
However, we need to be careful when we are framing our Tree. Are we drawn to huge money pots under the Tree or are we passionate about delivering an outstanding product or service? Steve Jobs said “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”
Visionary people and companies pursue several objectives. They seek profits, but are equally guided by a purpose beyond money. Paradoxically, many of them are hugely profitable. When companies make profitability their only goal, shareholder value gets destroyed.
Sir James Black, Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist, probably created more shareholder value than any other man in postwar British business by his discovery of best-selling drugs propranolol and cimetidine. His Tree was to pursue solutions, not profit.
Under CEO Bill Allen, Boeing’s corporate purpose was to “eat, breathe, and sleep the world of aeronautics”. Boeing became the most commercially successful aircraft company through a love of planes rather than profits. That turned for the worse when CEO Phil Condit took over and “unit cost, return on investment, shareholder return” were the measures that dictated corporate direction. Boeing lost to Airbus.
Going for a purely money Tree is self-defeating. We say “money can’t buy happiness” yet our obsessions and behaviour contradict our words. Answering PASDAQ questions like “What would you like your family and friends to remember you for having achieved in life? What are the achievements of which you are particularly proud?” showed me what really mattered. Making lots of money does not feature high on many of our Mentees’ answers.
Are we too often seduced by the instant gratification and lure of the money Tree? It is a mirage. Perhaps better to spend time discovering what really motivates you and makes you tick. Could that be the way to find the truly worthwhile Tree?
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