In this episode of the Disgruntled Life Coach Podcast, we’re going to get greedy. We’ll start off with definitions and quotations, then the main segment will get serious about why you think you need more stuff (spoiler, you don’t), and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
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So today we’re going to talk about greed. There’s too much to cover in this one episode, so we’re going to stick to the basics like what greed is, why it is increasingly causing problems, and how our lives are poorer, not richer, when greed is the motivator. Deep I know, so let’s just take a breath, scratch our private parts, and start taking a light look at greed.
According to Oxford, greed is defined as “an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” But it’s more than that for a lot of people. It can be entertainment, it can be a moral high horse to ride in on, it’s like slapstick comedy, you don’t admit to liking it, but you always laugh. But like Freud said, sometimes greed is just a cigar, or something, I don't know. Let’s get on to some quotations for context.
The first quotation comes from Dr. Andrew Weil, although calling his work medicine is a bit of a leap of the imagination to be fair. Still he said "Fear and greed are potent motivators. When both of these forces push in the same direction, virtually no human being can resist." We'll talk about how this fits in with greed feeding on greed later, but he's right, about this anyway, even though it's a bitter pill to swallow.
Next we have Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde - Oscar Wilde to all of us now - who was 19th century Irish poet and playwright. He became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s and is best remembered for his his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the enduring play The Importance of Being Earnest. He said "There are many things that we would throw away if we were not afraid that others might pick them up." This idea that greed is the opposite of charity is something we'll talk about later, really I will, Wendy.
And finally we have Dimitar Dimov who was a Bulgarian dramatist, novelist and veterinary surgeon. Yes, you heard that correctly and, you know, not unheard of. Still, well he was known for his best-selling novel Tobacco published in 1951 and subsequently made into the 1962 film of the same name. He said "And I see more and more clearly that our world will perish from its greed." It was a central theme in his novel, and it's central to what we're talking about today, so let's get started.
So we all know what greed is, we’ve all experienced, probably from both sides, yes you Michael. But what is it, and why do we do it. Some people say it’s good, there are movies made about, we have modern-day role models who are put on pedestals only because they’re rich and greedy. So is this something evolutionary? There is strong evidence to suggest it is not. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “How chimpanzees cooperate in a competitive world” it shows that, although chimps have a troupe hierarchy and the top of that triangle gets increased status, it does not affect the co-operative nature to maintain food and safety for all members. The study said the “...main outcome is that chimpanzees have absolutely no problem mitigating competition during a cooperative task.” it continued: “The chimpanzees’ preference for cooperation during this study demonstrates their ability to inhibit competition to increase long-term payoffs.” So, not greedy at all, Elon.
If this, then, is a human thing, why are we so greedy to be greedy? Dr. Neel Burton published an article in Psychology Today titled “Is Greed Good? The psychology and philosophy of greed,” which touches on this human predicament. He wrote “If greed is much more developed in human beings than in other animals, this is partly because human beings have the capacity to project themselves far into the future, to the time of their death and even beyond.” Clearly he doesn’t know some of the short-sighted people I know, but that’s another episode. Rant really, but I digress. So we, as a species, developed greed because we have some sense of destiny and consequence. But is greed a means to an end, or is the the end?
Here’s where it gets complicated. Greed, almost certainly causes more greed, it’s way gamblers justify betting, because of the rush when you win. Greed is no different. In an article for Psychology Today titled Greed: The Ultimate Addiction, psychologist Dr. Leon Seltzer, argued that greed, like addiction, is often a coping mechanism for unresolved mental health issues. A step further, two researchers Musse and Hewig. published a paper called “A neural perspective on when and why trait greed comes at the expense of others,” found that actual chemical and physical changes happen in people with greed traits that indicate they “may have a lack of sensitivity to adjust behaviour according to positive and negative stimuli from the environment.” So greed could just be a trait, and doesn’t that suck.
It looks like greed exists solely to feed greed. It’s not an item on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we literally possess it only to have more, even if it’s things we don’t necessarily want or need – we hoard because it feeds a need. And this isn’t a sucker punch I’m taking at self-improvement, or making a better life for yourself. We all want that, a nice place to live, safe food, all of it. But there are limits to this that surpass the boundaries of greed, and that will be different for everyone. For instance, I think billionaires are horrible people, but I don’t like clowns either and I think they’ll eat me in my sleep, so take that with a grain of fucking salt.
So if we don’t need greed, and some of us may just not be able to escape greed, is there any way to still make sense of this. If we look at it more like a mental health issue, and we approach it as habits rather than inherent faults, there’s a few things we can do.
The first thing to do is find the root of your greed. Something drives you to have a collection of 1970s Pintos, and it’s not value. Are you filling a psychological need with the things or money you’re collecting? Really ask yourself what drives you to this behaviour. Look back to the lessons or trauma that pointed down this road. Like any other habit, addiction, or compulsion, a lot can be changed just by acknowledging the root and dealing with that the best you can, even if it means looking at getting help.
Once you’re open to changing your ways, think of how you can reboot that greed into something better. The idea that you can be greedy with changing lives, yours and others, is a perfect way of turning greed on its head. You can keep the idea of being greedy, but funnel it into making those around you, and others, better off. Find a great project that takes your time, money or talents, and will make someone else’s life better, and feed your greed with the amount of positive change you effect. But please note, do not use clowns unless you’re putting them into that exploding 70s Pinto collection – now THAT’S a fucking clown car!
And finally, stop comparing your self and your possessions to others. You do this, we all do, to some extent. But this feeds your greed, and it’s not needed. I said this last episode, be kind to yourself. That starts with being happy with who you are and what you have. As I said earlier, it doesn’t mean don’t reach for things that will make you happier, or will improve your life and the life of those around you. Just share a bit, be realistic, be honest – especially with yourself. Ironically, you may find that giving and sharing, and wanting less, may mean that others share with you, so you’ll be richer anyway. You know, not bars of gold rich or anything like that. But, richer in other, more important ways.
Okay, so that's it for this episode. As always, I'll leave you with a Disgruntled nugget in a second, but first I want to thank you for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, I’m on all the major platforms platforms, and please visit www.disgruntledlifecoach.ca for all my podcasts – and, again, again, and again, you need the w-w-w. Please also follow me on twitter @lifedisgruntled, there's a link on my website. Also, if you like what you've heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that.
The great Shirley Chisholm once said “When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.” She was right, and was building on what FDR said years before when he wrote “We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.” The next president, Harry Truman re-enforced that sentiment by saying “Selfishness and greed, individual or national, cause most of our troubles.” So there's nothing that I can add except to say, you know, economics and greed make everyone's life worse, so commit a random act of kindness to make up for it, today, and every day. That's it, that's the nugget, or something, whatever ...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...