Something For Nothing: Greed

What kind of a world is this if everyone is naturally lazy, greedy, selfish, ambitious, vain, ignorant and impatient? How can society survive if everyone is driven by the E-Factor to get more and more of what they want the fastest and easiest way possible with little or no concern for the consequences of their behavior?

Please watch this video on “greed”
[flv:/files/videos/blog/greed.flv 460 259]

At the same time, everyone is motivated by an insatiable desire to achieve safety, security, comfort, leisure, love, respect and fulfillment, manifested by a never ending drive to acquire money and power. What stops the world from devolving into a war of all against all? The answer is to understand how people go about getting the things they want.

The ABC Formula of Human Behavior
Let us divide the way things are done into three parts. We can call the natural instincts that make people lazy, greedy, ambitious, selfish, vain, ignorant and impatient, which are summarized in the E-Factor, driving people toward a never ending search for something for nothing, as “A.”

We can call the natural needs or desires of all people, for safety, security, comfort, leisure, love, respect and fulfillment, “C.” These two elements are fixed factors, hard-wired into the human psyche, immutable parts of human nature and motivation. The only variable in this equation is, “How does one get from A to C?” We can call this interim step, or means, by the letter “B.” Together, we can construct the ABC Formula of human activity.

The Two Basic Ways to Get What You Want
There are two ways that you can get anything: you can earn it or you can take it. There are two ways that you can get someone else to do something: you can force him to do it with threats of punishment, or you can encourage him to want to do it, with promises of rewards and benefits.

The only way that you can stop many people from engaging in harmful behaviors in the process of getting the things they want the fastest and easiest way possible is by making the cost or punishment for expedient behaviors so high they are afraid to do it. To stop people from acting expediently, from seeking their own best interests in destructive or criminal ways, you must make the restraints and constraints so costly and severe that people are forced to either curb their natural desires, or suppress them for fear of punishment.

Throughout all of history, dictatorships and tyrannies have been based on forcing people not to act expediently, or to act contrary to their natural instincts in satisfying their basic needs.

This trampling of people and repressing of their natural desires has been the primary use of power throughout history, and right up to the present day. Human beings are, generally speaking, neither bad nor evil, they are merely expedient. But when people engage in expedient behaviors which hurt others to get something for little or nothing, and then justify their behaviors, they gradually lose their moral bearings and can become very evil indeed.

The Structure of Incentives
In the ABC Formula of explaining human behavior, both the “A” and the “C” are fixed, immutable factors. The only variable is the “B.” You could call the “B” the “Structure of Incentives.” The structure of incentives determines how a person gets from “A” to “C” the fastest and easiest way possible. Any variation in the structure of incentives will immediately change the behaviors of a certain number of people.

Let us organize the various systems of incentives that are available on a scale of 1-10, from the lowest and least productive system of incentives to the highest. A system rated at 10 would be one where the only way to get anything you want would be to either produce it yourself, or to cooperate with others to get it with and through them. It would be totally voluntary, based on merit and on the perception by each person that he would be better off as a result of working within this system. This is the pure free market system.

At the other end of the scale, a system with a rating of one would be a cultural and economic structure where lying, cheating, deceiving, defrauding, stealing, violence and murder are the fastest and easiest way for people to get the things they want.

In criminal societies or organizations, these are the primary ways of acquiring safety, security, comfort, leisure, love, respect and fulfillment, especially money and power. The individuals who are the most ruthless and unprincipled in the use of violent means to acquire the things they want inevitably rise to the top, crushing all competition or opposition on the way. You see this in third world tyrannies, drug cartels and in the aftermath of riots and wars.

Ordering Societies by the Numbers
All groupings of individuals into tribes, societies and nations can be organized along this scale from 1-10. Peaceful, democratic societies, governed by law, cluster at the top of the scale. Despotic, impoverished societies, ruled by force and tyranny, generally cluster at the bottom.

Societies displaying a mixture of the two extremes are arranged along the middle of the scale. Human nature however is like water. It flows downhill, in and through any crack, crevice or hole that it can find. Human nature instinctively, impulsively, reflexively, drives people to continually strive to get the things they want the fastest and easiest way possible, with little concern for the likely consequences.

As soon as there is any way for people to fulfill their desires other than by working and cooperating voluntarily with others, some people, and then more and more, will find that loophole and take advantage of it.

Click Here to gain access to the rest of my video series about “Something For Nothing.”

About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.

Follow Brian & Join the Discussion