My previous post from Saturday generated the most feedback of any of my posts so far. I received tons of emails from some people who agreed and others who thought I was full of it. I’ll try to clarify and expand further with this post.
I don’t think its wrong to be rich or wrong to want to get rich. Where it becomes a problem is when the main or only goal is to get rich. In situations like this, people cut corners and look the other way to make a quick buck. They do not do the right thing or build for the long term. As my friend Joe, an Indiana business school grad said, “its becomes poker to them.” As in all get rich quick schemes, at some point, someone ends up holding the bag.
My problem with the Business School Way of Life is that, for many, the main and only goal is to get rich. Getting rich should be the byproduct of doing something that is useful and that you like to do. If you create something worthwhile that people want, odds are, society will compensate you for your efforts.
Business school is not the only area of the American economy that is prone to this disease. During the tech boom, people started companies with the express goal of getting rich, rather than building a useful product. In the end, the bubble burst and the people who were in it solely for the money ended up failing. Athletes who are in it only for the money don’t seem to do as well as those who love the game. Construction workers who cut corners to make a quick buck fall victim to the same disease.
At least in previous bubbles, the people who tried to “get rich quick” left behind lasting infrastructure. The railroad tycoons connected America. Oil barons found new resources to lead the world into the automobile age. The fiber optics companies paved the way for the Internet. What has the finance industries’ boom and bust left us with?
My previous post was more a critique of American culture as a whole, using the business school way of life as a lens to focus on the problem. It seems to me that many people my age now expect to love their jobs AND get rich without putting in full effort. It seems to me that people in previous generations expected to have to grind away in jobs that they did not necessarily love in order to succeed. I am not suggesting that everyone should go to work in a big company and grind away in corporate America. On the contrary, I think it would be great if more people took the risk of joining smaller companies out of college or even started their own. This way, they would be more focused on building something lasting, rather than “playing poker” with other people’s money.
I may have been too harsh on business schools and the people who attend them, but I truly believe that the world would be a better place if more people decided to go into other, more productive careers. If more people would stop trying to get rich quick and instead tried to build something new and interesting, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess that we are in now. I think that if current college students and recent grads got back to the basics of trying to solve problems and build interesting and worthwhile things, they, along with us, would be better off.
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