What are you working for?
What are you most stressed about?
What do you think can give you instant happiness?
And umpteen number of other questions crop up in your day-to-day life.
Perhaps most of the answers will lead to a single word,“Money.”
Before we delve in the question,Is it good or bad– the desire/greed for money, let us first learn about how money came into existence?
Origin of Money: Around 10,000 years ago, when humans evolved and civilizations started, the need for sharing arose. It originated from the fact that everyone couldn’t do all activities by oneself. Hence the concept of exchange came into being. The concept evolved around the philosophy that each one is engaging in some form of work or labour for self and others and she/he needs to reciprocate with the expertise she/he has.
As complexities arose and tracking became cumbersome, abarter system evolved. Exchange of goods and services was instant and hence the benefit accruing to it was also instant. For example, if someone took care of your animals for half a day, one meal was given in exchange. Thus there was no hoarding, no future benefit, no future promises.
Instant gratification, Instant acknowledgementandInstant benefit.
And that’s what humans seek. We might have spent 2000 years in AD and over 200 years of industrialization but our instincts are still primitive. What gives us happiness and what we seek constantly is immediate gratification or immediate payback for what has been delivered.
As humans evolved so did the human brain, the concept of future value of goods and services came into play and thus “I owe you” came into existence. What this means is that since the person can’t deliver goods and services now, he promised to deliver it at a later date. Services can be direct or indirect or in the form of goods creation.
The problems started with the tradability of IOU’s. Thus currency came into existence.
As the human race progressed, currency became the only medium to get benefits and hence distrust amongst humans started.
Let me take a step back and talk about the construct of civilizations during the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. There were a few strong men who led the clans, who were responsible for hunting and bringing food for the entire clan. Then there were those who helped the mighty leaders in doing so. There were creative people, entertainers, who made sure that these hunters can recuperate fast from their wounds they got during hunting. Also, there were caretakers to take care of the clan when the mighty hunters were away.
A closed cohesive unit that ate and lived together.Within the clan, each adult was assigned a specific duty.
With the arrival of currency, this construct started depleting and led to the rise of insecurity. Once currency replaced IOUs, the person who held it in higher quantum could enjoy the goods and services without rendering anything back to the person who has given the goods and services.
With the arrival of currency the unsaid promise of returning the favor or rendering the services back was diminished. The mighty warrior believed that s/he could use strength or intelligence to gain more currency instead of hunting and buy all services needed, thereby breaking the social ecosystem.
The mightier became more powerful and richer, whilst the poor and weak scrambled for basic survival.
As trust was betrayed everyone started believing that hoarding more money in the form of currency or assets will lead to more happiness as one has the ability to buy any goods or services now or in the future. The concept of payback, of instant gratification disappeared and with it happiness.
Now only had a few excessive money but lack of happiness as that money was not enough, or should I say the person didn’t know how to define “ENOUGH.”
As greed for more kept increasing, so did dissatisfaction.
The challenge one constantly faced was to determine how much is enough and if one couldn’t put a full stop to enough, the need for more kept increasing. As humans started accumulating more and more money or currency, the more he became suspicious of people – of those who have more than him and also of those who have less than him. Suspicion of people who have less is understandable as s/he believed that they were angling for his or her money. He also distrusted those who had more than him as he felt jealous and wished to surpass them in the race to achieve more and, hence, greed took over.
In this journey to have more, man started distrusting his mother, father, children, relatives, friends and entire unit which was once created to give him or her protection.
As the world continues to evolve, societies become even more intolerant and insecure, finding ways to replace humans from the ecosystem all together by adopting robots and animals as companions, using instruments like texts and emails to keep near and dear ones away.
The irony remains that even on modern instruments and tools we seek instant gratification in the form of likes, emojis or responses.
Similar is the case of investments, where most people’s desire for instant acknowledgement leads them to participate in day trading or short-term buying and selling.
Some of the most valuable companies provide instant gratification or value for your money, like Facebook or Amazon, which gives you highs with instant likes or instant purchases along with huge discounts.
Thus, for consumer companies which provide instant gratification for your currency, you are willing to pay higher valuations.
As soon as a company or investment involves a long-term horizon, you shift from instant gratification to forging relationships with people. The immediate benefit is replaced with people. But people change with circumstances, causing more uncertainty and lesser valuation.
Hence theAnagogic Banker says, “Learn to earn People, money will follow.”
Siddhartha was born to a learned middle class educated family in Semi Urban India. His father was an extremely honest man who because of his honesty had to pay the price in corporate world. Mother is a determined woman who ensured that children are being well taken care off. After a few years of birth, doctors called Siddhartha, a slow child having flat foot. He would fall more than he could walk. Determined mother ensured all therapies for her son to come out strong to fight the world. Siddhartha joined swimming when he was in 6th standard. Seeing other children of his class, he jumped in 10 feet deep pool and learnt swimming on his own, the very same day.
From that day there was no looking back. He topped his city in 12th and went to score highest in his B school exams. During his profession as banker, he became youngest branch manager of a MNC bank managing their biggest wealth branch in the country. There he found love of his life and got married. His love of his life emerged in the form of his daughter who completely changed him for good.
Siddhartha Rastogi is Director for a boutique Investment bank in India.
Siddhartha is a forward looking thinker & writer who has written a book on decision making. 8 Simple steps to effective decision making.