Is Being Rich Being Successful?

980 words | 4 page(s)

It is not hard to understand the lure of money. Money gives you power and status in the society and it helps you stay ahead of the Joneses. The classical economic problem of scarcity of resources, which is a fact of life for the majority of the inhabitants of this world, seems a trivial issue to you. Money helps you stand out in the society and not become a statistic. No wonder, money is arguably the most commonly employed tool to measure one’s success. But it is a faulty assumption that success should be measured by one’s wealth because it takes a very narrow view of success. Success should not be defined by one’s financial success but by one’s contribution to his line of work and most importantly, to the overall wellbeing of the society.

Measuring success by one’s economic achievements emphasizes the ends more than the means. Such an approach may even encourage unethical conduct and set wrong precedent. This approach leads to selfish behavior in which every individual becomes occupied with maximizing his personal interests, even at the expense of those of the society. There is nothing wrong in maximizing personal interests for as long as one does so in legal and ethical manner but the incentive to disregard ethics is huge when society emphasizes the ends over the means. We do not have to go back far into history to find examples where pursuit of riches led to some of the worst ethical conduct in recorded history including Bernie Madoff and Enron scandals.

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We should also keep in mind that one’s contributions to the society are not always rewarded in financial terms. People do not seek the same purpose in their work or expect same rewards for their achievements. For some, it is not the financial incentive that keeps them going but the desire to create an everlasting legacy. Similarly, others are simply motivated by the desire to help the society progress. Still there are some who are simply inspired by the love of knowledge or driven by their unlimited curiosity. If we compile a list of the richest people in the world, we will almost never see people such as physicists, social work pioneers, and educators yet their roles in facilitating the economic, social, and cultural progress of the society cannot be overestimated. On the other hand, there are certain drug lords as well as corrupt politicians in the world whose net worth makes them billionaires yet it is hard to view them as men of achievements. This demonstrates that money is only one of several tools to measure one’s achievements and may actually be a poor tool to measure the achievements of the majority of successful people.

It is also important to note that money can be as poor measure of achievements as it can be an effective measure because one’s economic status in the society is not always determined by factors shaped by an individual or those within his control. Some people are simply born into wealth while others gain access to wealth-creating opportunities due to unexpected turn of events. In both cases, wealth is primarily the outcome of good fortune rather than one’s personal achievements.

It is important to understand how one’s achievements contribute to the society. It is often tempting to take all credit for personal successes but one should not forget the role society and other people pay in one’s success. Thus, it is only right that one’s achievements should also be judged on the basis of their positive impact on the society. When we think of successful people today, Bill Gates is often one of the personalities that come to mind. While it would be unjust not to give Bill Gates for his achievements in the field of technology and philanthropy, it would also be a mistake not to acknowledge the role society played in Bill Gates’ success. It is difficult to imagine Bill Gates would have achieved same successes had he been born in some African country, under dictator/communist regime, or in a society with restrictions on freedom of speech and ideas. Bill Gates may be the richest person in the world but there are some others also whose net worth has come close to Bill Gates over the years and in rare instances, even exceeded his. Yet few people can name these other individuals where as Bill Gates is one of the most influential global personalities. One of the major reasons Bill Gates is celebrated is due to his contributions to the society such as helping make PC a commodity and waging war on diseases that may be nonexistent in the developed world but impose huge social and economic costs on developing countries.

But at the same time, it would also be a mistake to assume wealth is never a good indicator of achievement because it may be the most important indicator, depending upon one’s line of work and one example may be Warren Buffet, arguably the finest investor in modern times. Warren Buffet is in the business of evaluating company’s values and his status as a legendary investor has primarily been cemented by his financial successes as well. Similarly, financial rewards may also be a feedback from the society that one’s achievements have been acknowledged and some of the most prominent examples now emerge from the Silicon Valley.

Economic incentives are not necessarily evil because they often serve as the greatest drivers of creativity and innovation but it is a mistake to assume that all high-achievers are driven by money and money is the only measure of one’s achievements. Money is but only one of the many measures of achievements and even when money serves as a measuring tool, one should place greater emphasis on the means than the ends.

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