Venky's Second Question:
Can It Ever Be Right to Sacrifice Your Self Respect in the Short Term for the Possibility of Tremendous Financial Gain in the Long Run?

Email #1

Tom: A friend of mine just received an unusual piece of mail from an executive he knows, a parable allegedly about the corporate life cycle. My friend is considering going to work for this man, but the document he got offers a disturbing picture of company life as this executive sees it. Without reproducing it here, I can tell you that it is a fairly vile, scatological tale of monkeys climbing a tree. The top monkeys get all the fruit, and the monkeys below get all the crap from above, in a literal sense. Some of them get to pick off whatever fruit is left over, but some just get knocked off the tree and fall to the ground below. The tale goes on to suggest that the lower monkeys who survive will be the ones who "kiss ass" the best. Taking whatever is thrown at them and persisting as sycophant-underlings may get the lower monkeys eventually closer to the top, but itıs a pretty ugly journey along the way.

Let me ask you this: If this sort of depiction of corporate life was sent to you by a prospective boss, would you go to work for him? The message in the story is very clear and demeaning, as well as depressing.

Let's assume that the boss is extraordinarily good in what he does, will pass or fail any standard integrity test @ 75 % (basically not a 100% integrity man, although he conforms 100% to legal and explicitly mandated ethical rules within his corporate context), but is passionate, focused, can make things happen, is a visionary leader, and will most likely make his direct subordinates rich enough to be able to maintain a very good lifestyle.

Let's also assume for the time being that whatever the boss lacks, the subordinate has ways of getting, through his own means (reading, reflecting, observing, picking up on the good things in the boss and leaving out the bad, etc.), except for the fact that this might take a lot of time which the demands of the job may or may not allow. Suppose also that this boss who expects you to suck up will most likely make you rich, say, in the next 5 years. Let's assume also that, without the opportunity of working for him, that same wealth accumulation might take 15 years, or might not happen at all. Should you go to work for such a person?

This is not an imaginary case study. It's a real one happening to a friend of mine who wanted me to advise him on what to do. He's known the person for more than 10 years who sent him the crude corporate monkey story, and has worked for him a couple of years in the past. Both of them went in different directions, and yet in their industry are likely to cross paths again. My friend is happy with his present company, though he is not sure that they will make him rich. He wants to be able to save, as soon as possible, anywhere between $800,000 or a million dollars, and get back to his home country, India, in the next 6-7 years.

For argument's sake, let's say that it's ok to be rich and there's nothing intrinsically bad about it. I know a lot of people who are rich and who are very, very nice, humble human beings. Let's even grant that financial independence is also a very good thing. Is money, or financial independence, worth risk? Is it worth very hard work and even personal deprivation? People say yes every day. But here is the question my friend must ask: Is it worth the personal humiliation and difficulty of working for such a man?

The bottom line is: My friend feels that the overall business strength of this man outweighs his character flaws. And the prospect of financial windfall is great if he takes the job.

He has a couple of weeks to make his decision, although he admits to me that he is biased, since he wants to make his money. He says that once he gets financially secure (which we all know is not true), he feels he can then follow his real dream and be a teacher, which he would have done in the first place if he had all the money he needed for a good and financially secure life.

My friend also realizes that he himself is ultimately the best person who can answer this question. But I have gotten his permission to send his question to you.

Let me know what you think.
Venky

Email #2

Tom: There has been a sudden development. The message that my friend got from his prospective boss was very simple : "Be my subservient Yes-Man, and in return you'll get sufficient wealth to keep you contented for the rest of your life." It was apparently a very powerful lure for my friend.

Before you or I have had a chance to weigh in with an opinion, he has decided to join this manıs enterprise. He says in explanation that he already "sucks up" on a daily basis to his superiors and has no returns so far. If someone who has a track record of success in creating wealth promises to bring him great financial rewards for just the same "sucking up," why not ?

You need to view my friend as one who makes $50,000 a year, has a family and two kids and wants to get back home (India) to lead a happy life. Of course, whether he's going to have a happy life or not is not our problem; that only time will tell. But with even a $200,000 return from this new position, which he says is the least he's going to make, one can retire happily in India.

Forgetting the amount of money here, the question is : Is it worth sacrificing your self-respect in the short term to gain financial stability in the long term, considering the fact that, once you achieve financial independence, you can then go and do whatever you want? Let's face it, financial opportunities don't wait for us to get spiritually mature, and they don't often come on our own terms.

Did my friend make the right choice?
Venky

Initial Response From Tom Morris

Venky - As we did before, I'd like to share your question by email with a few friends, for a multifaceted response.
I'll forward them all to you.
Tom

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