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The Greedy Innkeeper
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
I was going to begin by saying that I don't understand greedy people, but that may sound a bit naive. So, don't get me wrong. I know what greed is. I recognize it when I see it, I think. It's just that, when it comes to business and life, it's not in me as a personality trait, so I can't endorse it as a strategy for success and happiness. However, I'm sure there are others who can and do. Whenever I encounter it, however, it gives me pause, and raises some unanswerable questions.
I'll share a recent little travel experience to illustrate. As you may know, I'm currently following my passion traveling through Asia. In one of the cities I stayed, I asked an apartment-owner for a special deal for a 30-day stay. I had already stayed 3 weeks, and was willing to stay longer.
As a "tourist," staying day to day, I expect to pay a premium for my accommodations, and I was. I was paying the equivalent of $529/month for a room, kitchen and living room, in a four-bedroom townhouse.
However, I had made friends in town, so I knew that the going rate in that part of town--at $220/month-- was considerably less than what I was paying. So, I offered to pay the inn-keeper $300/month. He refused insisting that he could go no less than $440/month.
I even offered to pay him as much as $350/month. However, since he was familiar with the other options in town, he was convinced that he had a bit of leverage as he thought (and even told me) I would not be able to find short-term rental in the neighborhood at the rate I was offering. He wouldn’t budge.
However correct he was in his assumptions, he was, in my estimation, simply being greedy. He had already received almost a full month's "premium" rent from me, and was now being offered a second full month at a rate that was still above the local rate.
Additionally, as I was staying in a four-bedroom suite, he would still have three additional rooms to rent to other travelers throughout the month at a premium, even while I paid him MORE than the entire apartment could be rented to local residents. He was, in my estimation, simply being greedy.
Now, as a business owner myself, I respect his right to insist to be paid what he thinks his accommodations are worth. And, according to the "law of obligation" philosophy that I live by, I know he's under NO obligation whatsoever to negotiate this deal to my satisfaction.
However, I felt he was being unreasonable. Having stayed there for three weeks already, and being witness to how infrequently the other rooms in the suite were being rented, I knew that it would be difficult for him to maintain full occupancy or even half-a-month's occupancy. So, given the choice of a guaranteed $300/month, or an uncertain struggle to maintain occupancy, he chose the struggle.
I say “he chose the struggle,” because I then did what I always do whenever I feel a single individual is using their perceived leverage unreasonably, or is too much in control of my options. I left. I found another option.
Within just a few hours, I learned that friends in town were leaving and they let me stay in their now empty apartment—a similar four-bedroom townhouse just a short walk away—absolutely free of charge. So, I moved out of the inn-keeper’s suite the next day, and even got some of my money back since I had prepaid a few days in advance. Things have a great way of working out, don’t they?
Throughout my business and personal life, I've always lived by the philosophy that "any plan or strategy that relies on a single individual or entity for its success is a flawed plan." In other words, I never allow any one person to hold all keys to all the doors I wish to enter—figuratively, and literally. I always have a "Plan B."
When it comes to greedy business partners, or people who steal my clients, I don't worry about revenge, or about taking them to court, or about fighting over money. My time is too valuable for that. I simply walk away and create new experiences that elevate me and make me prosper. I know that my success in life cannot be restricted by any single human, entity or country. And when people try to control, restrict or adversely affect that success, I remain above their level of thought and action and continue my forward-upward trajectory.
At the same time, because I am aware that there are people who choose the greed option, I always plan my strategies and execute my plans with a backup plan in place, just in case a person I am working with fails to produce the expected results.
For example, if I'm looking for someone to print my books, I always have two (or more) options. If I'm depending on someone to perform some activity, or relay some information, I always make sure I have a strategy in the ready just in case they drop the ball. I’m rarely derailed by greed, malicious intent or general incompetence.
Um, did I just kill the goose?
I don't spend too much time contemplating the mentality of the greedy. However, there's an aspect of the ways of greed that I've always found fascinating. Do the greedy weigh the potential consequences of their greed? Do they see the potential harm to long-term relationships that their greed causes? Do they have any regret or remorse over their choices and the consequences to themselves and others?
As the greedy inn-keeper now sits with an empty apartment earning $0 per day and $0 per month from me, and now having to struggle to maintain occupancy, does it occur to him that perhaps he was being greedy? Does it occur to him that his "bird in the hand (that he has now lost) WAS worth two in the bush?" Does he recognize that he just killed the goose that laid the golden egg?
Does he consider that he should act differently next time? Does he imagine that greed may not be a viable strategy in the larger scheme of things? Does he realize that now the relationship has soured and that there may be no future dealings or referrals from me further limiting his future income?
Sadly, I imagine that he does not. I've learned that most people are doing the best they can. In other words, when a person knows better, they do better. Most people are living according to a fixed world view, a fixed personal paradigm, and choose from the only set of options they feel are available to them. Experts also say that a person cannot engage in an activity he/she knows to be wrong, so there must be some justification that occurs that makes him/her feel it is "right" for him to engage in the activity. (The man who steals a loaf of bread justifies it by his or his family's hunger and lack of options.)
Greed and Scarcity
Such greed is often based on a scarcity mentality. The scarcity mentality essentially says, "I must get as much as I can NOW, for there may not be the chance tomorrow, or even a tomorrow." Combined with a capitalist imperative that makes success a win-lose proposition that justifies one person's success at another person's expense, such a paradigm reduces the other individual in any negotiation or transaction to mere "dollar potential," available only in the immediate moment for immediate benefit only.
I imagine that the inn-keeper, therefore, did not see me as long-term potential. After all, to him I am just a tourist--here today, gone tomorrow. I imagine that even if he regrets THIS loss, he likely believes there'll simply be another tourist coming along at some point with whom he can try his strategy again. Of course, I'm only speculating, here. I’m hoping our interaction can serve as a bit of behavior modification.
In the future
Perhaps I'm not a good businessman. Perhaps I, in fact, was the one being greedy and unreasonable. Perhaps, in time, I will learn the answers to these and other questions. What I do believe is that there are consequences to greed that limit the future potential of the individual who practices it as well as the society as a whole in which it is practiced. Eventually there will come a limit to the sustainability of the greed-as-an-option strategy. Resources dry up. Relationships dissolve. Revenues decline. Prosperity diminishes.
What I do believe, is that there are other options to greed. If the sages are correct--that life can be a win-win proposition, that fair exchange is the basis of true prosperity, that there is enough for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed--then such options exist for us to practice, and if we wish for the ultimate prosperity of the planet as a global community, we MUST choose and practice them.
It may be a sad conclusion to reach, but the very people who choose and practice greed as a business or life strategy, and who are most in need of changing their behavior, are inherently incapable of recognizing those other options. The evil do not know they are evil, and the greedy cannot see their greed.
The good news, however, is that unlike the greedy inn-keeper, you, my friend, can choose these options. I hope you do!
Note: Where will YOUR passion take you? What sort of life would you live if you could? Find out what's possible. Check out my new adventures on jamaicaninchina.com.
Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that revealed the best things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to www.bestofsaipan.com!
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!--Walt
Send article suggestions, entrepreneur nominations and feedback about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org. Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of 16 books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several successful businesses in the US, and now lives a nomadpreneur lifestyle. To learn more, visit www.passionprofit.com
WHERE IS SAIPAN?
Located in the western pacific, a short flight from Guam and 3 hours from Japan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a popular tourist destination rich in history, culture and natural resources. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, is the largest and most populated of the 14 islands making up an archipelago that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench.
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