What is a good and caring society? What is a good business and economy?
What is a good life? What is a good person?
The Time is Now to Lead with Purpose, Humanity, and Humility
‘Balancing purpose and profit to become a force for good.’
Scrooge- the miserable, greedy miser, before his transformation.- Photo:dailyjstor
As it is Christmas time of the year, the season of love, light and hope, caring, giving and sharing, redemption and forgiveness, then, what better time to reflect thoughtfully on a holiday-themed economics and business lesson: Basic Concepts and Principles on who and why we are, and why we do things and what for. A lesson that I sincerely hope will be taught at every business school and department of economics the world over. Carpe Diem!
Let me set the scene by recalling a few inspiring quotes to focus our minds on life’s bigger picture, what’s important, who and why we are and what is it that makes us truly human:
“He that seeks the good of the many seeks in consequence his own good.” - St. Thomas Aquinas
”There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” – Albert Schweitzer
"What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good." -Aristotle
'UBUNTU': "I am because we are.”- African Proverb
”Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”- Mark Twain
“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”- Buddha
“Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value”- Albert Einstein
Scrooge’s Economic and Business Lessons
In A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens Had It Right
Materialism, individualism, selfishness, greed,... will not correlate to happiness and a life lived well.
Ebenezer Scrooge learned that giving brings joy.
The question now is: How may this discovery aid us to understand economics, business and management studies, amongst others, better?
Scrooge is Transformed. He is now a Caring and Happy Man
A Christmas Carol is an integral part of our Christmas tradition because it has a timeless, moral, spiritual and transformational relevance, value, and lesson. Perhaps in a time when consumerism and monetary aspects of life dominate our daily lives, promising us a happiness that is not ever delivered, it is time to revisit the lessons of Scrooge’s transformation and discover the true path to happiness.
At the very beginning I want to be clear: Values-led wealth creation for the purpose of values-led expenditure and investment is to be encouraged and valued. Blessed are those wealth creators who know “Why” and “How” wealth is produced and, more importantly, when wealth is created “What” it is going to be used for.
Happily, many wealth-creators have discovered and have practised these timeless values. But, sadly, there are plenty of super wealthy men who don't live these values. Their misery and demise must be a warning and lesson to everyone.
The following is a revealing expansion of the above: ‘In 1923, a very important meeting was held at Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Attending this meeting were nine of the world’s most ‘successful’ financiers and businessmen. Those present were: the President of the largest independent steel company; the President of the largest utility company; the President of the largest gas company; the greatest wheat speculator; the President of the New York Stock Exchange; a member of the President’s cabinet; the greatest ‘bear’ in Wall Street; the head of the world’s greatest monopoly; and the President of the Bank of International Settlement. This, we must admit, was a gathering of some of the world’s most successful men – or at least men who had found the secret of making money. Twenty-five years later (1948) let us see what had happened to these men: the President of the largest independent steel company had died, bankrupt, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death; the President of the largest utility company had died a fugitive from justice, penniless in a foreign land; the President of the largest gas company was insane; the greatest wheat speculator had died abroad – insolvent; the President of the New York Stock Exchange had recently been released from Sing Sing penitentiary; the member of the President’s cabinet had been pardoned from prison so that he could die at home; the greatest ‘bear’ in Wall Street had died – a suicide; the head of the world’s greatest monopoly had died – a suicide; the President of the Bank of International Settlement had died – a suicide. All these men learned well the art of making money but none of them learned how to live, commented the original compiler of this list.’- Fat Cats: An invitation to dialogue
Given the above, we must never forget that: Money is a means to an end, not the end itself.
“Don’t just teach your students how to count. Teach them what counts most.”
"His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He don’t make himself comfortable with it."- Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol
But, to my delight, Scrooge changed, he transformed himself, he learnt, and by the end of the story, he knows that happiness is achieved only by making someone else happy. He becomes generous and generously shares his money and wealth with those he had abused and neglected in his old ways.
“Create all the happiness you are able to create: remove all the misery you are able to remove. Every day will allow you to add something to the pleasure of others, or to diminish something of their pains. And for every grain of enjoyment you sow in the bosom of another, you shall find harvest in your own bosom; while every sorrow which you pluck out from the thoughts and feelings of a fellow creature shall be replaced by beautiful peace and joy in the sanctuary of your soul.”- Jeremy Bentham
The Economic and Business Lessons of Scrooge’s Transformation
After my 2022 Christmas message (It's Christmas Time: A Christmas Carol and the Modern Lesson of Scrooge), I wanted to write a bit more on Scrooge, his life, his ways, and the economic/business lessons of his work and then of his transformation.
A Christmas Carol is still very relevant: The inequalities, injustices and cruelties observed by Dickens in 1843 still exist today. As a result, his critiques are still valid and relevant for us to take note of.
I began my research. After many days of doing so, I discovered two distinct and at times, contradictory ways of looking at Scrooge and his sea-change transformation.
The first, a group of rightwing, neoliberal economists and thinktanks, praising Scrooge as he was and damning his transformation to whom he became.
The second, a group of left-leaning/progressive academics, thinkers, and thinktanks, damning Scrooge for who and how he was, and praising him for his courage, his path of transformation for the better, sharing and caring. In short, for becoming a far better person.
I learnt something here or there from the two groups above. But, I felt there must be more to it, than just purely economic and monetary considerations on why Scrooge was the man he was, or why he felt the need for transformation.
I, somehow, wanted to be guided not only by my head, but by my heart too, as I believe this way, we learn more, we discover more about who we are and why we are. Lest we forget, we are not robots!
To my mind, this so-called economic ‘rationality'- which takes rationality to consist primarily of the maximisation of subjective utility, meaning the maximisation of one’s own personal desires- is only for non-human robots or for the Scrooge in his old ways!
As a reformed and transformed economist, I wish to be guided by my spiritual, emotional intelligence and reasoning, as well as economic and monetary considerations.
Thus, if you, too, like me, are searching for more probing, human and spiritual reasons for Scrooge’s sea-change transformation, then, this posting is for you.
To my mind, what we are going through in this world, right now, is nothing but the sheer Crisis of the Spirit and what we desperately are longing and craving for is: The Search for Meaning & Meaningfulness, Stability & Sustainability, Contentment & the Common Good. In short, we are all yearning for a Spiritual Awakening.
To highlight the above observation and to shed more light on why I believe Scrooge’s transformation should be a lesson for us all to take on board, I wish to quote a few excerpts from two keynote conference speeches I had delivered years ago.
The first one in Dubai in 2004, and the other in Rome in 2012. The points and the sentiments noted below, to my mind, are amply sufficient to demonstrate the values needed for a business/economy to be a good wealth creator, but also, and most importantly, knowing how to do good with that creation.
1- The message from my lecture in Dubai
'Corporations, business leaders, politicians, government policies, our educational, legal and health care practices, environmental considerations, every institution, law, social policy and even our private behaviour and relationships, should be judged 'rational', 'efficient', or 'productive' not only to the extent that they maximise money and power (The Old Bottom Line) but ALSO to the extent that they maximise love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological behaviour, and contribute to our capacity to respond with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe and all being.’
‘...Today the globalised world economy, despite many significant achievements during the last few decades, and especially since the end of the Second World War, in areas such as science, technology, medicine, transportation and communication, is facing major catastrophic socio-economic, political, cultural, spiritual, and environmental crises.
‘We are surrounded by global problems of inequality, injustice, poverty, greed, marginalisation, exclusion, intolerance, fear, mistrust, xenophobia, terrorism, sleaze and corruption. These problems are affecting the overall fabric of societies and communities in many parts of the world…
‘As an economist with a wide range of experience, I do appreciate the significance of economics, politics, trade, banking, insurance and commerce, and of globalisation. I understand the importance of wealth creation. But wealth must be created for the right reasons. I want to have a dialogue with the business community. I want to listen to them and be listened to. Today’s business leaders are in a unique position to influence what happens in society for years to come. With this power comes monumental responsibility. They can choose to ignore this responsibility, and thereby exacerbate problems such as economic inequality, environmental degradation and social injustice, but this will compromise their ability to do business in the long run. The world of good business needs a peaceful and just world in which to operate and prosper…
‘Economics once again must find its heart, soul and spirit. Moreover, it should also reconnect itself with its original source, rooted in ethics and morality. Today’s huge controversy which surrounds much of the economic activity and the business world is because they do not adequately and appropriately address the needs of the global collective and the powerless, marginalised and excluded. This, surely, in the interest of all, has to change. The need for an explicit acknowledgment of true global values is the essential requirement in making economics work for the common good. Economics, as practiced today cannot claim to be for the common good. In short, a revolution in values is needed, which demands that economics and business must embrace both material and spiritual values…’
2- The message from my lecture in Rome
‘...In this respect, the following words and sentiment by a young German executive rings so true: “Now it's all about Productivity, Pay, Performance and Profit- the four Ps- which is fuelled by the three Fs: Fear, Frustration and Failure. Just sometimes I wish that in the midst of these Ps (& Fs), there was some time left for another set of four Fs: Families, Friends, Festivals and Fun.”
Given the observation above, the following remark rings so true:
The Dalai Lama was once asked what surprised him most, he said "Man.” Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."
This is why I believe Scrooge changed from what he was when he had noted this about himself: "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!" to what he became after his transformation.
All said and done, now we must never get confused and mistaken that, in contrast to the neoliberal observers and critiqes, when Scrooge changed, this did not make him a leftwinger, socialist or God-forbid, communist. He did not become against wealth creation and business. His transformation was based on humanitarian values, ‘whereby humans practice benevolent treatment and provide assistance to other humans to reduce suffering and improve the conditions of humanity for moral, altruistic, and emotional reasons.’
In closing down and to bring it all together, I wish to share a message from a Business Coach, advising clients on making money with an eye on the vital 4 Ps, which was the path to Scrooge’s transformation:
‘Balancing purpose and profit to become a force for good.’
Photo: See HERE
‘In the spirit of the Christmas season I want to share a little known business lesson from Ebenezer Scrooge, the famous character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Scrooge is, as Dickens describes him, “… a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” In short he’s become our epitome of cold, selfish, and greedy.
We probably all know Scrooge’s main storyline. After being visited by four ghosts, he has a personal transformation and becomes joyful, caring, and compassionate.
While this sequence is a wonderful part of the story, I found even more interesting how Scrooge BECAME such a miserly, cold person in the first place.
In the excellent 1984 TV version of A Christmas Carol, the ghost of Christmas past shows Scrooge scenes from his apprenticeship as a young businessman at about age 20. On Christmas Eve Scrooge’s mentor insists that they put their work down, dance, and have fun.
Like the others, Scrooge dances, laughs, and even falls in love with a beautiful young woman. He later asks this young woman to marry him.
Soon after he fell in love, Scrooge tells a friend, “One day I will make my fortune so that I will deserve her.”
To this end Scrooge dedicates himself passionately by working long hours and saving money frugally. His ambition and skills with work and money are obvious to everyone around him.’
See the original source of this message: A Secret Business Lesson From Ebenezer Scrooge
A Final Takeaway on Scrooge’s Economics and Business Lessons
‘Scrooge learned that giving brings joy. What would happen if he applied that lesson to how he ran his business? One study showed a 13% increase in productivity among employees who took part in their employers’ philanthropic causes.’
Watch the related video HERE
Christmas: A Time to Weave a New Tapestry of Life
Wishing all our GCGI family and friends a very merry, happy and healthy Christmas and New Year
May your days be joyful and may you all enjoy the simple pleasures of life today and all year round.
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