CNBC called and soon William and I were on the show for one of those 60 second spots with a 30 second commercial in the middle. You can watch it here, although to get a better sense of what we’re trying to say it is better to read the original articles.
The problem is that this is more easily said than done. Most people working on Wall Street can make ends meet while a small few can make vastly more money than they need. The trick is to make sure that the process of making money does no harm.
Question: How much money would all the participants in the mortgage securitization industry have to give to charity to undo the harm they have caused?
Answer: More than they have ever made.
The real opportunity to do good on Wall Street is to reform it from within. But to do the right thing you have to be able to recognize the difference between right and wrong, and then you must be able to say “no” when ordered to do the wrong thing.
My father told me to judge people not on how much money they have but on how they make it and what they do with it. My dad was a sculptor who believed in truth and beauty; art was about uncovering the truth and creating beauty.
That is also what scientists do; they uncover the truth and find the most elegant way of expressing it. You can think of Occam’s Razor as an aesthetic litmus test for scientific theories.
But what about business?
Although my dad only ever had formal training as a sculptor, he had a very successful career arc that took him from fine art to commercial art to advertising to marketing to management consulting.
You can attribute his business success to his belief that business is just another art form, and by that he did not mean that making money was an art. He meant that business was about finding the truth (What do people truly need? What is the state of the art?) and creating beauty (How do we best meet people’s true needs?).
Running a profitable business simply means that revenues exceed expenses, and that is another way of saying that the art is economically sustainable.