“Even wisdom has to yield to self-interest.”
Very early on, during an economics class, I had a lecturer explain during class that the economy and market works because of self-interest. He was very explicit and direct in mentioning that self-interest is not the same as selfishness. At the time, I was coming to terms along to the same line of thought and it was refreshing for someone else to say that.
In that, I learned to redefine what selfishness meant. In my book, selfishness refers to self-interest that harms or exploits others with actual consequences.
“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”
Let’s be frank. Everyone has their own self-interest. We are our own individuals. Early on, people have very similar needs like those stated at the bottom sections of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. As people progress upwards, diverging wants exist due to self-interest of different individuals.
Now here’s the main point.
Self-interest is not inherently good or bad. It is what it is.
It is like politics, science, education, tools and more. Self-interest is like a hammer. A hammer can be used for good or bad. A hammer can be used to build something new or it can be used to harm or even kill. The consequences of using the hammer then depend on the intentions of the wielder.
As such, we must learn to realize that mastering and understanding not only our self-interest but the self-interest of others is the key to success and getting everything that we want.
Here’s a link on how to use self-interest to mutual advantage. It’s a 11-minute video by “Charisma on Command” on why Tyrion is such a master at surviving and getting people to do what they want. I highly recommend to watch it.
We hope the world will act in the spirit of enlightened self-interest.
~ Atal Bihari Vaijpayee
After mastering it, the best we can aspire to is enlightened self-interest or rationality. Enlightened self-interest means that we’ll pursue our self-interests while taking into consideration that we do not harm and exploit others to their loss for our self-gain. In fact, enlightened self-interest means not only pursuing our self-interest but to improve the lives of others. Think of the inventor of the polio vaccine who didn’t patent it. His self-interest was seeing the betterment of humanity altogether. Such selflessness is merely the fulfillment of a higher self-interest. That being said, we are not heroes and saints. The more plausible thing we can aspire to do and achieve is a win-win situation for both ourselves and others.
However, we must understand that sometimes, our self-interest will hurt others unconsciously and unintentionally. That said, we shouldn’t stop there. We must ensure that we do our best to do things with the best of intentions for ourselves while not harming or exploiting others. If it happens, the best we can do is be unapologetic and continue as we must first take care of ourselves first, last and always.
Till the next time.