Fear and greed, it has been said, are the two primal emotions that have propelled human civilization. Of course, both have their dark side, too.
Greed is positive and productive when channeled toward personal and professional improvement. But it turns ugly in pursuit of a single-minded or selfish outcome. When fear delivers important information it’s not only useful, it’s essential. But it can also morph into paranoia, or cause inaction.
As I’ve discussed recently in this space, at this very moment, the nature of fear and greed is changing. For 10,000 years, the only form humans have known is analog. This means any leveraging of them was likely mechanical, moving no faster than the speed of sound.
But today, we’re fully across the digital Rubicon and there’s no turning back. In this new universe, fear and greed are being leveraged with a force that moves at the speed of light. And the new rules of this paradigm shift – transitioning from analog rpm to digital GHz – is putting pressure on our ability to keep up, armed only with ancient analog ethics.
But fear and greed are not our only productive motivators. In fact, six others not only contributed to human development alongside fear and greed all those years, but have also had a more consistently positive impact on the marketplace.
Being warm-blooded, humans come with a high-maintenance physiology that requires regular nourishment and protection from the elements. When a customer does business with a friend of mine, instead of saying, “Thanks for the business,” he says, “Thanks for the food and shelter.”
Human children take a long time to fledge the nest. Our familial instincts are very strong, motivating us to do quite a bit of aggressive hunting and gathering. And the natural byproduct of this is the order and productivity of communities and markets.
As social beings, we’ve created and lived in communities. But the price of community is paid with the currency of responsibility. Our ability to think in the abstract produces the concept of self. And when self-awareness is forged with responsibility it produces the very powerful emotional alloy of self-respect.
The harness-mate of self-respect, ambition motivates us beyond mere survival, and is the more elegant cousin of greed. When ambition pulls against the load, side-by-side with self-respect, a positive force is born: the quest for personal excellence.
There are many things that separate humans from other life forms, but perhaps the most interesting is our tendency to tinker. Creativity, our primordial passion to make something that doesn’t exist, wells up from a visceral spring. It’s the free-spirit emotion that always asks “why,” with an impertinent “why not” preloaded and ready to fire. True creativity is its own reward. Creativity is to the marketplace what water is to life: you can have one without the other, but not for very long.
Curiosity may be our most powerful and elemental emotion. It’s the spark that ignites understanding, learning, empathy and growth. Curiosity is part of the nucleus of the other five.
The good news is, unlike fear and greed, these six motivators are likely to be less affected by digital pressures, and should remain, more or less, as we’ve always known them.
Write this on a rock … Nowhere in the marketplace are these six motivators more evident and beautiful than on Main Street in a small business.