The Materialism Trap

In an interesting profile earlier this year of Rajat Gupta, the former head of McKinsey who was caught up in the insider trading scandals on Wall Street, there’s this:

Bankers and private-equity founders, like Pete Peterson, were getting extraordinary paydays by taking their firms public. Speaking at Columbia University around this time, Gupta reflected on his new ambition. “When I look at myself, yeah, I am driven by money,” he said. “And when I live in this society, you know, you do get fairly materialistic, so I look at that. I am disappointed. I am probably more materialistic today than I was before, and I think money is very seductive.” He continued: “You have to watch out for it, because the more you have it, you get used to comforts, and you get used to, you know, big houses and vacation homes and going and doing whatever you want, and so it is very seductive. However much you say that you will not fall into the trap of it, you do fall into the trap of it.”

The last sentence caught my eye. Self-awareness of the phenomenon isn’t sufficient. People say they won’t, know they shouldn’t, and yet still do.

10 Responses to The Materialism Trap

  1. Justin Fichelson says:

    Very insightful. It is so fascinating how self-awareness of a phenomenon such as the one mentioned is indeed not sufficient. I think a good example of how emotions ultimately supersede rational thought.

    • Jed W. says:

      His emotion had little to no role in his failure; ironically, it was his very self-awareness that brought about his downfall. His self-awareness eased him into a false sense of security about his control over the situation, minimized the significance of his individual negative actions, and ensured that his emotion would remain dormant and insensitive to the fall that he slowly inched his ways towards, thereby denying him the strength to overcome his deleterious habits.
      Of course, to deny the importance of self-awareness in the process of self-improvement is ridiculous. However, to minimize the role of emotion in that process is equally absurd. The ideal, of course, is for self-awareness and emotion to play off one another when the other is weak: at times of stronger conviction, self-awareness is less necessary; at moments of emotional weakness, self-awareness and awareness of the consequences of one’s actions should serve to keep a person in line with whom he strives to be.

      • Jed W. says:

        I acknowledge that what I say is completely speculative, having no knowledge of this person or the context of his failure.
        In addition to emphasizing the importance of emotion (although I acknowledge that it can make us do stupid things when left undirected by intelligent foresight), I intend to highlight the foolishness of attributing his failure to hyperactive emotion and lack of intelligence.

  2. Rebecca Hilbert says:

    It is very easy to find yourself wanting more. The issue is that once you have more you want more and the cycle continues. I think it is somewhat human nature to always want more than they have. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs notes nothing of possessions in order to accomplish self actualization or transcendence. I believe that somewhere along the way many of us have turned outwardly to possessions to attempt to reach this point rather than turning inward and realizing the intrinsic rewards are so much more valuable.

  3. Bill Goodwin says:

    At the very least, it’s a great illustration of how information alone does not change behavior, even when that information is self-knowledge. Exactly why it failed to change his behavior is difficult to infer, but the principle alone is worthwhile. Absent an extrinsic measure of your conformance to your beliefs, self-deception is the default pattern.

  4. Chris Yeh says:

    We suck at knowing how we’ll act if our circumstances change. Rather than judging harshly, give people the benefit of the doubt. You might need it yourself someday.

  5. Really appreciate you sharing this blog article.Much thanks again.

  6. Nice and very informative and interesting post . I really enjoyed this article

  7. This product is very interesting and i truly love them thanks for sharing..

  8. Amy Hamilton says:

    Such type of information must be spread Essayyard in such a way that people could easily find.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>