Fear and greed, it has been said, are the two primal emotions that drive the marketplace. As a maxim, these two words are handy in their ability to deliver the most meaning with the fewest letters.
But brevity paints with a broad brush and the result can deliver an unfortunate impression. Consequently, consider these other emotions that represent a more balanced and positive perspective on marketplace motivations, and which are very prominent in small business owners.
Warm-blooded, humans come with a high-maintenance physiology that requires us to eat regularly and have 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.”
Humans are social beings; we create and live in communities. But the price of community is paid in the currency of responsibility. Our ability to think in the abstract produces the concept of self. And when self-awareness is blended with responsibility it creates the very powerful emotion called self-respect.
The harness-mate of self-respect, ambition motivates us beyond mere survival, and is perhaps the nearest kin to greed. But unlike greed, when ambition is forged with self-respect, a very positive alloy is born: the quest for excellence.
There are many things that separate humans from other life forms, but perhaps the most interesting is our tendency to tinker. Creativity wells up from a visceral spring from which pours our primordial passion to make something that doesn’t yet exist. It’s the free-spirit emotion that is always asking “why,” and “why not.” Unlike innovation, which is born of need, 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, because when we pursue it, we do so with the expectation that it may create security for our family, self-respect for ourselves, and feed our ambition.
Look to small business to find all of the marketplace emotions.