Behind every great fortune lies a great crime – Honore de Blazac
King Croesus of Lydia was one of the richest kings of the world ever (hence the phrase, Rich as Croesus). Once Solon, the wise legislator from Greece paid a visit to him and Croesus tried show off his wealth. Solon was not impressed. Try as he might, Solon dismissed Croesus’ wealth to the quirk of luck. Croesus believed he was rich because he deserved it and nothing less than that.
The tale of Croesus has a further twist, as after sometime Croesus was defeated in war by the redoubtable Persian king Cyrus. King Cyrus captured Croesus and put him to death. Reportedly, as he was about to be burnt to death he shouted out, “Solon, you were right”. King Cyrus stopped the burning and asked Croesus to explain. On knowing from Croesus the words of Solon, King Cyrus let him free as he reflected similar possibilities in his own fate.
In the past few weeks, Uber, the richest start-up in the world has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. For those not in the know, a quick round up of the happenings at Uber. Sexual harassment cases, bad recruitment calls, boardroom battles, unpalatable culture at work and much more hit Uber in quick succession finally ending with its founder CEO quitting. As Shakespeare put it, “when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”. Uber is paying it big time for choosing the shortest route to success.
Many of among us nodded in agreement with the fate of Uber. Arrogance, greed and abrasiveness has put paid to the image of Uber. Do we realize that most of us live the life of Uber? In our desire to be successful as measured by material wealth, properties, designations and such symbols what have we given up? If Uber gave up corporate governance, decency at work place, fairness in business practices and more, can we make a realistic assessment of our own progress?
Have read, heard and witnessed this struggle for ‘success’. Men and women in positions of power use their power to hide truth, divert blame, usurp others achievements, lie and cheat. The most disgusting has been exploitation of their junior colleagues to further their goals. Promises made to obtain loyalty to get the work done only to conveniently forget all the words later. Truth is a convenience, not the basis of their work. They recruit teams to build their empires only to dismiss them later to cut costs as a strategy! As the food chain gets higher, subverting law, cooking up accounting books, bribes, debauchery and much more are the norm. In the corridors of power, honesty is a word found only in vision statement and not in action.
With all the wealth and ‘success’ thus earned, they build a life of insecurity. Corrupt ways of life corrode the innards of their conscience and their health suffers. Sadly they do not realize that they are being admired by their lackeys for the share of the spoils that they give out or for fear of retribution and not because they are good. Like King Croesus, they believe they deserve it all and like him, they are wrong.
Uber was valued at $65 billion or so in its last round. If they had followed fair practices, did not tolerate anything or anyway route for success and growth probably they would have been valued much lower. Say $40 billion and not a bad number though! Today, if a fresh round of investments is attempted, Uber might end up with a valuation around that number. Mind you, it is only a valuation and not real money! In economics, there is a phrase to describe it. Reversion to the mean. Eventually all things end up at the average. As it is with Uber, it will be with those of us whose chase the world of ephemeral success.
Today nobody wants to know the valuation of Uber. Everyone is asking what Uber’s values are. Similarly, it will be with each one of us. Likes of Uber can buy up any competitor, deploy the latest technology with all the wealth they have. Pray, from where can they buy what need now the most, respect? Forget Uber, from where can you buy it?
As Steve Jobs realized on his deathbed, buried with our body is our success and valuation. What remains afterwards are our values.