Can you succeed at business and be a good person?

I got a lovely compliment the other day naming me as someone making a name for myself entrepreneurially and being ethical.

I think every artist has to deal with business. But we tend to do it the way Gruber quotes Disney (me I’m not so sure Disney meant it): we make money in order to make work not the other way round.

I believed I had to work in business and not make creative work for many years because I grew up in a family where business was seen as reality. I question for years, “Can you succeed at business and be a good person?”

I asked Sara Little Turnbull this question once (and why the hell doesn’t this pioneer of industrial design have a wikipedia entry? Among other things she invented Corningware). She lives for human values and it took her a while to answer.

She told me a story about turning down a job for Charles Revson who wanted her to put his lipstick in every drugstore in the world and sell it for some high price. She walked out of the meeting but turned around and walked back and told him: only if I can make it worth what you’re charging.

Now I think we have a moral imperative to make the necessities of life available to people. But to the degree to which business is the way in which human being exchange things to meet their wants and needs (tougher question about business’ ability to meet all needs) well being honest, having real choice and providing real value seems to be a better place to but your focus.This was the most helpful response I’ve had so far to my question. Focus on the value of what you’re creating. Make the exchange as fair as possible.

Do you want to feel you’ve out one over on people or that your stuff is really worth it?  

And of course you can liberate yourself more from a money focus and business the more you minimize your needs and wants. The more you appreciate what you and and value what you do and make, perhaps the less you need.

I’m not sure I have the perfect answer. But I do know that you receive and live by whatever you focus on. If you spend all your time convince people and putting one over on them, well then that’s what your business, or “art,” is.

What do you think?

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