I've come to believe that business and personal failure's are failures driven by forces much more sinister and integrally connected to the way we view life than any of us imagine. I believe they are often driven by the forces of addiction. I've come to believe this over time and through my professional and personal observation of corporate and personal moral failure.
I've written several articles that explore the ethical and moral decisions that drive business. Those articles, Bizjet International, Greed, Fear and Consequences, Lies are at the heart of personal and financial deception,and Credit default swaps and addictive compulsive behavior explore business behavior engaged in by people or institutions that is clearly, egregiously, a failure of ethical behavior and often worse I believe, a failure of character. As I wrote these articles I began to recognize patterns of behavior that could not be adequately explained by the aberrant acts of individuals. I wrote in Credit Default Swaps the following:
" I’ve come to believe something far more cynical, and I’m afraid, far more accurate. The best and most brilliant minds in the world’s financial systems are compelled by an addictive mind set, born from an addiction to one of the oldest addictions in human history: Greed—Driven by Fear. "
I've read, twice now, a detailed, thoughtful, academically sound, and enlightening book by Dr. Gerald May, Addiction & Grace, Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions . May's work was not written with a business audience in mind, but as I read the book and reflected on the constant revelations of ethical lapses and moral failures by business leaders, corporations and governments, I began to realize that May's premise was providing support for my belief that the pernicious behaviors I observed weren't random. They were repetitive behaviors occurring across multiple organizations perpetrated by a cast of characters whose names and titles change but whose actions don't.
In this article I can't begin to do justice to May's thoughts about the nature of addiction; It's foundation and beginning in the human mind, it's neurological basis, it's spiritual implications, and it's terrible intractability. Some quotes from the first chapter of his book, Desire: Addiction and Human Freedom will explain his fundamental premise.
He begins the first chapter with a quote from the New Testament, The Gospel According to Matthew:
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
He continues: "After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people's hearts, I am convinced that all human beings have an inborn DESIRE (emphasis mine) for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure. It gives us meaning. Some of us have repressed this desire, burying it beneath so many other interests that we are completely unaware of it."
Fundamentally people, and therefore the organizations they create pursue Desire. The language of the corporations and the people who run them doesn't describe the human desire that drives their decisions, and behaviors. That doesn't obviate it's existence however. Desire is often channeled into behavior's that are contrary to the ethical and moral standards that people and organizations promote as desirable and expected. May believes, as do I that this occurs because human desire separated from the love of God himself, will become introverted and corrupt. It will become an addiction:
"I have now come to believe that addiction is a...self-defeating force that abuses our freedom and makes us to things we really do not want to do...addiction attaches desire, bonds, and enslaves the energy of desire to certain specific behaviors, things, or people. These objects of attachment then become preoccupations and obsessions; they come to rule our lives."
Business decisions are made by people. May believes, as do I, that human behavior is driven by desire. Desire takes many forms, personally, and corporately. However, the fundamental truth that all human decisions are borne of desire and that desire is the linchpin of all addictive compulsive behavior is the foundation of a thought I'll explore in more depth in future articles.