Be Ambitious, Not Greedy

It's all too easy to get greedy in life… greedy with money, food, possessions, power… even people. But there is no point in being greedy. Money can't buy you immortality, and you can't take it with you. I, like most people, felt really shocked when Steve Jobs died. All that power, all that money, and yet he still died so young; he was only in his 50s. But you could tell that money never motivated him.

I think it's very interesting that people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have pledged to give the majority of their money to charity rather than allow their children to inherit “too much” of it.

However, there is a distinct difference between being greedy and being ambitious. When you are greedy, you are constantly looking at ways to acquire stuff (possessions, money, power, people…); you don't care what or who is in your way, you will ruthlessly sacrifice their well-being to get what you want. Greed focuses on consuming. Whereas, when you are ambitious, you are focused on growth; you are concerned with building on what you have in order to enhance your life, the lives of those around you and even the world at large.

My mum was a great influence on me. One of her mottos in life was “keep it simple”, and I've tried to follow that, ensuring that I don't indulge too much in unnecessary luxuries. I've treated myself along the way, and I've made sure my family members are comfortable, but I believe I have never been frivolous with money.

I believe it's important, too, to keep life in balance, to check that you have the things that make you happy, which is never going to be money alone. I know I could have far more money than I have now, I could have worked my way up to being a billionaire; but I don't need that much money, and I wouldn't want to make the sacrifices that would be necessary to get it.

Delayed Gratification

One important element of steady growth and healthy ambition over greed is delayed gratification. These days, I see far too many people who want it all immediately. They see what others have and they want it all, too (and usually want it without putting in the hard work!). Every time we take in a new batch of recruits, I impress upon them that patience is key. I tell them the story of how I worked for UBS for free when I started out. It was painful not being paid for that job, but if I hadn't done it, if I hadn't been patient, I wouldn't have had the opportunities and experiences that have got me to where I am today. Sometimes, you have to see the bigger picture, especially when you have to do what feels uncomfortable.

In a previous chapter, I described the risks associated with taking and spending too much outside equity investment too soon. I feel that it prevents you from growing in a way that maintains the revenue for your overheads. The same applies to greed. If you desire too much, too soon, you will miss the opportunities to lay good foundations.

I find it interesting to analyse the psychology of people who are greedy. Why do they want or feel they need so much money and/or power? Surely it comes from insecurity. Addiction has been described as an insatiable hunger for things in order to “fill a void” that can never be filled because it is the result of an emotional wound that hasn't healed. You could say that people who are greedy for excessive money have an addiction to money. If you have a burning need to fill the space around you with possessions, maybe try to figure out why you are not feeling fulfilled. We've all seen people acquire lots of stuff in order to cover up their problems; it's never healthy.

I would not call wealth per se a sign of success. Making money for the sake of having more money is not an achievement in itself. Changing people's lives, adding value to the world in some way, building the foundations of a successful business… these things are good measures of success. Look again at some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs. Look at what Steve Jobs built in his lifetime. Elon Musk and Richard Branson are incredibly wealthy, but their success is measured by the fact that they have revolutionized transportation (Musk pioneering electric cars, Branson disrupting transatlantic air travel, and both investing huge sums in commercial space travel).

These men changed the world because they were ambitious, not because they were greedy.

Healthy Ambition vs. Fearful Greed

Healthy ambition is about a healthy mindset, a positive mindset that is focused on solid growth rather than rapid accumulation. And this involves helping others along the way.

When you are truly ambitious as opposed to being greedy, you carefully plan your strategy and work smartly towards achieving your goals. When you hit a goal, you plan for achieving the next one. You know that solid growth requires firm foundations, and this will usually involve the work of other people as you expand. You have to have a vision, and you have to have the patience to build gradually towards that vision. When you do this, you build a team around you and your healthy ambition rubs off on them, and they become ambitious for you and themselves. All this has a positive effect on people's self-esteem.

When you are greedy, you have a negative mindset; it's all about what you can take from others. Greed is driven by the fear of what you don't have. You are constantly focused on what you don't have rather than what you do have. Greed can make you ruthless, so that it doesn't matter who or what you harm in the process of getting what you want. You need to win at all costs. I once read an article that pointed out how Hugh Hefner literally “collected” women in his playboy mansion as if they were cars or watches. I don't think anyone could deny that greed motivated his actions.

I really don't understand excessive greed. As I've said before, you can't take it with you, and the more money you make, the more you give the taxman! I've always been interested in investing my time and money in things that will leave a long-lasting legacy after I've gone. Even this book is something I've invested in so that my experiences and advice can reach more people than I could ever meet and speak to, and even help people after I'm no longer physically around. I think there is nothing as valuable as inspiring someone to achieve more.

When I think of greed – of having lots more money than I have now – rather than think of all the things I could have, I think of all the things I would have to sacrifice. No amount of money would ever be more important to me than reading to my children at bedtime, or playing sports with them. My ambition in life involves having a happy and healthy family. I have known incredibly wealthy people (men and women), who live in huge houses, own spectacular cars and travel the world in first class, but they are lonely. They say they wish they had invested more time in building relationships and creating a family. Others look at these wealthy individuals and they feel jealousy. But they don't know that some of these millionaires are looking back at them feeling jealous themselves.

Life Swap? No Thanks!

Greed comes hand-in-hand with jealousy. We are usually greedy because we are jealous of what someone else has and we are desperate to have it. But we are all more the same than we are different; mostly in that we all only have one lifetime. I could be jealous of Warren Buffet's wealth, but ultimately we have the same thing: we both have one lifetime. And I'm happy with the things I've got that he hasn't got: my specific wife and children, my family, my home, my friends. Those are the things I really value, not money. I wouldn't want to swap places with anyone because it would mean giving up the things I know and love in my own life. Look at the things you love in your life – they may be the people around you, they may be more related to the work you do in the world – and be grateful for those things; they have great value, more value than you could put a price on.

All those “life-swapping” films always tell the same story – at the end, the hero or heroine goes back to their own life. They might have learnt a valuable lesson standing in someone else's shoes, but they still want to go back to the life they know. It's so important to appreciate your own life and all the good things about it before you focus on striving for anything more.

I always remind myself to practise gratitude first and foremost.

I think I'm lucky because I've never seen money as a product or end goal; money is only ever a tool, a facilitator, to me. If greed is about accumulating money, or the things that money buys, ambition is about using money in a smart way to improve the world and enhance people's lives – by giving them an education, a good job, better opportunities, etc. When you are greedy, you spend; when you are ambitious, you invest. My greatest ambition is to leave a legacy that positively affects the lives of as many people as possible.

When you are ambitious, you are naturally patient, because you know it takes time to grow. Whatever your goals, you know that they are achieved gradually. When you are greedy, you will cut corners and make mistakes because you're impatient; you won't learn and grow at an optimum rate.

I really do have my parents to thank for my strong attitude. My sister is the same. We were not raised to be extravagant. My parents taught us that your most valuable “possession” is the bond of love between you and your family. We were given a lot of love and encouragement; this was the most important thing, material things always came second. Mum and Dad were very supportive of our ambitions in life, but encouraged us to build our careers in a well-planned and thorough way, to achieve one step at a time and think about our direction in life. They encouraged us to channel our skills into something meaningful. There's very little I've done in my life – whether in business or my personal life – that has been driven by instant gratification. I've always taken my time as I'm building elements of my life up.

I encourage my team to operate in the same way. I explain that it is very tempting to skip steps and strive for the big money as soon as possible, but if you don't learn and develop your skills gradually, you could make costly mistakes. I tell them it's good to have ambitious financial goals, but you will only reach them and maintain them, consistently, if you take all the right steps. When you do that, you're going to make more money and create more stability in the long run.

Beware the Fragile Ego

Another important distinction between greed and ambition is the motivation behind them. I mentioned “insecurity” before. Well, I think greed is always driven by a fragile ego, the need to be noticed, which ultimately comes back to insecurity. Ambition is driven more by a desire to solve problems and better everyone's lives. I'm not suggesting that ambition is entirely altruistic, but ambitious people definitely tend to be more concerned with spreading their success out to others; greedy people, in contrast, will typically be more selfish.

The ego can be a dangerous thing when it is fragile; in other words, underpinned with insecurity. We often see in the public eye – in the media, in sport, in politics – people's egos get inflated when they have sudden success, and there is nothing worse than an inflated fragile ego! If you are lucky enough to experience success coming very quickly, it's particularly important to keep a level head about it, to check that you are still motivated by building something meaningful and long-lasting, and not just having your ego stroked.

Men sometimes get a reputation for being more ego-driven than women, but in my experience it is just personality type. It can be just as easy for a woman to be motivated by greed as a man. Conversely, women can be just as ambitious as men – and equally able to achieve success in a positive way. When I look at our senior management team, we have three men and two women, and our most consistent top consultant over the years is a woman.

You can easily spot the difference between people who are driven by greed and those driven by ambition. Greedy people will never actually be satisfied because they are trying to fill that void. Ambitious people will set specific, achievable goals, hit their targets, and then set new ones; they tend to feel fulfilled on a regular basis because they are building in a measured and solid way. Someone motivated by greed might set monetary targets like “I want to be a millionaire in three years' time.” If that's their target, they might make ruthless choices along the way that hurt other people, because they will use as many people as they need to hit that target. People will be expendable to them. Someone motivated by ambition might set a target like “I want to build a company that creates jobs for 100 people in three years.” If a company is that successful, it is likely to have created a good financial return – but the money is the by-product rather than the specific goal.

Look at Steve Jobs, for example. His focus was definitely on helping people, on making products that enhance people's lives. He only became wealthy in the process of building one of the most successful companies the world has ever known. By contrast, the “Wolf of Wall Street”, Jordan Belfont, was so focused on amassing money, he didn't care who he manipulated and scammed along the way, or which laws he broke.

This is a hugely important distinction when it comes to what motivates people and defines real success.

Sowing Seeds for Future Wealth

If I'd let greed motivate me, instead of ambition, I would never have worked for UBS for free; I would have looked for a way to get money straight away instead of valuing the experience I could get by working for one of the world's biggest investment banks, albeit for free. I always impress this point upon our new recruits. A fledgling mortgage consultant has to have the same attitude. If you are ambitious for true success as a mortgage consultant, you need to understand that it takes time for the results to show through. If someone buys a house and you arrange their mortgage, it will be several months before that commission comes to you. I explain that, if you're the type of person who needs instant gratification, this could be the wrong job for you. That's okay; there are plenty of jobs that give you instant gratification. Just be honest with yourself!

Mortgage consultancy comes with great long-term rewards but you don't get any quick gains. It's a pipeline business with low basic salaries but big commissions. The hard effort you put in today will reward you for many months and years to come, but it won't come immediately. When you are a mortgage consultant, it's important to get the best outcome for customers; this will lead to referrals and repeat business. You are sowing the seeds for the future. And I think that applies to any truly secure career. If the rewards come too quickly, be wary! If you want instant money, get a job that pays by the hour, but understand that it will never pay you much more than a low but steady wage.

If you are ambitious, don't be greedy. The more you strive for, the more patient you have to be.

Growth doesn't come in a nice, steady line, either. After building my company up and getting to the point where I could take a reasonable salary, I was hit by the credit crunch and stopped taking a salary for several years while I rebuilt. Again, when you are truly ambitious, you have to make sacrifices for the sake of long-term success. Patience is key. If I had been greedy, if I had given up on my business, I would not be where I am today.

True ambition is about knowledge. And in order to amass knowledge, you must take the time to build the skills and acquire the information you need. I love the quote by Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid: “Ambition without knowledge is like a boat on dry land.” In other words, it can't go anywhere. Building skills and acquiring knowledge takes time, patience, and a good deal of faith and belief. Think about your “knowledge bank” that I mentioned earlier; feed it. You must let it grow before spending it!

Nurture the Roots

The “planting of seeds” is a good analogy. If you want to grow strong, healthy plants, they need strong, healthy roots. You must nurture the roots. You plant the seeds and give them plenty of water and care. You are not going to see anything, let alone the fruits and flowers, for a long time. If you pull up the plants before they are fully grown, they will die before developing those fruits and flowers. If you are ambitious, you build strong, solid foundations, but you don't expect instant rewards.

The same goes for building a strong, solid house. If you don't dig proper, deep foundations, your house might look nice for a short while, but it will soon collapse. Those foundations take time to dig. When it comes to building a business, those foundations have a profound effect on people's lives. When you care too much about profit over people, you could badly affect the lives of those around you. When you make risky choices, you don't just risk your own well-being, you put the lives of those who work with you at risk, too.

All of this also works at the highest level. Corporations can be harmful when they become too greedy. Ambition creates wealth for all; conversely, greed will inevitably have negative repercussions. I really support campaigns that advocate putting “people before profit” and the drive towards “conscious capitalism.” There has been so much emphasis on consumerism in modern times, and we've seen too many multinational companies become so greedy that they seriously harm the environment and put people's lives at risk. The pursuit of profit alone helps no one.

One of my greatest ambitions has always been to provide a good working environment for everyone, to build a company that helps people build good livelihoods. Obviously I need to generate considerable profits to do that, but there is always a balance between generating profits and ensuring that I am building an ethical company with a healthy work environment for people.

Skills vs. Cash

In so many ways, skills are more valuable than cash, because skills generate more cash. When we teach someone the new skills to be a good mortgage broker, we give them the means to make money, which is more important than giving them money. There is a big movement in the charitable world about giving people in poverty a “hand up” instead of a “hand out.” When you equip people with the tools to make a living, you give them far more than the monetary value of those tools.

Some people really do get blinded by greed; they will always be more attracted to an immediate big salary than applying the patience to build the skills to earn a big salary. I know that the people who are just motivated by money alone will probably drop out of my training programme before they achieve the salary they are hoping for because they just don't have the patience to stay the course. Those who do have that patience and do build the skills will do much better in the long run.

In short, ambition is always about the process of building something and ensuring that process is a healthy one; greed is always about the results, no matter what it takes to get there. Greed is about grabbing the most profit as quickly as possible, regardless of the means to get there; ambition is about creating the means to generate consistent profit.

Eating All the Chocolate

When we have a group of new recruits graduating from the training programme, I can soon tell the people who are motivated by greed. They are the ones who stop following the blueprint we give them; they try to cut corners and go for the big rewards before they are ready. When this strategy doesn't pay off, they often get bored and leave the business. Everyone gets given the same piece of paper during their training, while they are in the “academy.” This is their “blueprint” – some stick to it after their training, and some don't. I always see the ones who do stick to the blueprint achieve more success.

I'm always puzzled when I come across people who don't follow advice. We are only trying to give people the tools for success based on our previous experience. My motivation is to build a team of successful mortgage consultants. My advice is good for my ambition and good for their ambition. When they don't follow it and try to do things their own way – which has no foundation in real experience – I know that the motivation is greed.

I always say to the new recruits: “You can either learn the hard way, through your own mistakes, or you can make it easier on yourself and learn from my mistakes, because I am going to share them all with you. It's in my interests to share them all with you. The more successful you are, the more successful I am!”

None of this is particularly complex psychology. We teach children in the same way. We say: “Don't be greedy and eat all your chocolate at once or you'll be sick.” They either listen and feel fine, or they don't listen and learn the hard way… by eating all their chocolate at once and feeling sick! If we are lucky, we learn as children that greed never pays off in the long run. In a way, greed is childish; like showing off. We all know deep down that greed doesn't do anyone any good and yet so many people end up driven by it. Why do we do it? Are we trying to impress our friends? Are we hiding our inhibitions? Confronting those issues and overcoming them is all part of growing up. When we mature we need to get more ambitious rather than greedy. Being ambitious is about being moderate and reserved, about taking responsibility. It's quite boring and a touch scary. It's much easier to be greedy and irresponsible, but we will end up paying for it the hard way.

Ultimately, greed is destructive. It can easily cause people to harm others, harm the environment and even harm themselves (for example, by eating and drinking too much). Ambition is creative. It is about building skills, structures, businesses and all the things that enhance people's lives, enhance the world and create things that regenerate. When you are ambitious, you aim to create and build things that will live on far beyond you; ambition should make you forget your ego and work towards the betterment of all.

Whenever people refer to my company as “Ying's business”, I correct them and say that the business is bigger than me. I'm building something that I hope far outlives me. When I'm talking about what my business does I always refer to “we”, and I ask my team to do the same. I encourage them to use “we” instead of “I.”

Greed is about the individual and the individual's needs and desires.

Ambition is about your team, and even the world at large; it's your contribution to the bigger picture.

It is my ambition to create more than I consume, to make an ever-increasing contribution to the bigger picture, not to take bites out of it and eat it up!

Like Father, Like Son

I will later – as promised – tell the story of my father's treacherous journey from Malaysia to England that he made, on foot, in the 1950s. You will see that this was motivated by pure ambition. If he'd been greedy, my father would have stayed in Malaysia making as much immediate money as he could (which would not have been that much in his small village). But he was truly ambitious; he was prepared to make the sacrifices, to go without. What my father experienced during his journey – during which he came close to death – gave him the life-changing skills and endurance that he needed to be successful. When it comes to true ambition, it is always the process that is more important than the destination. My father was prepared to suffer, temporarily, for the sake of building something that would bring him far greater and more consistent rewards down the line. I know that he considers my sister and I – and all our personal and professional successes – as those rewards. He is immensely proud of what we have both achieved in our lives, thanks to the good home that my parents built for us, in a country where we had more opportunities than those we would have had in Malaysia.

My father was driven by his ambition for his future children.

You could accuse me of being greedy when it comes to having children: five is a little above average I think! But Samantha and I planned very carefully to have a big family and we couldn't be happier that we've had so many children. I only have one sibling, my sister. Samantha has an older brother and younger sister. We would both love to have had more siblings because we get on so well with the ones we have. I get on very well with my sister, but she is ten years older than me – and a girl. I did long for a brother my age to play with. I'm glad my boys have got each other. And the twins have got a sister each. We've been very, very lucky!

I may have been greedy in having five children, but it's not really about me; it's about helping to bring up five, healthy, happy, well-rounded individuals who might make a difference in the world. I am very ambitious for them, which is why I have worked hard so I can afford to send them to private school. I want them to excel in whatever they choose to do, and private education gives them the maximum opportunities. I see their education as an investment. And of course, if you send one child, you have to send them all, so I've got my work cut out, putting five children through private education. But I am driven by my ambition for my children. I am committed to making enough money to pay all the school fees.

I will get a lot more joy from watching my children succeed because I invested my money in their education than if I'd bought a couple of fancy sports cars. My children are definitely “good debt”!

Photograph of the author of this book, Ying Tan, with a backpack.
Dad ready to start his hitchhiking journey to UK. Penang, Malaysia, 1959

Photograph of the author with his parents and two of his scout friends, and two children - a boy and a girl - seated in front of his parents.
Dad (top left) with friendly scouts during his hitchhiking journey. Sri Lanka, 1959

Photograph of the author and his wife, Samantha, on the day of their wedding.
Mum and Dad on their wedding day. West London, 1964

Photograph of the author with some elderly people and a small kid staying in a camp.
European road trip. My grandparents, Mum, Suet Lee and me (in my grandmother’s arms). Belgium, 1976

Photograph of the author with his firstborn son, Brandon, in their garden.
In the garden with Dad and my favourite toy bus. Farnborough, 1977

Photograph of the author with his wife and son, and another elderly woman standing with them.
At the Thai temple in Wimbledon with Mum, Dad and Suet Lee. Wimbledon Temple, 1983

Photograph of the author's wife and son posing in front of their family car.
Me, Suet Lee and her first car (a classy Mini!) Farnborough, 1984

Photograph of the author playing snowball with his wife and young son.
Playing in the snow with Mum and Suet Lee. Farnborough, 1984

Photograph of the author viewing the Great Wall of China.
At the Great Wall of China. Beijing, China, 2002

Photograph of the author posing with his friends and their families on a trip to a hilly resort.
Watching the World Cup on the Great Wall with Samantha (seated on chair in front row wearing black top with white stripes), friends and… beer! Beijing, China, 2002

Photograph of a married couple in a park during a wedding photo shoot.
With Samantha on our wedding day. Pembroke Lodge in Richmond, London, 2005

Photograph of the author with an elderly woman at a grand party.
With Mum at Eastern Oriental Hotel where Samantha and I held the Malaysian celebration of our wedding. Penang, Malaysia, 2005

Photograph of the author's office, with desks and chairs placed against the walls, set up for his employees to work comfortably.
My first (airless) office! Guildford, 2006

Photograph of the author posing with his wife and three sons, Brandon, Ryan, and Hayden, in a picnic spot.
With Samantha and the boys on our motor home trip around Europe. France, 2017

Photograph of the author and his eldest son on a trekking expedition.
With Brandon at the top of Mount Snowdon, doing our “Three Peaks Challenge.” Wales, 2018

Photograph of the author posing with one of his colleagues in the office.
With Philip Coutinho in Bordeaux, courtesy of Vitality! France, 2015

Photograph of the author taking a selfie with the other players of his team, on the football ground, before the start of the game.
A dream come true… about to play football at Anfield! Liverpool, 2018

Photograph depicting players engrossed in a football match, but the stadium remains empty.
Doing a “Cryuff turn” on the pitch at Anfield. Liverpool, 2018

Photograph depicting players engrossed in a football match.
My “Steven Gerrard moment” at Anfield. Liverpool, 2018

Photograph of the author with his friend at an awards function.
With Sadio Mane at the LFC Players’ Awards. Liverpool, 2018

Photograph of the author having dinner with three other couples and his friend, at a huge fancy restaurant.
Dinner with the Dynamo senior management team. Rhinefield House Hotel, Brockenhurst, 2019

Photograph of the author in front of a huge building, and some people relaxing with their family on the lawn in the background.
Winning an industry award (Mortgage Introducer Award 2019). London, 2019

Photograph of the author having a light-hearted chat with his colleagues in his office.
With guests at the Dynamo launch party. London, 2019

Photograph of the author giving a voracious speech, addressing an audience.
Speaking at the Dynamo Christmas party, doing “Yam Seng” (traditional celebratory call in South East Asia). Elvetham Heath Hotel, Fleet, 2019

Photograph of the author standing in front of his office building, near a big board.
Outside the new offices of Dynamo. Camberley, Surrey, 2019

Photograph of the author and his wife with their 3 sons and twin girls, Arabella and Lydia.
With Samantha and our children: Brandon, Ryan, Hayden, and the twins, Arabella and Lydia. Crowthorne, Berkshire, 2020
..................Content has been hidden....................

You can't read the all page of ebook, please click here login for view all page.