In this post I want to wrap up our discussion on what to do when tragedy strikes. How you should protect yourself and also how you can profit from it without the need to feel guilty.
As a very pragmatic suggestion: do whatever good you can and choose to do regarding a tragedy. Do it of your own heart and mind, not merely out of obligation or peer pressure. And should you have fair opportunity to benefit or profit from it, whether as seller of needed goods and services, astute investor, or merely aligning your business with a charity connected to these events in a way that is also promotional and profitable, don’t hesitate to do so.
Do not feel squeamish or guilty about doing so. You and your opportunism are absolutely essential elements of our economic engine, without which no good can ever be funded or done. The entrepreneur’s understanding and use of the adversity/opportunity principle, the entrepreneur’s agility, his profit instinct, these are not just personal assets; they are societal assets.
Consider the singer or musical group that appears on the network televised concert to raise money for New Orleans relief. Consider carefully. Yes, they will work for free. Yes, they may have rushed forward to volunteer. And it is possible that they take such iniative and are eager to perform on such a program solely out of charity and compassion and a desire to do something constructive.
However, I have worked on the fringes of the entertainment industry enough, and have seen enough to absolutely assure you that countless entertainers’ and musicians’ agents, managers, publicists were all jockeying with all their influence and determined effort to get their clients onto these stages and programs.
There was as vicious and blatant scrabble and fight for those positions as there was for bottles of water at the Astrodome.
Because such an appearance sells CD’s. Pure and simple. And no artist will withdraw all their CD’s from the stores for a week following such a prime, prime time appearance to avoid profiteering from the tragedy. Nor should they.
I do not intend or perceive this as cynicism, rather as a realistic and reasonable view of the way things work, anymore than observing that the strongest and fastest survive, the weakest and slowest perish is the law of the jungle is cynical. It is not. It is factual. Similarly, the links between tragedy and opportunity, and charity and profit, are all there as facts of life.
These things are not subject to modification by philosophy. You can ignore them, but you cannot deny them or erase them. You can refuse to participate, at least directly. But your covering your eyes or sitting the game out will not stop the game.
And trying to suppress or deny self-interest is akin to trying to suppress or deny sexuality. A more reasoned approach is to seek opportunity at every turn; to engage in opportunism that also benefits others, mitigates tragedy or adversity, contributes as well as takes when possible; be successful, be grateful, be generous.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with simultaneously asking “How can I help?” or “How can I do good?” and “How can I profit?”.
It’s also worth noting that opportunity is often fleeting. Hesitation, sometimes a symptom of squeamishness, is just as damaging as squeamishness itself.