Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Making Money" vs. "Earning Money"

Despite what anti-intellectuals may tell you, words matter. When we spew out a "Freudian Slip," we reveal our innermost secrets. When we speak extemporaneously, we tend to show our hand in an extraordinary way.

Witness this excerpt from a speech by disgraced Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. Pay close attention to the last sentence:

"Purely based on the fact that Wall Street is a pretty good meritocracy -- you have to have the right skill set -- basically you can start from zero there. You can become the president of Goldman Sachs. You can become the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. You can become the CEO of Merrill Lynch. You can make a lot of money."

"Make" a lot of money. In the wake of exotic financial transactions gone bust, does the notion of a Wall Street hotshot "making" money sound ironic? It reveals these financial whizzes as Houdini-like figures, conjuring up profits via risk-laden speculation and naked ambition.

The take-away? "Earning" money is for chumps. "Making" money is for winners.


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