Really Expensive Real Estate

Scott Francis
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One anecdote from Isaacston’s Steve Jobs that really resonated for me was this amusing exchange between he and Ellison:
At this point Jobs got real close to Ellison and said, “Larry, this is why it’s really important that I’m your friend. You don’t need any more money.” Ellison agreed with that general sentiment, but thought it was stupid that some “fund manager at Fidelity” would make more money on Apple’s success than he or Jobs. Jobs responded by saying, “I think if I went back to Apple and didn’t own any of Apple, and you didn’t own any of Apple, I’d have the moral high ground.” Ellison’s response: “Steve, that’s really expensive real estate, this moral high ground.”
Ellison is so right. That moral high ground is really expensive real estate.  And it is much more expensive real estate for people like Larry and Steve than it has ever been for someone like me. So the question: is that expensive real estate really worth it? We know the answer is supposed to be yes, but so often we see people make decisions that yield that moral high ground.  We might face that temptation ourselves. Just remember that holding the moral high ground isn’t something you start doing after you’ve made your millions (because, for most people who do this, there are always more millions to chase… and then billions).  The moral high ground is something you start doing today, if you weren’t doing it yesterday.  It is something you build up piece by piece, day by day, until it has real value. That value is in reputation, trust, personal relationships, business relationships. In my experience, in the long run, the moral high ground is worth it.  If you stick to it, you’ll find that while some of your friends and colleagues end up with more money in the short term, or even in the long term, you’ll end up with the friends.  The lifelong friends.  And if you’re in Steve’s rarefied air you end up with not only friends and loyal executives, but admirers far and wide. That moral high ground gives you the moral authority to lead more effectively.  In an information economy, that’s important.  Your talent can walk out the door any time.  And while the economy may not be good, the job market for high tech workers is quite good. I’ve never regretted holding that expensive real estate.  No question, the really expensive real estate is still worth it. I hope Larry went ahead and bought a few Apple shares while he was at it, though.    

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