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NOTABLE! ETHICS IN THE FASTLANE: How low will you sink for wealth?

DeletedUser394

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When I was 8 years old or so, I would go to Walmart with my mother. While she was shopping, I would remove and then steal all of the little plastic tabs from the coat hangers that indicate the size of the garment.

These things:


I quite literally had a large bag full of them at home. My goal was to melt them down using hot water in the bathroom sink (I actually attempted this) and create a large ball of plastic. That way I could sell the bulk plastic to a company that could then use it to mold new plastic items.

Looking back, that was pretty unethical. lol

Sorry Walmart, my greed blinded me back then.

Edit: My bulk plastic operation went on for a while, so it's not like it was a one time thing haha.
 

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RHL

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On a tangential topic, the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell outlines a man with a 180+ IQ who has made breakthroughs in physics but can't figure out how to make enough money to live anywhere but his mother's basement modest horse farm.
Ding ding ding. IQ and business are somewhat related, but I feel like the more extreme you are as an outlier, sometimes it leads to really weird behaviors or ideas that alienate you and hold you back from making money.

Case in point, a friend growing up was the child of a chemist and a physicist who were both professors at an Ivy League school. Taught himself to speed read and would read one full-length (250-500ish) page book every morning before breakfast. Got a 1600 on the SAT (back when that was perfect) at age 14, had an armfull of AP 5's. He imported an illegal developer kit for the Nintendo 64 and was making and selling his own N64 games when he was 15. Sadly, they didn't sell well, because he was obsessed with factual accuracy and making things he wanted, not what other people wanted, so what you got was like a lot of really boring space lander games and geopolitical games.

He also got kicked out of a college course for calling the professor a "retard," and hasn't held a single job for more than two years since graduating. He gets bored and refuses to work. He walked out of a dream job at one of the largest blue-chip software companies on earth, his boss actually called the state police to confirm he was still alive, that's how quickly he severed contact.

I don't know what his IQ was, but I think (and I don't think his parents would question it) that he was decisively smarter than his Ivy-educated, Ivy-professor parents. Probably 150 IQ MINIMUM. Yet his life is not something I would want. He's severely overweight, has weight related health problems, and lives on a friend's couch.

So if you're smart, great, use it. If you're not, great, use the skills you do have. But it's a limiting belief that genius=success, average/below-average=fail. In reality, focused effort=success, scattered genius=fail.


As to the OP, I try never to be unethical. To me, ethics is a matter of personal infringement and personal harm, so if a website has a rule like "no self promotion," and I skirt it in some way that doesn't hurt the bottom line of the site owner (because the site doesn't sell anything or advertise or whatever), I don't consider that to be unethical because annoyance and harm aren't the same. I would never do something to intentionally defraud a customer or get them to spend more than they really want to. I only want them to give me a lot of money if they're sold that they're getting a lot of value. I sleep like a baby at night.
 
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MJ DeMarco

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pickeringmt

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People have different views of what is ethical, so this is very hard to discuss.
Meh, I see what you are saying, but there is a pretty simple gauge here.
The only way to succeed in business and have a positive effect on this earth is to create value
Nobody will keep giving you money to do otherwise - therefore not creating value is completely unsustainable as a business model
The argument here is pretty much irrelevant.
I'll admit, it is possible to get a bunch of money through shady means - but these are events, not process. a scam is an event - so is robbing a bank.
Ponzi schemes are a great example.
 

Digamma

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Meh, I see what you are saying, but there is a pretty simple gauge here.
The only way to succeed in business and have a positive effect on this earth is to create value
Nobody will keep giving you money to do otherwise - therefore not creating value is completely unsustainable as a business model
The argument here is pretty much irrelevant.
I'll admit, it is possible to get a bunch of money through shady means - but these are events, not process. a scam is an event - so is robbing a bank.
Ponzi schemes are a great example.
You're wrong.
People who want to delude themselves see value in snake oil. Is it ethical to sell it to them?
People want stuff that is armful to them, to their finances, or to society at large. Is it ethical to sell it to them?

Selling weapons to criminals creates value to them. "Creating value" is just a buzzword without context.
 

Growth & Learn

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Historically, a lot of the largest winners in the Fastlane have been revealed to have a less than savory vision of what is ethical in the marketplace.

If you want to win all the time, you have to cheat.

So.... how low would you sink?
I disagree with this 100%. When people say stuff like this it makes me wonder what has skewed their worldview. I hear people who are not wealthy say shit like this all the time. Somewhere they were told that you have to lie, cheat, and steal to build wealth. I'm going on the record…it's utter bullshit. You don't have to be dishonest or unethical to become wealthy. Sure, a small portion of wealthy business people have questionable morals but causation does not imply correlation.

There are are also religious leaders in every religion who are supposed to be the model for ethics who are criminals. Everybody is in an individual and individuals make personal choices. Again causation does not imply correlation.

Basic wealth creation formula is simple. Provide a great product that people like to use a lot + take care of your customers x scalabable marketing efforts = wealth creation.

Any wealth I've created has come from being super nice and super cool to people (i.e. my customers).
 

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People who want to delude themselves see value in snake oil. Is it ethical to sell it to them?
If you claim your product does 'X' and it doesn't. Then no, it's not ethical. The snake oil reference is ridiculous.
 

pickeringmt

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People who want to delude themselves see value in snake oil. Is it ethical to sell it to them?
People will only give money in exchange for something that they perceive as having more value than the money itself.
Distorting the value is unethical in my opinion, but value is also relative - which is why the free market is awesome. We can choose and get what WE want.
Like booze. I wont sell it, I won't buy it either. Is it unethical? To some yes, to some no. Valuable? again, to some yes, to others no.
Now telling people it will cure cancer - that is distorting the value of the product.
 

csalvato

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Now telling people it will cure cancer - that is distorting the value of the product.
But if you do, it will sell.

Then you will need to disappear when it doesn't work.

You can make $1,000,000 a week selling bullshit penny stocks. That's selling value (the bullshit promise of high, effortless ROI) without being able to back it up. Then you can wind up in jail and lose everything you owned like Jordan Belfort.

If you are enticed to sell snake oil, rebill people for suppliments they don't want, and sell cancer curing calcium pills with a clear conscious, then go for it. These things do add value to people's lives. The temporary satisfaction of thinking they are going the right route.

But ultimately, you will have to disappear one way or another. Oftentimes sooner as opposed to later.

And is it worth it when the same effort and know-how can be applied to generating wealth without that risk?
 

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SlowlaneJay

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If you claim your product does 'X' and it doesn't. Then no, it's not ethical. The snake oil reference is ridiculous.
I wish I could agree with you. Several of my family members are quite taken with homeopathic medicine. They claim it works wonders.

It doesn't.

I don't like the homeopathic folks selling my family their snake oil, but it does provide value to my family, even if it's just placebo. And they're happy to pay for it.

But if you do, it will sell.

Then you will need to disappear when it doesn't work.

You can make $1,000,000 a week selling bullshit penny stocks. That's selling value (the bullshit promise of high, effortless ROI) without being able to back it up. Then you can wind up in jail and lose everything you owned like Jordan Belfort.

If you are enticed to sell snake oil, rebill people for suppliments they don't want, and sell cancer curing calcium pills with a clear conscious, then go for it. These things do add value to people's lives. The temporary satisfaction of thinking they are going the right route.

But ultimately, you will have to disappear one way or another. Oftentimes sooner as opposed to later.

And is it worth it when the same effort and know-how can be applied to generating wealth without that risk?
To answer the question of ethics, a good line in the sand might be "if you have to disappear afterwards, it's probably unethical."

Just because you can make a killing selling penny stocks, or snake oil, or w.e, doesn't mean you should.

If you lay awake at night wondering if what you're about to do is ethical, it most likely isn't.
 

Digamma

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If you claim your product does 'X' and it doesn't. Then no, it's not ethical. The snake oil reference is ridiculous.
That's not what I meant. What I meant (I actually wrote it, then deleted by mistake) is that the topic is not clear cut. Value is subjective.

Of course, there are no doubts that lying about what you are selling is unethical.

But how about when the lie is commonly accepted by the target market (see @SlowlaneJay's excellent homeopathy example)?

It is ethical for John, who considers homeopathy nothing more than a scam, to import homeopathic products, that people already want, to his country and sell it?

Or is it ethical for James to write about the law of attraction and wishful thinking self help, because that is what the market wants, even if he personally does not believe a word of it? Make no mistake, that market wants entertainment, not real solutions. So what's the problem?

In abstract term: you have a product but don't believe in it, should you sell it, provided that people actually want it? This is just one example of situations in which it's just not that simple. But it's huge in our economy. Brokers know that investing in stock is the wrong move for most people. Bankers know that debt is usually a bad idea. Pharmacists know homeopathy is bullshit. And so on, and so on.

Ethics is complex. Value for the customer is one thing, that same value from the entrepreneur's perspective is the problem. Sure, it's simple when you are asking to scam or not to scam. The real world is more nuanced than that.

Then of course, we can kid ourselves into believing that everything is golden, you just have to provide value. But make no mistake, that is voluntarily reducing yourself to the depth of thought of a goldfish.

I'm out.
 
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MJ DeMarco

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It doesn't.
How do you know? Or are you just knee-jerking a hypothesis?

I guess this sums up the big ethics question...

If I believe homeopathy works and I have my own testimonial to prove it, am I unethical for selling it? When you DO NOT believe it?

Then by all measures, I'm also unethical in the minds of any Slowlaner who thinks Fastlane is bunko.

[enter spinning head here].
 

csalvato

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How do you know? Or are you just knee-jerking a hypothesis?

I guess this sums up the big ethics question...

If I believe homeopathy works and I have my own testimonial to prove it, am I unethical for selling it? When you DO NOT believe it?

Then by all measures, I'm also unethical in the minds of any Slowlaner who thinks Fastlane is bunko.

[enter spinning head here].
Hypocrisy is the basis of all unethical decisions, imho.
 

SlowlaneJay

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How do you know? Or are you just knee-jerking a hypothesis?

I guess this sums up the big ethics question...

If I believe homeopathy works and I have my own testimonial to prove it, am I unethical for selling it? When you DO NOT believe it?

Then by all measures, I'm also unethical in the minds of any Slowlaner who thinks Fastlane is bunko.

[enter spinning head here].
In your book you don't say the nicest things about The Secret (something else my family is all up in arms about). But it's proponents will tell you it works and ask what knee-jerk hypothesis has you believing it doesn't.*

You don't believe in it for the same reason I don't believe in homeopathy— or a lot of things.

Personally, I don't like that the The Secret takes money out of my family's pockets. It confuses them too. Gets them caught up in wishing and not doing.

But is it unethical?

Ugh.

I don't know. Topics like this are hard to get clear answers to. But I think that's what makes them so valuable to talk about.

My family enjoys the Law of Attraction crap. They like homeopathy. I have one family member who is interested in energy healing and a whole bunch of other hullabaloo.

I wish this stuff wasn't sold. I wish it wasn't taking money from the people I love. I think it's unethical to mislead my family like that. But I also believe in free markets. If there wasn't a demand, they wouldn't do what they do. So there must be some value in their trade.

*I know you tested the Law of Attraction stuff. I've also tested homeopathic medicine. We've both reached similar conclusions.
 

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If you have to even question yourself about what your doing is wrong then most likely you already know the answer deep down.
I was actually enjoying reading this thread until you started trying to challenge people because of your 180 iq. Big deal.
 

randomnumber314

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I can tell you this, ethics won't likely be solved on this forum anytime soon. People have wrestled with it for millenia. From Plato and Aristotle, to Nietzsche to Thomas Aquinas, to John Rawls. But, there is a common thread among all the moral philosophers; good. Define what is good, and do that. To be a good person, do good things.

There's a famous conversation called the ring of geyges. Basically, put the ring on and you're invisible. The debate goes like this: if people think you're good, but you use the ring to manipulate and do bad to improve you're life, you won't be happy on the inside. OR--people can think you're a bad person, and you use the ring to secretly do good, you'll be happy knowing you're good, and people are wrong.

So it all comes down to what you want to think when you're lying on your death bed. Do you want to think, "man I'm a sleeze ball who's used people for my own needs my whole life." Or do you want to lay there knowing you've done your best to do good, no matter what people think of you?

I think people who have built empires dismiss criticism so easily, because they know, overall, they've done so much good that the petty criticism is just noise.
 

jon.a

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With everyone on here cloaked in anonymity concerning their businesses, it should open the forum to a little honesty in what you consider ethical behavior that others may not.

So.... how low would you sink?
Not everyone here is cloaked.

Come on guy's, 4 pages on doing the right thing, really?
 

luniac

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is it unethical for me to make free stupid casual smartphone games that get people addicted and waste their lives?
I'm not forcing anybody to play them.
 

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jon.a

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is it unethical for me to make free stupid casual smartphone games that get people addicted and waste their lives?
I'm not forcing anybody to play them.
Nope, just make good ones.
 

luniac

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Nope, just make good ones.
but who gets the final word on what's a "good" game.
I think flappy bird is a bad game, yet it became so huge the creator was making 50k a day.
Should popularity dictate ethics? that's a scary thought...

gamespot.com reviews games and almost every time they review a new game, there's a shitstorm in the comments section debating the score, either praising the integrity of gamespot journalists, or calling them sellouts to big game publishers.
 

Lex DeVille

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You guys know there's more than one type of ethics right?

Just pointing it out because I'm about to pass ethics/sociology after 5 tries. F*ck yeah persistence!

Utilitarian Theory = Ethical if it's good for the majority.

Deontology = Ethical based on why the act was taken in the first place.

Virtue Ethics = Ethical based on your character. Do you possess the characteristics of a virtuous person?

Relativism = Ethical is based on your cultural background. Is it okay in your culture?

Emotivism = Ethical if it makes you feel good.

Ethical Egoism = Ethical if it moves you closer to your goals / benefits you.

There's a lot of ways to call something ethical. But you know what's even more useful than pondering ethics all day?

Taking action and modifying your ethical approach based on the response of your customers.

To do that you need customers.

Get back to work! haha

;)
 

DennisDuty

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I don't know. Topics like this are hard to get clear answers to. But I think that's what makes them so valuable to talk about.

My family enjoys the Law of Attraction crap. They like homeopathy. I have one family member who is interested in energy healing and a whole bunch of other hullabaloo.

I wish this stuff wasn't sold. I wish it wasn't taking money from the people I love. I think it's unethical to mislead my family like that. But I also believe in free markets. If there wasn't a demand, they wouldn't do what they do. So there must be some value in their trade.
a topic I used to write a lot about is lucid dreaming. In lucid dreams, you are asleep, aware you're asleep, and have full control over the dream. This is good for practicing real-world scenarios while you sleep, or just goofing off and having fun. It's a REAL phenomenon and you CAN implement it willfully, with practice

A common piece of advice is: "If you feel yourself losing control of the dream, look at your hands, it will ground you."
This advice is both COMPLETE BULLSHIT but also COMPLETELY NECESSARY.

There's nothing special about looking at your hands, and the explanation behind WHY this works is BS. But.. it DOES WORK.. In dreams, doing something you EXPECT to work, actually works. It can be me saying "Crossing your arms stabilizes your dreams" or "whistling stabilizes your dreams". So long as it's something you EXPECT to work, it will work.

So... is it unethical to give this advice? If you don't give it, people won't have the tools they need to get results. But if you're completely honest with them, the advice won't work because they won't expect it to work.

I feel that the law of attraction is a bit like this. Some people DO see results, but not because the law is legit... mostly because the law makes it so they DO NOT GIVE UP long enough that the other stuff they're doing eventually works out.
 

LiveEntrepreneur

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No thanks. people like that give fastlane/capitalism/business a terrible name.

Always try to do what is right, even if it costs you money. when its all said and done, at least you can look back on your life knowing what you did what was right. I can't imagine the examples you gave would think the same.
Is it even possible to do 100% ethical in business? I mean look at millionaires and billionaires they screwed someone else over to get where they wanted to be? Great example is Mark zuckerberg how he screwed over his mates. Not say I would do it, I like to be as ethical as possible but thought it was worth bringing up.
 

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If you create value, don't lie, and don't force anyone to purchase, then you're doing ethical business.

On top of that, your tax dollars create more good than any of those asshats that say running a business is unethical.

It's as simple as that. No reason to complicate it.
 

MidwestLandlord

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Is it even possible to do 100% ethical in business? I mean look at millionaires and billionaires they screwed someone else over to get where they wanted to be?
I'm a millionaire, so I'll list all the people I screwed over to get this far:

Hang on, I'm thinking...

Hmmm...

........
......
....
...
..

There MUST be someone I screwed over! The Script says all wealthy people are unethical crooks, so it MUST be true.

I'll keep thinking and get back to you, I'm sure there is someone on the list.

End sarcasm.

In all seriousness,

There are unethical rich people and unethical poor people. Just like there are ethical rich people and ethical poor people.

"Wherever you go, there you are"
 

G-Man

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Is it even possible to do 100% ethical in business? I mean look at millionaires and billionaires they screwed someone else over to get where they wanted to be? Great example is Mark zuckerberg how he screwed over his mates. Not say I would do it, I like to be as ethical as possible but thought it was worth bringing up.
If you're living in a western democracy in 2017 you have more opportunity than literally anyone in the history of the world to make a shitload of money in a totally honest way.

This idea that you have to choose between being decent and being rich is just something envious people concocted to justify their own broke-ness. I had to listen to this schlock all the time when I worked for NGOs. It's as surreal as sitting at a table full of Macbooks in an air conditioned room, teleconferencing to people in 4 different countries simultaneously to talk about how capitalism doesn't work.
 

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