DiscoverBusiness & Economics

Feel Good and Do Well by Doing Good

By Peter Milewski

Worth reading 😎

A great series of examples and lessons of corporate social responsibility, with many insights for bettering oneself and one's surroundings.

Synopsis

The Secret to Happiness and Success

“Greed is good,” said Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in the iconic movie Wall Street. Turns out, greed is not good. Beating the system and amassing material wealth may make an epic movie plot, but in real life, greed is the recipe for painful economic failure for business and society—and working men and women.

All too often we are presented stories about extremely wealthy people who are held up as role models for a successful life. The truth is that wealth rarely guarantees happiness. This book looks to successful small and medium-sized companies contributing to communities, and the far-sighted corporate executives we never hear about who, while successful, are also happy. These are the true-life examples of corporate social responsibility that this book relies on to make its point.

Peter Milewski tells you why and how you can feel good and do well by doing good too. He passionately believes that these are the secrets to personal and professional happiness and success.

In Feel Good and Do Well by Doing Good, Peter Milewski firmly advocates corporate social responsibility: That companies should not only care about profits, but also about bettering the local community by ensuring proper working conditions, donating to charities, etc. "The goal of our socio-political system should be to provide everyone with an opportunity to be self-sufficient," he asserts, and "Business can be a catalyst for creating self-sufficiency."


I think Milewski somewhat underestimates the good that could arise from merely seeking profits, in the sense that it still provides the community with higher quality and lower cost goods and services, as well as more and better jobs, and he does not once mention Adam Smith's notion of "the invisible hand" or a variety thereof. One must also recall that also firms like Enron have presented themselves as a socially responsible while they were in fact operating immorally.


Additionally, I think his empirical statement about the Great Recession occurring as a result of "avarice, greed, and ego in the mortgage, real estate, and financial markets," is a misleading one at best, and would've been better off if had been dropped to avoid misguiding those who have not yet studied this event in more detail. In fact, even his next sentence sets doubt to that stance: "there will always be avarice, greed, and ego driving decisions made by people in power positions in government and finance." For if there has always been avarice, greed, and ego in these positions, how could they alone be the causes to recessions unless there were always recessions?


Despite these points of disagreement, however, I agree with many of the noble virtues Milewski presents, and think it's good that he rather seeks to advise companies to follow them than to force them by fiat through governmental regulatory agencies. Chapter 15, titled "How to Do Well Doing Good", contains a lot of simple points to reflect on in order to improve oneself and to treat one's fellows better. The book also has many insightful quotes I got a lot out of, such as Mahatma Gandhi's advice to "Keep your thoughts positive" because


Your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.


The title of the book may seem either redundant or enigmatic depending on who reads it, but as I've interpreted it, Milewski means that it is possible for people to both get long-term positive emotional responses (such as serotonin, rather than the short-term dopamine kick) and earn a profit, not only while, but also through acting out the noble virtues laid out in the book. He also has a short course on how such hormones operate in the first chapter in order to set the mental framework for how to think about the "feel good" part of the message.

Reviewed by

I'm a student whose interests vary between economics, history, politics, psychology, philosophy, and others. Economics is my favorite subject, and I have reading and writing as active hobbies outside of my academic work.

Synopsis

The Secret to Happiness and Success

“Greed is good,” said Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in the iconic movie Wall Street. Turns out, greed is not good. Beating the system and amassing material wealth may make an epic movie plot, but in real life, greed is the recipe for painful economic failure for business and society—and working men and women.

All too often we are presented stories about extremely wealthy people who are held up as role models for a successful life. The truth is that wealth rarely guarantees happiness. This book looks to successful small and medium-sized companies contributing to communities, and the far-sighted corporate executives we never hear about who, while successful, are also happy. These are the true-life examples of corporate social responsibility that this book relies on to make its point.

Peter Milewski tells you why and how you can feel good and do well by doing good too. He passionately believes that these are the secrets to personal and professional happiness and success.

Feel Good Doing Well


On my first day of school in September 1955, I walked through the doors at Sacred Heart School in Brockton, Massachusetts. My first-grade teacher was an angelic young nun, Sister Theresa, of the order of the Sisters of the Assumption. It was there my parochial education began with lessons each day from the Baltimore Catechism.

 

My lessons in morals began there too. Sister Theresa always told us, “If you are kind to someone, it isn’t important if anyone knows it. It is important because you did it and God knows it.” That stuck with me. Couple that with my grandmother’s wise advice, dear Antonina Milewski, who said, “Kindness makes you handsome, no matter what you look like.”

 

Classes at Sacred Heart in reading, writing, history, and math were interwoven with ethics and moral lessons. I thrived in this environment with my faith and Christian values leading to being an altar boy in the Sacred Heart parish. The parish priests were old school—Monsignor Richard and Father Martineau. It was an experience right out of the 1945 movie The Bells of St. Mary’s.

 

My Catholic education went on to include four years at Cardinal Spellman High School, where I learned as much about life from an economically diverse group of fellow students as I did from the good sisters of Saint Joseph. It was Sister Edwardette who reminded us, “If you can’t do anything right, for pity’s sake, just don’t do anything wrong.”

 

So it was here where minor battles over conscience and choosing between good and bad decisions began. I was introduced to the realities of the real world by my classmates, as well as given a moral compass by the good sisters.

 

The final steps in my moral and academic education occurred while attending St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Here I likely learned more from the bad decisions I made than I did from the classes I attended. Given the choice to go back and do it over again, I would have done many things differently.

 

In hindsight I would have made decisions because they were the right thing to do, rather than succumbing to peer pressure and ego gratification. If you learn from your mistakes, then college is where I truly became well educated.

 

As my mother, Helen, told me, “Everyone makes mistakes. For God’s sake, just don’t lie about it. You don’t have a good enough memory to be a good liar.”

 

Other than learning about life from these strong women, early in business I learned that trying to do the right thing is never easy. I also learned that if you try to do the right thing by doing the wrong thing, it usually doesn’t work out. Again, I learned from mistakes and hopefully became a better person and business professional as a result.

 

Now that I am retired from the work grind of full employment, I have time to look back on life experiences and lessons learned from listening to other professionals, reading books and blogs, attending lectures, and listening to podcasts. I honestly feel that I can share lessons learned throughout my life that are based in the principle of living a good life. I have developed a blueprint not only for living a good life, but also for succeeding in business.

 

I believe from seven decades of learning from teachers, classmates, coworkers, bosses, and successful people in all fields that the foundation for all personal and professional success is grounded in the principle that you can feel good—and do well—while doing good. Thus, the theme of this book.

 

Consider for a moment the collapse of the US economy between 2005 and 2015 that was rooted in the financial crisis caused by the meltdown in the mortgage and real estate industries. I worked for a state housing finance agency during that time. I witnessed up close and personal the pain and suffering of families losing their homes and people who were planning on retirement seeing their life savings implode in the stock and bond market crash in 2008.

 

I can say with conviction that what occurred was the result of avarice, greed, and ego in the mortgage, real estate, and financial markets. Fortunately we have recovered, but there should have been lessons learned. Unfortunately there will always be avarice, greed, and ego driving decisions made by people in power positions in government and finance.

 

I recall a great line from the movie The Big Short, where the character Mark Baum, played by Steve Carell, said, “We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking, but in government, education, religion, food, even baseball…What bothers me isn’t that fraud is not nice. Or that fraud is mean. For fifteen thousand years, fraud and short-sighted thinking have never, ever worked. Not once. Eventually you get caught, things go south. When the hell did we forget all that? I thought we were better than this, I really did.”

 

While this book discusses a model for business, the message in the preceding quote and its relevance to the scandal that rocked my church is not lost on me. The pedophile priest issues and the ensuing heartache it caused countless young children of Catholic families shook a religious organization to its roots. The self-interest of the church hierarchy created the same issues as the failures of most large businesses. The self-interest of the management prevailed over the welfare of the people they were supposed to serve.

 

I propose that there is a countervailing offset to the motivations that drive people to make selfish, high-risk decisions at the expense of others. Some people call it “paying it forward.” Others call it the “law of reciprocity.” I prefer to recall the lessons learned in a simpler time in the first grade of Sacred Heart School, when Sister Theresa, reading from the Baltimore Catechism, told us simply, “Love your neighbor, as yourself, for the love of God.”

 

In business it is a successful business model built on honor, integrity, and the honest commitment to create real value for your customers, and a fair reward for your workers and business partners.

About the author

Peter Milewski was Director of Homeownership Lending for MassHousing Finance Agency. His leadership resulted in this agency becoming one of the most productive and successful affordable home financing government organizations in the country. He is a motivational speaker and industry consultant. view profile

Published on May 29, 2019

40000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Business & Economics

Reviewed by

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