Tyler is mad at Gilbert. Mad may not be an adequate description. Tyler is so livid that he doesn’t trust himself to talk to Gilbert about “the incident” for fear that he might end up in handcuffs after the encounter. I think you get the picture. Here’s the rest of the story. Tyler is an entrepreneur who has built a small but rapidly growing company that buys fledgling software projects and fully develops them into commercial products. Gilbert is a software engineer who has a terrific idea that he began to develop and talked extensively with Tyler about taking it to the next step. The two hit it off very well and a very close relationship grew over time. Negotiations had progressed to the point that documents were prepared, and a signing date was set. Then it happened. Tyler received a phone call late one afternoon from an industry analyst informing him that Gilbert had just signed an agreement with Tyler’s closest competitor, to develop the software. Tyler called Gilbert and got his voicemail. He texted and e-mailed – radio silence. Naturally Tyler feels totally betrayed, blindsided and embarrassed. Betrayed because Gilbert had committed the deal to him; blindsided because Gilbert hadn’t had the decency to call him first, and embarrassed because he heard about it from someone else.
You probably know the rest of the story. Tyler finally reaches Gilbert and confronts him about the situation. Gilbert says, “Tyler, it’s only business. I made a decision that I felt was best for me.” This only adds fuel to the fire raging inside Tyler and a long-term grudge ensues with ongoing thoughts of revenge and payback. And, at the end of the day this is the classic Entrepreneur’s Poison.
It’s understandable that Tyler is upset about Gilbert’s actions. But Tyler faces a fork-in-the-road choice at this point. He can hold a grudge for a long period of time and plot ways to get back at Gilbert, drinking the Entrepreneur’s Poison in the process. Or he can learn from the experience and move on. I emphasize the fact that this is a choice that Tyler will make. He’s in control – not Gilbert. As entrepreneurs we will likely face similar circumstances at some point in our careers – maybe we already have. Do we drink the Entrepreneur’s Poison or not?
On December 13, 1977, during an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, Lakers forward Kermit Washington threw a punch that shattered the face of Houston player, Rudy Tomjanovich. The blow was so devastating that spinal fluid was leaking out of the wound as Tomjanovich was rushed to the hospital. His injuries were life threatening and it took several surgeries to repair the damage. Jonathan Feigen’s 2018 book “100 Things Rockets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die,” details how Tomjanovich felt the need to forgive Washington who had apologized to him in 1987. Feigen states, “Washington could not have known that Tomjanovich had come to believe that holding resentment is ‘a poison’ people ingest needlessly. ‘If I keep those other things, self-destructive things, a part of who I am, I’m missing a good life,’ Tomjanovich said.”
Here’s the thing. When we feel that we’ve been wronged by someone else, harboring feelings of resentment and plotting revenge takes a lot of energy – and worse, it’s negative energy. This same energy could be used in positive ways that benefit ourselves and others. Someone I know was recently betrayed by a long-time friend. She wonders how she’ll ever be able to trust this individual again. My response was to ask if deciding in absolute terms that trust is broken forever is the best perspective. She asked what I would say to this friend and I responded, “The trust has been broken and it will take a while to earn it back.” Then we move on and live our lives without holding a grudge or resentment. It becomes the choice of the transgressor to rebuild the trust or not. Dwelling on the situation and replaying it over and over does nothing to undo what happened.
In our entrepreneurial world it’s extremely important that we operate in a positive sphere. No one can harm us unless we allow them to do so. Forgiveness is the key even though it may take time for relationships to be repaired. Taking this approach allows us to avoid drinking the Entrepreneur’s Poison.
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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.