Something happened in the entrepreneurial world that is so strange that I literally did a double take. Here is what was reported in the New York Times on May 25, 2016.
“A billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur was outed as being gay by a media organization. His friends suffered at the hands of the same gossip site. Nearly a decade later, the entrepreneur secretly financed a lawsuit to try to put the media company out of business.”
“That is the back story to a legal case that had already grabbed headlines: The wrestler Hulk Hogan sued Gawker Media for invasion of privacy after it published a sex tape, and a Florida jury recently awarded the wrestler, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, $140 million.”
“What the jury — and the public — did not know was that Mr. Bollea had a secret benefactor paying about $10 million for the lawsuit: Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook.”
We have all heard the phrase, “don’t get mad – get even.” I think this example takes the concept to a whole new level. Ultimately Gawker filed for bankruptcy, so I suppose that Thiel achieved his objective. Thiel claims that his financing of lawsuits against the company was about deterrence rather than revenge. But that is a bit hard to swallow. Several issues surface with this situation including whether it is right for wealthy people to use lawsuits to attack free speech. But that is a subject for others to discuss. The focal point for this blog is how we as entrepreneurs choose to react when we perceive that others have been unfair with us.
Undoubtedly, we have all experienced a time when the Golden Rule was taken out of the drawer and used to beat rather than measure us. And when this happens our first instinct may be to fight the injustice that we have experienced. Thoughts cross our minds like, “we’ll sue,” or “let’s steal one of their clients or employees.” This is perfectly natural . . . and totally unproductive. Of course, there are situations where it is perfectly valid to take legal action. But doing so out of revenge or spite may not be in our best interest.
I am making no judgment about Peter Thiel. But I know for myself that even a hint of vengeance in my persona is a very bad thing. Vengeance is nothing but negative energy which can lead to all sorts of undesirable consequences. Why take a chance on attracting illness, loss of relationships, financial hardship, and other unfavorable outcomes because we dwell in the negativity of revenge? Instead, why not focus on the goals and objectives at hand and deny the temptation to wander down the payback path? Rather than looking for retribution, look to use the injustice as a powerful incentive to succeed.
The English philosopher Francis Bacon once said, “A man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal.” In other words, wallowing in revenge keeps reminding us of our negative experience. It crowds out other thoughts and feelings that might be the new idea we need or the solution to a problem we have been seeking. The pursuit of punishment and retaliation keep us stuck in neutral and prevents us from moving forward. Competition is tough enough these days – why allow our competitors to lap us while we are stuck in the metaphorical pit stop of vengeance?
As entrepreneurs we fortunately make our own choices. Choosing not to accept the negative emotions that are associated with unfair or unjust treatment puts us that much closer to prize which we desire.
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.