An Entrepreneur’s Shame

There’s an epidemic of massive proportion moving across this country at the speed of light. It has swept up the high and mighty – politicians, actors, corporate chieftains and many a lesser soul. Careers have been ruined and reputations destroyed. Why? All because of a pattern of bad behavior that is no longer being tolerated in society. Claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and racism are reaching a crescendo with no sign of abatement. We have officially entered the Age of Shame.

Entrepreneurs need to pay particular attention to this trend. We have an opportunity to do great things, but we can easily be derailed by our own actions. This is really very simple. We must be respectful of others at all times – period. We don’t make inappropriate comments to or advances on anyone else. We don’t take actions that could be construed as discriminatory of others. We treat others as we would want to be treated.

There’s a dangerous downside to the Age of Shame. The frenzy of accusations has created a lynch mob mentality – aka – Cancel Culture. No longer are we innocent until proven guilty. Now, convictions are swift in the court of social media. There are no trials in the current “me too” environment. We can easily become ensnared in this cycle unless we take extra care to avoid it.

Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Mark Halperin, Bill O’Reilly, and Matt Lauer all have something in common. It’s called arrogance. These men thought their station in life entitled them to boorishness and worse. This sense of entitlement led them to become arrogant and fostered a belief that they were bulletproof. As entrepreneurs we may realize a great deal of success. The best way to inoculate ourselves from arrogance is to remember this. The more successful we become the more humble we should become. It’s easy to develop “swagger” with success. I’m not a fan of swagger. It’s too easy for it to become an in-your-face gesture which in turn can lead to the arrogance we must guard against.  

We can avoid the Age of Shame and its corresponding pain and replace it with our own Age of Gain. We have much to gain if we do it right. We can display the highest level of integrity and model the type of behavior that others can admire. We are color-blind, gender-blind, sexual-preference-blind, and national-origin-blind. Our objective is to focus on pursuing our mission and vision utilizing all the talent that we have available. Once again, the simple calculus is that we are respectful of others at all times.

The notion of respect is easy to understand. When our team members, our customers and our vendors feel respected, they are much less likely to take offense at something we might say or do that could be misconstrued. In other words, we buy goodwill that allows us the benefit of the doubt. Harvey Weinstein didn’t get the benefit of the doubt because he was such a tyrant. On the other hand, if everyone we know sees our motives as pure, an unintentional faux pas may be overlooked.

Character really counts these days. Rightly or wrongly there’s a lot of judging going on. Walking the straight and narrow truly matters. Being completely honest isn’t just a hallmark – it’s absolutely necessary to survive in the current environment. Keeping our reputation intact is essential to navigating the minefield of shameful accusations and hyper-reactions that we are witnessing daily.

When we are respectful of others at all times, we are less likely to be a casualty in the culture war that is raging. In so doing, we can sleep at night without worrying about the consequences that we might otherwise face.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The “Do You Know Who I Am?” Entrepreneur

The actor, Alec Baldwin, purportedly was riding his bike the wrong way near Union Square in New York and was stopped by police officers. After uttering some profanities, he produced this gem, “Don’t you know who I am?” We’ve all heard this before. Someone isn’t getting his or her way and so they play the “Don’t you know who I am” card. This statement is reflective of the ultimate entitlement mentality. Entrepreneurs are often on the road to success – sometimes in a big way. This success may lead to wealth, fame, and power. What it doesn’t produce is entitlement.

Let’s define entitlement a bit more clearly. There are certain circumstances where entitlement is perfectly legitimate. For example, suppose we pay through the nose to fly first class on an airline. There are perks that inure to our benefit when we pay extra for them. Similarly, if we pay a premium for a luxury automobile, there will likely be some special treatment that we receive at the dealership when we arrive for service. Again, we are entitled to this special treatment because we paid for it.

Now, contrast this with the guy who always parks his luxury car in a “no parking” zone. Or the woman in an expensive mink coat who cuts in line at the grocery store or the theater. Or in 2009 when a young woman ordered a hamburger in a fast-food restaurant and upon asking her name for the order, she replied to the server, “You don’t recognize me? I’m Miley Cyrus!” I don’t know about you, but I cringe when I witness this kind of behavior. This type of entitlement mentality is not the legitimate kind.

As leaders we’re role models whether we like it or not. Our team members are watching every move we make. If we happen to be in the public eye, there are many more eyeballs and ears that are taking notice of everything we are doing and saying. Oh, and they are judging us AND our organization at the same time. It’s one thing to have a great deal of self-confidence and assertiveness – this is entirely necessary to succeed in today’s rough and tumble world of commerce. But the line is crossed when that self-confidence and assertiveness becomes boorish, arrogant, and aggressive.

The whole issue is one of self-esteem. The way we see ourselves comes from within and not from the outer. It’s probably no secret that people who are shoving their fame, fortune, or power in the face of others, are acting from a feeling of low self-esteem. Sometimes the resulting sense of misplaced entitlement leads to destructive actions such as heaving drinking, drug use, gambling, extramarital affairs, and other sorts of outrageous behaviors.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving a luxury automobile, wearing expensive jewelry, and clothing, or being on a magazine cover. It’s how we feel about ourselves and how we treat others that matters most. Country singer Dolly Parton is one of the nicest and most humble mega-stars on the planet. Soccer star David Beckham is super polite, and actress Jennifer Lawrence is known for being very down-to-earth and easy to work with. There’s no doubt that all three are members of the rich and famous class. And yet they aren’t overcompensating for their insecurities (and they may not have any) by displaying an attitude of entitlement. They, and many others like them are gracious and put others first.

Our station in life is not a rung on a ladder. Instead, it’s simply a steppingstone that is part of a long and winding journey. Each of us is on a similar journey. When we offer a helping hand to others our lives are enriched.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Asshole Self-Test

We entrepreneurs have some interesting personality traits. Many of us are particularly hard-charging. We are generally assertive and often have aggressive tendencies as well. Other descriptors might include a high sense of urgency, a less than accommodating nature and low empathy. We’re on a mission and we have no time to waste. We don’t have time for nonsense, and no patience for incompetence or perceived laziness. Here’s the danger with this combination of behaviors. We can sometimes become total, unadulterated assholes.

Some entrepreneurs wear this moniker as a badge of honor. I don’t and I’ll bet you don’t want to either. Unfortunately we may be in a position where our colleagues aren’t comfortable pointing out our “assholeness.” So, here’s an Asshole Self-Test that we can perform to make certain we aren’t becoming one.

  1. Do I berate people – especially in front of others? This is an easy one. Assholes in this category can be screamers. They have a hair trigger and are easily infuriated. Rather than calmly having a conversation to solve the problem, they become loud and personalize their displeasure. Everyone who witnesses an incident like this wants to sink through the floor – whether they are the focus of the asshole’s ire or not.
  2. Do I ignore people and fail to show sufficient appreciation? Assholes are ingrates. People do things for them without as much as a please or a thank-you. They have an entitlement mentality and can totally ignore those around them. Other accurate terms are self-centered and self-absorbed.
  3. Am I overly demanding and unreasonable with my expectations? There’s nothing wrong with pushing our team to excel. Stretch goals are fine and can be quite healthy. Assholes go above and beyond in this category – way beyond. Think about the boss that demands that his team work late on Friday night and all weekend to complete a project – but he goes home early and is nowhere to be found all weekend.
  4. Am I a backstabber? Backstabbers are sweet to our faces and then say and do terrible things behind our backs. Joe says to Tony, “I think you did a great job landing the Acme contract!” Then later he says to Isabel, “Tony got all the credit for the Acme contract, but he really didn’t have to work very hard to land it.” Why can’t Joe be gracious and have praise for Tony when he’s talking to Isabel and others?
  5. Am I insulting? Assholes seem to enjoy being mean and insulting. They make snide and cutting remarks. They run people down and tend to be cynical, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. I used to watch Don Imus on television. He had a morning show that could be pretty funny. But he was one of the most insulting characters I’ve ever seen. He had no filter whatsoever and didn’t seem to care whether he hurt someone’s feelings with his comments.
  6. Do I take credit for the accomplishments of others? The best entrepreneurial leaders are quick to celebrate the accomplishments of their team members. They are gracious and acknowledge the contributions of others. Assholes will take credit for every positive result that occurs and point fingers at others when something less than positive happens.
  7. Am I condescending, rude and arrogant? The late Leona Helmsley was a wealthy real estate magnate in New York. She was known as the Queen of Mean and her infamous statement has become the national anthem for assholes, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Do I think I’m better than everyone else and do I let others know?
  8. Am I conniving and constantly on the lookout for ways to screw other people? Yeah, you know the type. This person is always scheming and not in a nice way. A common statement might be, “You’ll never believe what I pulled off! I spoke with an ex-employee of our closest competitor and found out that the CEO has cancer. I dropped the hint to one of their customers that the company might be in trouble if the CEO has to step down. I think they are going to move their business to us!” There’s going to be a special seat at the table for this guy in a very warm place one of these days!

Well, how did you do? Thankfully assholes are few and far between and they are easy to spot. As we strive to build our organizations it’s always smart to beware of asshole tendencies that can creep into our behavior. When this begins to occur we need to immediately come to a screeching halt, turn around and run as fast as we can in the other direction.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 74 – Trust Me.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


Do you remember English class? We learned about modifiers, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs and dangling participles. Diagramming sentences was a daily occurrence and understanding predicates and prepositions wasn’t far behind. And how about the way we got down in the weeds with relative clauses and rolled in the mud with non-defining or non-essential clauses? But my all-time favorite exercise in phonology involved the schwa. Which brings us to pronouns.

Pronouns are a major element of entrepreneurship. As peculiar as this may sound you’ll soon understand how very true this statement is. The next paragraph is a montage of snippets from speeches given by a very famous entrepreneur who happens to be running for president. Move past any ideological dispute you may have with this individual – that’s not the point. Instead, pay attention to the language and in particular, the pronoun usage.

“I have lobbyists. I have lobbyists who can produce for me. I have so many websites. I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a website. It costs me $3. I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I’ll bring back jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs, and I’ll bring back our money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich. I am a nice person. I give a lot of money away to charities and other things. I think I’m actually a very nice person. I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job. I’ve employed tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. I’m proud of my net worth. I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

I’ve selected these quotes because they overdramatize the point I’m trying to make. Notice the manner in which pronouns are used. This particular entrepreneur speaks in what I call I, Me and My language. I, Me and My language can sound arrogant and insensitive, and likely reflects the way a person thinks. Gracious and humble people don’t speak this way. They realize that it takes a team filled with talented people to succeed.

There is an alternative language that can be spoken by entrepreneurs. It’s called the We, Our and Us language. It recognizes the collective efforts and contributions of many. I’ve been working to perfect this language for many years and it has made me very much aware of how easy it is to slip into I, Me and My. Whenever I write a memo or an e-mail, I always review it before sending to replace the references to I, me and my, with we, our and us. I have come to realize how this simple act is an acknowledgement of others. And the more I write this way, the more I tend to speak this way as well. Ultimately, writing and speaking leads to thinking in this language which completes the conversion.

The entrepreneurial pronouns of we, our and us help build strong and positive relationships with others. Spreading the credit through inclusive language generates more goodwill than any amount of money could buy.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Team Trophy

The Circle

Question: Giving it away makes me feel good. But I’m told that being able to receive is just as important. I don’t get it.

Answer: I will confess at the outset that this is not my strong suit. Part of my personal growth is learning how to receive. I love to give of my time, talent and treasure but it feels weird in some instances when I’m put in a position of receiving. I’ve wondered if for some reason this has something to do with my feelings of self-worth. For some this could be an issue, but for me I don’t think it is the reason as much as my upbringing. My parents taught me to be humble and not draw attention to myself. They modeled this for my sister and me and we learned it well. But it has resulted in my struggle with being on the receiving end.

I can tell you that the “old tapes” are playing in my head big-time when I receive an unexpected gift. And when I receive recognition of some sort I often feel a bit embarrassed. Contrast this with how I feel when I give to others – even if it’s anonymously. Now that’s a real high for me!

Here’s something important that I’ve discovered about giving. Receiving completes the circle. And when we fail to receive with the proper mindset, we’re creating a blockage for the good things that are destined to come to us. Confused? I’ve said over and over that the more we give the more we receive – it’s just the way it works. And yet, if we have trouble receiving then how do we realize our good? I think part of my problem with this has been that I have a false concern that others might view the way I receive as arrogance or braggadocio. The lesson I’m learning is that if we receive our good in a humble and appreciative manner and properly express our heartfelt gratitude then our integrity remains intact. And we always must remember that when we give, we do so without any quid pro quo expectations. We give from our hearts. But we know that we will receive – something, sometime and somewhere – in bigger and better ways than we can ever imagine.

Giving and receiving is one of life’s endless circles. By being able to embrace receiving as much as we do giving helps us to complete that circle over and over.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


Spike It

Question: I see people who appear to be very successful that have very large egos. How much ego is too much?

Answer: I remember one of the best football players to ever play the game was Marcus Allen. He was a running back for the Oakland Raiders and later, the Kansas City Chiefs. Every time he scored a touchdown (145 of them) he simply handed the ball to the referee and trotted off the field. I never saw him spike the ball in the end zone or do some sort of “look at me” dance that is so prevalent today. It seems like professional athletes in most sports celebrate in ways that may indicate ego issues.

Perhaps ego displays in the business world don’t equal the level that we see on the gridiron or hardwood courts, but they are on display nonetheless. There are those who will say that this is really about demonstrating one’s pride. Nilton Bonder, a Brazilian rabbi said this, “Many people believe that humility is the opposite of pride, when, in fact, it is a point of equilibrium. The opposite of pride is actually a lack of self-esteem.”

Have you heard the term “ego drive?” Ego drive has been defined as the inner need to persuade others as a means of gaining personal gratification. It’s all about getting someone else to say “yes” and the satisfaction derived from this act. Ego drive is generally a healthy trait as opposed to egotism which is closely related to narcissism.

I’ve always believed that the “bigger” you become the more humble you should be. With success comes the need for less arrogance; less pomposity; more sensitivity and more empathy. Here’s a small way you can practice this. Every time you compose an e-mail or verbally speak to someone else, see how often you can eliminate the reference to “I” and “my” and replace them with “we” and “us.” The more we can think in terms of crediting others with helping us achieve success the more humility we gain.

To the extent that we can be comfortable with who we are on the inside, the more likely it is that we will become a genuinely humble person. And at that point the respect and admiration of others will come naturally and effortlessly because it will have been truly earned.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Football Spiking


Question: Someone told me that arrogance and complacency are one in the same. How does one avoid falling into this trap?

Answer: Here’s my challenge to you and everyone – entrepreneur or not. What are you doing today that makes you better than you were yesterday? This is a beautifully simple calculus. Take a look at your life. Do you have a purposeful intent to improve yourself every single day that you walk on this planet? Do we want to waste one precious day of our lives failing to do so?

Purposeful intent is the key to continual improvement. To get started, make an appointment with yourself to catalog the various aspects of your life that you would like to improve – personally and professionally. This needs to be a substantive process driven by a sufficient dose of introspection and reflection. Then spend a moment when you get out of bed each morning and identify at least one thing you will do to move the improvement needle in those key areas you contemplated.  

Do you feel as though you are at the top of your game? Are you a success in your business? You can do better. Are you successful at being a parent? You can do better. Consider this sports metaphor. Suppose we participate on a football team that has an undefeated season and wins the national championship. We might assume that we have reached the mountaintop. But, did we win every game by keeping the other team from scoring a single point? Probably not. So, we can do better. If we actually did accomplish a shutout against every team, did we score a touchdown on every single play we ran during every game of the season? If not, we can do better. You see, there’s always another step we can take to be better and do better.

When we settle for what we have achieved we may become a victim of our own success. We all know that whether in sports or business, teams that rest on their laurels eventually lose. The same is true with life. As long as we sincerely aspire to always do better, our success will continue for improvement is the mortal enemy of complacency. Thus, we’ll remain undefeated if we maintain an attitude of “I can always do better.”

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.