“Don’t You Know Who I Am?!”

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 stepping stone 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.

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 62 – 2300 Feet and No Ropes!

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.

The Last Word

My daughter, son-in-law and their brood visited a fairly affluent Sunbelt community recently. They saw a lot of luxury cars, expensive jewelry, pricey condos and homes along with some monster yachts. I asked my son-in-law what surprised him the most about his experience and his response was not what I expected. He had several encounters with obviously well-to-do people that were less than pleasant.

In one instance he was preparing to pull into a parking place at a tony shopping center and a man tried to bull his way into the same space. I witnessed the incident and my son-in-law clearly was in the right. Yet the man berated him for not ceding the parking spot. There were other instances where people were pushy, impatient and downright rude. My son-in-law is still learning how to take these kinds of situations in stride. Instead of ignoring the bad behavior of others he chose to retort with his sarcastic wit.

There are a couple of lessons here for entrepreneurs and everyone in general. One of the wonderful benefits of entrepreneurship is the opportunity to gain substantial material wealth. And as our bank account grows we may want to enjoy the fruits of our labor in the form of an upscale lifestyle. Long ago I adopted the philosophy that the “bigger” we get the more humble we become. By “bigger” I am referring to wealth, success, power and station in life. In other words, I would never want someone to identify me from a socio-economic standpoint by the way I act.

Unfortunately there are those who think that their ascension to the riches they have accumulated entitles them to inhabit a special place in society. Metaphorically speaking they think it’s their right to go to the head of the line. Graciousness gives way to boorishness and snobbishness. There’s a very simple way to combat this attitude and prevent it from happening to us. My formula goes like this – I look to the person on my right and the person on my left and realize that I’m no better and no worse than either of those individuals. And, nothing I’ve done and nothing I will do will ever make me any better. Our true bounty comes from within – not from external sources. How we treat others is far more important than the price tag on any of our possessions.

The second lesson is that of how to respond to the kind of behavior I previously described. It’s a natural human reaction to be a bit defensive when we believe someone is attacking us. We want to stand our ground, and perhaps we even want to walk away as the winner of the bout. Newsflash – there is no victor when we engage in tit-for-tat. Sarcasm or verbal jabs may produce a momentary feeling of vindication but to what end? Did the other person change his or her mind? Did we actually solve the problem?

How should we respond? After sixty some-odd years I still remember my mother’s advice to “be the bigger person.” So I’m pretty much done fighting with people. Instead, when I find myself in situations like my son-in-law experienced I say two simple words . . . “I’m sorry.” It doesn’t matter if I’m 100% right, I say “I’m sorry.” At that point the other person doesn’t know what to say. They realize that anything more is pointless and the situation is quickly defused. I can’t say that I am able to react this way every time, but it’s more often than not.

We have an opportunity to become more modest and unpretentious as we achieve more success in our lives. And with it comes eliminating the propensity to have the last word in confrontational situations.

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.

yacht

Pronouns

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 Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Team Trophy

Beam Me Up Scotty

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team because it was determined that he lacked skill? Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times in his stellar career. Winston Churchill flunked sixth grade. Elvis Presley was once told that his career was going nowhere and he should drive a truck. Authors Stephen King, John Grisham, Theodore Seuss Giesel and cartoonist Charles Schultz were all rejected more than 85 times before being published.

What do all of these famous people have in common? They all are or were extremely self-confident. Successful entrepreneurs need a healthy dose of self-confidence. Without it the chances to achieve our goals and objectives drop precipitously. We also must guard against misunderstanding confidence for arrogance. Arrogance is actually overcompensation for a lack of confidence.

So how do we go about building self-confidence? Allow me to share my experience with you. Early in my career I struggled in this department. I graduated from college at 21 years of age and immediately began working for the company I’ve been with ever since. I thought I was pretty confident when I was in school but in the real world I discovered a lot of self-doubt. It didn’t help that I was told that I was just a punk kid who didn’t know anything. This statement was reinforced for a number of years – and I let it get inside my head. Eventually I came to realize that with a few years of experience under my belt and some creative successes along the way, I really did know what I was doing.

Here are some ideas. Repetition is extremely important. Identify one or more things that you feel less confident about and do them over and over again. Perhaps it’s public speaking or maybe it’s interacting with lots of other people in a large group setting. Set standards for what you believe to be “good” or “great.” Try and consistently perform to those standards and when you do, congratulate yourself. Own your mistakes and setbacks. Resist the temptation to blame others or play the victim. When we focus on how we can improve and do things differently the next time, we build confidence for our next encounter in a similar situation. When we celebrate the success of others – including our competitors – it’s a demonstration of confidence. When we criticize others – including our competitors – it’s not. When we’re not afraid to be wrong, that’s evidence of self-confidence. Being defensive and making excuses is not. Being positive and humble are definitely traits of self-confident people.

Self-confidence can ebb and flow. Our goal is to be more consistent with our confidence. But just because we have moments of doubt or fear, doesn’t mean we’re losing our mojo. When we can take a deep breath and understand from where the doubt or fear is coming, that’s a way we can regain our confidence.

Self-confidence enables us to eliminate thoughts of lack and limitation and know the truth about ourselves. In so doing, we can shoot for the stars and realize our true potential. Beam me up Scotty.

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.

Scotty

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 Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Football Spiking