An Entrepreneur’s Poison

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.

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 134 – 100% TPR.

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.

Gawker, Thiel and Vengeance

Something happened in the entrepreneurial world that is so strange that I literally did a double-take. Here’s 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’ve 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’s a bit hard to swallow. Several issues surface with this situation including whether or not it’s right for wealthy people to use lawsuits to attack free speech. But that’s 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’ve 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’ve 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’s perfectly valid to take legal action. But doing so out of revenge or spite may not be in our best interest.

I’m 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’ve 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 are able to 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.

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 4 – The Anti-Bulldozer.

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.


Evening the Score

Question: I was royally screwed over in a business transaction. I want to get even. How should I do this?

Answer: You can’t. Revenge is a tricky business and can backfire in so many different ways. Of course you can always turn to the courts if you’ve truly been damaged, but that avenue is also fraught with pitfalls. Over the course of my nearly four decade career, I’ve been a party to a number of legal proceedings. And even in victory there was no real sense of vindication. Litigation typically drags on interminably; it costs a fortune; it’s a time-waster when it comes to legal discovery and trial preparation, and there’s something even more critical. Negative energy. Lawsuits are full of negative energy, creating serious barriers to creative productivity.

I’m not saying that legal action shouldn’t be pursued when warranted – but if getting even is the principal motive – beware. It’s human nature to feel angry when someone takes unfair advantage of us. We can then move down one of two paths. The first and easiest is that of victimhood. We’ve been wronged because someone did something unjust to us. We’re entitled to feel outraged and we spend time telling others about our experience. Been there – done that. I’ve also been heard to say, “Don’t get mad, get even.” But when I put it all in perspective, I realize that I’m giving someone else the power when I play the victim. So I ask myself, “Why as a successful entrepreneur would I want to give someone else negative power over me?”

This self-conversation leads me down the second path, a path that is much more difficult. The path is called, forgiveness. My approach to forgiveness does not condone the unjust act but rather the doer of that act. I have come to understand that not everyone subscribes to the same ethics and standards as do I. But I’ve decided that’s their problem, not mine. When I become the forgiver, I do not give someone else power over me. And I also get the benefit of staying in a positive energy flow through the process. I might not do business with that person again, and if asked, I would decline to provide an endorsement or referral. In the end, I’m able to move through the situation quickly and get on with pursuing my passion.

Life is way too short for grudges and the plotting of revenge. Being a victim is poison to the entrepreneurial spirit. It takes much more strength of character to forgive than to wallow in self-pity. As entrepreneurs we have much more important work to do.

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.