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 Verdict: Not Guilty!

Question: Sometimes I have to make decisions that adversely impact others. Then I feel guilty about this. Should I have this reaction or not?

Answer: Guilt is one of the most unproductive emotions we can have as humans. Why? Because often it’s used in a manipulative fashion by others. As entrepreneurs it’s important that we not buy into the guilt game. Acting upon guilt may produce very undesirable results because rational thinking is often abandoned.

It’s relatively simple to avoid the guilt-trap. All we have to do is operate with integrity at all times. This needs to be an intentional process whereby we create a set of values for ourselves and write them down. It is these values by which we will live and by which we will measure all our actions. As entrepreneurs we have to continually make tough decisions. And sometimes these decisions may not be favorable for everyone involved. But if upon reflection we determine that we have been true to our values then our integrity is intact.

I refuse to allow guilt into my life because I live my values. Yet, I’ve had plenty of situations where others try to make me feel guilty. Sometimes it’s as subtle as someone saying, “Well, I sure would have done it differently,” to as direct as, “I don’t know how you can live with yourself.” I both cases a quick check against my values confirms that whatever the issue, I handled it with integrity.

The mantle of guilt is easy to assume unless we are well-grounded in our integrity. Guilt has actually become institutionalized through certain religions and endlessly stereotyped as in “You haven’t called your mother for weeks.” Along with guilt we often find its kissing cousin . . . shame. By getting us to feel shame over our actions or inactions, the guilters are attempting to coerce us into doing something that they want us to do.

Should we feel guilt and shame if we do not operate with integrity? That likely depends upon how far out-of-bounds we might be. An illegal or immoral act may warrant such emotions. But if our transgressions are minor in nature and we recognize our mistake as a result of back-testing our actions against our values, then what point is served by succumbing to guilt and shame? The more productive response will be to learn where we went off track and not do it again.

Clearly defining our personal values and living to them shapes our integrity. And through integrity we have no use for guilt or shame.

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.