One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal

I won’t mention his name. He’s a well-known investment analyst. I’ve known him for about five years. We’ve worked together a few times. He’s very bright. And, unlike some investment advisors, is always excited to learn new things.

Recently, at a business conference in Miami, I congratulated him on recent developments in his career. (He’s been all over the media lately.) He thanked me and then, after looking about, bent towards my ear.

“I have to thank you,” he whispered.

“How so?”

“For The Pledge and Seven Years to Seven Figures.”;

“You read them?”

“I followed your advice and made 8 figures last year.”

I looked at him. He was nodding, smiling. He was serious.

He was grossly exaggerating the influence those two books might have had on his windfall. But I was flattered nonetheless. I wanted to ask for details. But we were in the middle of a cocktail party. A mutual friend was already approaching us from across the room. So, instead, I congratulated him and said, “Now, here’s another piece of advice.”

He studied my face.

“Don’t lose it,” I said.

He laughed. “I’m not going to. I’ve made millions more times than I can count. But I’ve lost millions almost as often. That’s not going to happen this time. My new number one rule is: Never lose money.”

Today’s Word: progeny (noun)

Your “progeny” (PRAH-juh-nee) are your offspring and descendants. It’s a pretty fancy word, so you’ll want to use it sparingly in casual conversations. Example from the dark fantasy novel Time of the Wolf by Elizabeth Harris: “Marriage is not the only estate in which one may produce progeny.”


 Worth Quoting

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.”

– W. Somerset Maugham


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Do You Need to Be Domineering to Be Successful at Business?

People who write about how to be successful in business can be sorted into two camps.

One sees success as a finite thing, a pie: To get a bigger slice, someone else must get a smaller one. The other views success as something less tangible than a pie. It’s like a field of energy with infinite potential to expand.

(In a book I’ve been working on for years, I characterize the first point of view ascontractedand the second as expansive.)

Hollywood generally projects the former view. Wealthy businesspeople are typically projected as tough and aggressive, usually to the point of immorality (e.g., Gordon Gekko). Some percentage of books on business present the world of business this way and even recommend the take-no-prisoners approach.

And I have to say that in my experience that’s the way a fair number of executives and entrepreneurs do pursue their goals.

An acquaintance of mine in the real estate industry – let’s call him Tom – fits that profile. Macho and assertive, Tom has built an empire when most of his market was falling apart. He’s self-taught and not ashamed to let it show. In fact, he rather enjoys rubbing his rough edges against his more refined and privileged associates.

Tom has his good points. He’s bright. He’s brave. He’s confident. And he’s a devoted father and husband. He is also boyishly charming when he wants to be.

But he can be rude when it suits his purpose, and downright nasty when he’s in a disagreeable mood. I have seen him belittle employees, harangue colleagues, and bully competitors. (He has never treated me badly, but our relationship has been entirely one of me helping him.)

I’m not sure why he treats people as he does. Maybe he grew up thinking that such behavior is necessary. That in the kill-or-be-killed jungle of success seekers, the end justifies the means. Or maybe he has a frightened brain and an evil heart.

If I can’t fathom his motives, I also can’t say whether his bad behavior has limited his ability to enjoy life. I’d like to think it has. When I act badly, I feel bad. I feel angry and then stressed and then ashamed. But I’ve not seen him exhibit remorse. He seems generally oblivious to the negative effects of his actions and even happy being the person he is.

Still, I think his approach to business is entirely wrong. It is wrong from an ethical standpoint. It is wrong from a spiritual standpoint. And I believe it is wrong, too, in terms of achieving his goals.

I won’t argue the ethical and spiritual judgments. But I know for a fact that it has hurt him in business. Although he is probably too self-involved to notice it, he has a reputation for being difficult and/or ruthless. And because of that he has missed out on dozens of very good business opportunities.

Just yesterday, he was complaining about the failure of some business deal I had gotten him involved in years ago. (Before I realized what sort of guy he is.) A very sensible joint venture had gradually gone by the wayside. “There was no reason for it,” he told me. “Everything was working. Someone dropped the ball.”

In fact, I happen to know that both his partners and his very own people had dropped the ball. It wasn’t a conspiracy exactly. They were simply fed up with him and tired of seeing him profit from his ways. So they slowly and quietly let things fall apart. He didn’t notice until it was too late.

Those who tout the “me-first, win-lose” philosophy of business celebrate its apparent advantages. For one thing, if you are good at it you can quickly bully your way into deals and situations you might not otherwise be able to get.

But on the downside, you create a lot of fear and/or ill will that can one day work against you.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Intimidation is a short-term tactic that ultimately fails you. People who “yes” you into victory today will slowly but surely “no” you into submission later on. Blessed are the meek in business, for they will inherit the easiest retirements.

If Tom were to ask me for my opinion (he never has), I’d tell him this:

Rather than beat up your employees and/or business partners, try loving them a little. Smile when you see them. Praise their strengths. Root for their success. Be grateful for everything they do to make your business better.

Even if they are mistrustful, they will eventually come to like and trust you. And on the basis of those good feelings, you will be able to achieve great things.

Remember: Humiliation is visible, but resentment is not. Your visible victories count, but your invisible defeats count more in the long run.

If you’d prefer a Jiu Jitsu analogy: You can begin a match strongly by using your muscle and speed. But as the minutes tick by, the stress of all your aggression will tire you down. And then your opponent, even if he is smaller and weaker than you, will calmly and gently put you to sleep.

Fun Fact

You can’t fold a piece of paper in half more than 7 times.

Look at This…