One of the phenomenon’s I’ve been witnessing over the past decade that really has me concerned is the attitude that hard "smart" work and success is somehow bad. In some circles, taking too much pride in your work and what you’ve built is now a source of shame. It’s amazing to me that even the current president’s on the band-wagon with is ridiculous “You didn’t build that, someone else made that happen” speech a few short summers ago. There's the notion that if you're successful and made a lot of money, you screwed someone else. If you want to succeed then there's something "wrong" with you.
AdWeek reciently printed a critique about the new Cadalac ad that asks some of the same questions I’ll be asking here in this post but from the other perspective: “Is Cadillac's New Ad Totally Inspiring or Completely Repulsive? Viewers divided by this guy's view of America” By Roo Ciambriello
There was once a time in my own life that being “this guy” (Neal McDonough) was “the goal.” This is who and what you were supposed to be, someone who picked a career and was driven for success. We were not driven for financial gain - that was just the added bonus – but for personal fulfillment. Being ‘the best’ was it’s own reward and everything else was only the icing on the cake.
Now we’re supposed to hate that guy while we’re trying to teach ourselves and our children that it’s not OK to be successful because you might ‘hurt someone’s feelings’ or it’s not politically correct to be too good at anything and be boastful. Anyone who is at the top of any organization is subject to criticism and public scorn. Business leaders and owners are now the pariah of our society – a step up above pedophiles but just below those people who won’t shut their cell phones off at the theater.
Anyone who is successful and loves what they do are suspect to others, it’s now the safest prejudice to have.
People love to bash entrepreneurs and CEO’s and lump them all together. There are also a number of folks, especially some of my far-left friends that love to bash those of us who started up businesses out of their own homes or garages because they (or we) aren’t playing by ‘the rules.’ What we’re supposed to do is what they’re doing and failing. We’re supposed to go to a job we hate, driving a car that we hate to work in a house that we hate while living with a spouse that we hate who are helping us to raise spoiled brats that we hate and are growing to disrespect us. We do this in the hopes that we get tapped on the shoulder and given the keys to the executive washroom in recognition of our long and almost endless suffering.
By starting our own business, we’re breaking the rules they live by and what we’re doing isn’t fair, thus we are fair game for criticism and too often I’ve been lumped in with the “villainous” CEO’s who are taking too much and aren’t paying their own fair share. if you have the entrepreneur spirit, to them it's worse than cancer.
Turns out, after examining what these people have to say about “all” CEO’s and small business leaders they don’t know what they’re talking about; which of course reminds me of an anecdote. A while ago I was sitting at a table in the cafeteria with a fellow droid “Bob” talking about how “Jack” the CEO of this company was doing a horrible job, that we were losing market share because of him and that the CEO’s job was so easy even he could do it. I had a huge smile across my face the entire time cause the CEO – Jack - was standing right behind him the entire time. Jack said – “I really appreciate it when our fellow co-workers” – he regarded EVERYONE as a fellow co-worker – “have ideas on how to make this company better. Please come in Monday morning with your best suit and take over for the day. I look forward to hearing your ideas.”
Flash forward to four days later; the Tuesday afterwards Bob quit because while he was trying to do Jack’s job, Jack was on the assembly floor and did Bob work for an entire week in just one day. In short, Bob obviously didn’t what the funk he was talking about, he knew it and was embarrassed.
If you took any of these people who think they could do better or that CEO’s or business owners and gave them the similar opportunity they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. They couldn’t hit the ground running. If I offered some of my critics the chance to be in charge of “Eric Fisk CGD” for the day starting the next morning – they wouldn’t know the first thing to do besides make coffee and check the email. Yet these clowns still think they know better than I do about my own business.
And yes, as a freelancer I get a lot of worthless and unsolicited advice from people who know nothing about graphic design, freelancing or running a sole-proprietor business, or even how to self-motivate. If you’re successful and make a decent living doing what you love to do you’ve some how cheated and you need to be brought down with horrible advice by these people who think they know better than you.
A good CEO or business leader is the one who steps in and makes sure that the business doesn’t fail and the company folds – if other employees fail at their job the worst that could happen is that a project might be delayed or that specific employee will be fired. If a CEO fails then the whole company serious loses money or fails. If a lower-level employee fails hardly anyone hears of it, but if a CEO fails there are news articles or even magazine covers devoted to his or her failure.
The same CEO doesn't demand a high salary, he would rather get paid a percentage of the profits and stock options who's value depends only on the performance of the company. If the company does badly, he gets paid nothing but if it succeeds he gets paid what he's worth. Asking for only one one-thousandth of a percentage of the overall company's profits makes him a bastard (or a bitch) and they aren’t playing “fair.” It’s not fair, because those are rules that nobody in their right might would take unless they were willing to gamble on the success of the whole collective.
There’s a reason why business leaders and entrepreneurs get paid so much – it’s called pressure. It’s the kind of pressure that average people can’t or refuse to understand. When the majority of workers call it quits around 5 or 6 in the afternoon many of us are only half done. I’ve stayed awake for 24 hour long periods just to finish a project and in the end of many instances if I had to put an hourly wage to what I’ve done it (hours worked for the money I’ve earned) it would be less than minimum wage. The compensation I get for great paying jobs is in compensation for the sacrifices I made in the past while learning my trade and craft.
There are some jobs I take that severely underpay me for the work I do and the people I work for couldn’t afford my real wage. I live, eat, and breath projects every waking hour until it’s done and the hours I charge are gross underestimates of the time I takes me to get the work done but I continue to do it anyway. I do it for a reason too many of those clowns can’t understand – it’s pride and ambition above compensation.
So I’m supposed to feel guilty when my wife and I buy a luxury cross-over SUV, or remodel my office, or buy the genuine leather reading chairs for me and my guests and potential to enjoy? I’m supposed to be ashamed when I take my wife on a trip to someplace tropical to celebrate our anniversary with the capital gains earnings from the money we saved and invested? Am I supposed to be embarrassed when I actually enjoy buying a new high-end server to service my client’s needs in cash? I don’t think so.
What’s going to happen we’ve gone too far vilifying people who either want to be or are already successful? What’s going to happen when too many of us want to stay under the radar and not achieve too much nor want to lead? How long will it take for our civilization to completely collapse?
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