The actor Vince Pastore, whose character name on The Sopranos has taken on an unfortunate irony, bowed out of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice because he didn’t like the pettiness, the ugliness and the relentless bickering.
Trump was apparently rather nonplussed at this. "Every morning I wake up and go to war," he said with visible pride.
Do you need to be a warrior to be successful? Is the world of business (and especially small business and entrepreneurship) really just an unending war, with victory possible only for the ruthless?
Should the rest of us respectful, kind people who don’t think much of war just go home and hide?
One of my favorite Buddhist stories describes a monk and a samurai who meet. The samurai draws his sword and demands that the monk step aside. "Don’t you know who I am?" growled the samurai. "I could strike off your head with this sword and never blink an eye."
The monk smiled (in that maddeningly calm way monks have) and said, "Do you know who I am? You could strike off my head with your sword, and I’d never blink an eye."
There are different kinds of strength
There is a model, heavily promoted by certain marketing "gurus," that holds that there is only one possible kind of temperament that can support success. If you do not possess this temperament, you can subscribe to the gurus’ expensive product suites and they will beat it into you.
You must be highly aggressive, pathologically stubborn, with an ego the size of Mount Rushmore and a complete intolerance for points of view that contradict your immense vision. Any other personality type is weak.
The salesmen for this "business is war" model tend to use language like "sickening" or "disgusting" to describe people who operate differently than they do.
Tell that to the millions of successful entrepreneurs, business owners and heads of nonprofits who don’t fit the Ego Warrior model and have no interest in deforming themselves to try.
Of course you need to set boundaries and hold to them. Yes, you need some audacity. You can’t build what you don’t dare to dream. You will have times when you need to hold yourself and others to a high standard. You will need to show strength. You will need to be tough. That doesn’t mean you need to go to war.
There are a lot of kinds of strength. Slaughtering your enemies and scorching the earth is just one possible path to success, and not necessarily a very effective one.
Don’t let anyone tell you that your kind of strength is less worthy than another. The earth is a pretty big place. There are enough people on it to supply an abundance of customers who treasure what you have to offer.
(Bonus: here’s another monk and samurai story.)
Creative Commons Flickr image by mshades