It depends on what you mean by success.
One of the uglier but necessary aspects of running an entrepreneurship site is the constant exposure to all kinds of views and opinions, ranging from the helpful and enlightening, to the outright misleading and poisonous.
But one of the worst things by far that nearly all entrepreneurship publications do is imply that if you aren’t following a certain standard of success, is that you’re a nobody. Of course, they would never say it outright. But it’s definitely implied.
“Self-destructive behavior… gets glorified for no reason other than ‘Steve Jobs and John McAfee did it’”
We’re bombarded by admittedly fascinating lists of who’s the wealthiest, or entreps who “made it” at unthinkably young ages. None of this is bad by itself. Inspiration and motivation are as necessary as hygiene, and if you can find inspiration in the lives and success of others, that’s great.
But when you get into the whole celebrity worship deal, it’s when things start getting weird. It’s an unspoken rule that we treat celebrities – even celebrity entrepreneurs- differently from everyone else.
Financially successful “bad boys” are often put up on a pedestal, even when they capriciously and gleefully destroy the lives of others. Self-destructive behavior like substance abuse, pointless overwork and not getting enough sleep — and childishly bragging about it — often gets glorified for no reason other than “Steve Jobs and John McAfee did it”, regardless of whether or not it was relevant to their success.
“Take how people continue to look at The Great Gatsby and Scarface as examples of greed being good, even when the point of the stories is the total opposite.”
And because lifestyle blogs and magazines are all about telling us our chosen interests are OK, this kind of thinking is either given a nod and a wink or is outright condoned. It’s now openly acceptable in some circles to be terrible to other people if you’re a “successful” hotshot, and to value personal worth solely in monetary terms.
Admittedly, you need a bit of a ruthless streak if you’re to make the most of the opportunities that come your way. And having money does make nearly everything easier. But if the open-book lives of celebrity entreps tells me anything, it’s that money isn’t everything. It’s not even the biggest thing.
These observations aren’t necessarily new, and neither are the criticisms. They’ve been around since antiquity. What is interesting is that even media intended to criticize this mindset is completely misunderstood. Take how people continue to look at The Great Gatsby and Scarface as examples of greed being good, even when the point of the stories is the total opposite.
“…we need more people to think in an entrepreneurial way, because this is the kind of thinking that creates change in the world.
This warped frame of mind might be something we’ll just have to swallow and avoid when we can.”
This has given rise to a culture of what Inc Magazine calls “douchepreneurs”, self-entitled often self-imagined lords of their domains who don’t even need to be actual successes or even actual entrepreneurs. Visit any entrepreneurship site and forum and you’ll find the types of people Steinbeck described as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
Perhaps it’s a necessary evil of encouraging more people to have an entrepreneurial drive. If anything, we need more people to think in an entrepreneurial way, because this is the kind of thinking that creates change in the world. This warped frame of mind might be something we’ll just have to swallow and avoid when we can.
If you feel being a rich bigshot is the only thing there is to life, it’s your business. We all have the right to define what success is by our terms. Just don’t expect everyone to share your belief, and don’t be surprised or frustrated when you’re called out for it.
Header image from Scarface (1983) by Universal Pictures
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