You Can Always Make More Money, But You Can Never Make More Principle.

I can’t help but wonder if the man seated in 22D has witnessed me biting my lip over and over and over and over again for the past 4 hours.

There’s a cycle, you know. Bite, peel, move left. Bite, peel, move left. Bite, peel, command myself to stop. And then bite again.

He must think I’m one of those people who gets anxious when they fly.

I laugh at the thought. Somehow, being torpedoed through thin air in a 500,000,000 pound steel box that may or may not suddenly disappear somewhere over the Indian Ocean is the least of my concerns. Those kinds of concerns would be a welcome luxury; to only have to worry about the worst case scenario. Not actually have to live through it.

I grasp my hands together in an effort to keep them still. It looks like I’m praying. And, maybe I am. But not for the reasons anyone else on this plane is.

I’m not sure how many times you’ve been involved in a federal litigation & lawsuit, but a few things are bound to happen:

  1. Your eyebrows will instantly start sprouting (cruel) white hairs (not grey, not silver, stark white). You’ll have to take plucking to all new heights.
  2. You’ll have regular and recurring dreams about Judge Judy.
  3. And you’ll constantly wonder how such a painfully difficult situation could have been avoided in the first place. (And then make peace with the fact sometimes, they simply can’t—no matter how many good faith efforts you put into it.)

In a firm commitment to turning the experience I’m dealing with into a teachable moment (year?) for all of us, I’ve considered the vast number of things I’ve witnessed and the incredible amount of insight I’ve gained, and while there’s much wisdom I could offer (and likely will offer until I’m ninety, so buckle up), there’s one piece of advice in particular I’d like to highlight today. Something that’s so important for all of us to consider together, as I go through this very real and very disappointing experience on my end.

And that is this.

Ego is enemy.

Your ego doesn’t take the shape of a wise bearded man who waltzes around your conscience with a wooden cane helping you make good decisions—rather, it’s more like a bratty little frat boy running around with his hands in the air, knocking over the potpourri yelling, “I’ll show them! I will! No matter what it takes! I’ll have the last word!”

Who would you rather have governing your decision-making process?

Think about the people you might normally categorize as having notoriously big egos—who are they? Celebrities? Pilots? The entire cast of Jersey Shore? (I wonder about the genius who was like, “Hey—let’s put these scholarly individuals on TV.”)

The common thread is that people with larger than life egos often have themselves on a pedestal—and they tend to make decisions from that mindset.

Nobody tells me what to do.
I’m the best.
I can do whatever I want.
I’m entitled to _________.
I don’t need you.
I’m right, end of discussion.

They’ll just have to deal with it.
Not my problem.

This is a problematic mindset, and for a couple of reasons:

It’s reckless.
It hurts other people.
If you’re professionally obligated to that person, you may hurt their business, too.
And most of all, you end up hurting yourself.

Because there are people out there like me who won’t accept this kind of toxic attitude, and more importantly, won’t be willing to simply shrug off the harmful consequences that arise as a result.

I demand fairness and integrity. Goodness and reasonableness. Sincerity and honesty. And while I’ve discovered that those qualities aren’t always the default, I’m going to insist on them.

You can always make more money,
but you can never make more principle.

And I believe that, as we increasingly become more and more dominated by an internet-driven world—one where any Tom, Dick or Harry can put up a fancy website and feign expertise, our insistence on enforcing good-natured principles of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable as the pioneers of this space, as professionals, as business owners, and as good people—is our only defense.

It’s up to us to write the rules.

And just like the saying, “You teach people how to treat you,” right now we must set the expectations for the future of creative businesses everywhere. Deceit, deception and unethical conduct will not be tolerated.

If you ever experience a moment of uncertainty—if you’re ever in a position where ego & greed & desire may be conflicting with your sense of what’s “right”—I urge you to ask yourself:

In order to get what I want, am I able to act in a way that’s fair and decent—on behalf of myself and on behalf of others?

Is my position a fair one?

Does this feel like it’s the right thing to do?

And, most importantly: Would I be okay with the world knowing about this decision I made?

No matter how entitled you might feel, these are important questions for all of us to ask ourselves at every opportunity we can.

And I believe, with everything I’ve got, that this is one of the most important conversations we can be having right now.

Because while there will always be another shiny new object lighting our path, sometimes, the path we need to walk is the one that requires us to light it ourselves.

And with that, I grasp my hands together once more, bite my bottom lip, look up at the man 22D—

—-and push publish.

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