Are You a Dirty Entrepreneur?

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by James Altucher: How
to Change the World (Or…How to Occupy Yourself)

 

 
 

The man was
crying in my office. He was interviewing to be head of sales at
my company. We made websites for entertainment companies.

It started
out differently. He had come in confident. He wasn’t tragic
yet and the mythology of all of our success still permeated the
room. “How come you are no longer managing [insert magazine
devoted to hip-hop culture that was funded by famous rap star whose
name started with a “P”]?”

“We got
big fast and then P stopped paying the bills,” the aspiring
head of sales said. “I loved that magazine. I thought I was
going to do it for the rest of my life.”

He was looking
at me. I didn’t say anything. I thought there was going to
be more to the story.

Then he
started to cry.
He looked down while he was wiping his eyes

“I’m
sorry,” he said. “I really wanted to do that magazine”.

I couldn’t
hire him. Not because I think cryng is for babies. I cry. But because
I didn’t want him to depress me. When you are trying to run
a company there are too many things that can make you cry. I didn’t
want my head of sales crying alongside of me. There are many moments
like this in business. When a story turns into a tragedy. When the
only thing left in a room is a fear that we will all die in a cold
prison, and it wouldn’t be our fault.

Everybody thinks
being an entrepreneur is like being Larry Page. You come up with
something really really smart (a new way to search every piece of
information in the world) and then people throw money at you, you
ride skateboards down the office hallways, you bring in the Grateful
Dead’s gourmet chef, you figure out how to make money six years
later, you IPO, you get rich, and then FINALLY, you get to hang
out on Richard Branson’s yacht and visit his private island.
Larry Page is a “clean entrepreneur”. Larry Page is
human being number one.
[See, Why
Are Larry Page and I So Different?
]

The rest of
us are way down on the chain. Being an entrepreneur is a dirty
business. I’m a dirty entrepreneur and always will be.

Another company
wanted me to do websites for them. A record label. On the way out
the door, the guy (an employee of the label) who introduced me to
the label said, “you got the gig, dude, this is going to be
great!” He was small, overweight, had written songs for a famous
pop singer. But was now a slave trying to figure out how to support
two sick kids and a wife who didn’t love him.

“One thing,”
he said, “you know that guy Josh who was sitting in the room
next to the head of the label?”

“Yeah,”
I said.

“He’s
the #2 guy at the label. You’re going to have to give him a
piece of each deal on the side.”

So I said OK
to that. I had payroll of 30 people to meet. I had my own mouth
to feed. I had a baby on the way. I believed I was an honest person.
But there are circumstances and the world is shaped into a different
maze every day. One day, I thought, I’ll find an honest way
to make a few dollars.

The man continued,
hesitating for only a second, “And I need a piece of each deal
also.”

I said, “OK”
to that also.

A few weeks
later I was invited to a party at the record label. I didn’t
go. Later I heard that some rappers didn’t like how Josh looked
at them at the party. They threw him down a staircase and then beat
him with baseball bats. I don’t know why they had baseball
bats at a party. But they beat him so hard he ended up in the hospital
and with brain damage. The record label gave him some money to cover
it up. I never had to pay Josh for each job we got from the label.

I
was involved with a mental health facility for teenagers
. I
was helping the owners sell the business. One day the CEO’s
wife had to be called out of our meeting. One of the teenagers
in the facility had shat and smeared her feces all over the wall.
The CEO’s wife had to clean it up. That was her job because
how do you hold onto employees if you force any of the employees
to wash crap off walls.

The CEO started
telling me a story after his wife left.

The CEO said,
“I was driving in a blizzard five years ago and had gotten
lost somewhere in Rhode Island and was trying to figure out how
to get back onto the highway.

“Meanwhile,
I was snorting cocaine non-stop. I was in a bad spot in my life.
I had six kids. My ex-wife was leaving me for another guy. And I
was running a substance abuse facility even though I was snorting
cocaine all day long.

“There
was cocaine all over the car, all over my nose, everything. And
outside it looked like a cocaine blizzard.”

Read
the rest of the article

November
8, 2011

The
Best of James Altucher

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