Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Game

I watched “The Game” on Netflix with some friends this week. It’s an entertaining movie, but something about Michael Douglas’s character bugged me.

Hollywood writers like to portray successful businessmen as lonely, misanthropic creatures. Call it the “Scrooge” archetype. Of course, writers only do this because audiences lap it up. Average people like to believe that we have something that makes us superior to wealthy folk. They may have lots of expensive possessions, but we assuage our envy by telling ourselves that their lives are cold and loveless.

Unfortunately, this story is mostly false. In my personal experience rich people for the most part have abundant social circles. Success is attractive and successful people are constantly surrounded by family and friends.

Even rich people who fit the abrasive, nasty Hollywood stereotype have crowds of people around them who look past the insults in hopes to befriend them. You may think that you would never suck up to a rich asshole, but you probably would if given the opportunity. Do it well enough and you will get invited to their opulent house parties. And maybe your kid will get an internship at their firm.

Remember, there is no justice in the world. The universe doesn’t balance the scales. Having great fortune in one area of one’s life doesn’t generate corresponding bad fortune in another. And although being an asshole hurts your chances of success as a practical matter, it doesn't make them zero. Especially if you're incredibly talented. The talented successful asshole is common enough in Silicon Valley to be cliche.

There is good news, then, for us entrepreneurs. You don't have to give up your emotional and social well-being for material wealth. You can have it all.

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