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Posted: July 31, 2013

The selfishness of stardom

It's not worth it

David Sneed

Here’s a video in which Arnold Schwarzenegger describes how he won at bodybuilding. His best friend was the front-runner, and The Terminator screwed the guy with "wrong advices".

If you watch the whole thing, you’ll see what it takes to be the best. You’ll need to be ruthless, selfish and devoid of any concern for others. You’ll calculate ways to defeat the competition using any means necessary.

Of course, you’re gonna have to work hard, too.

There were 50 bodybuilders as big and toned as Arnold, but only one was willing to claw above the others to get ahead. You can always get new friends when you’re rich and famous.

That’s why you, dear reader, won’t ever walk a red carpet. Your success will be limited (maybe) to owning a small company that turns a profit, and possibly when you’re 60, you have a million dollars in the bank.

You won’t become a star. Not because you don’t have the talent, or the work ethic, or the skills, or the education: but because you aren’t a cutthroat narcissist. (“Narcissist” was my second-choice word there.)

The Trumps and Schwarzeneggers and Lance Armstrongs of the world have talent, and they worked hard, but no more so than a million other people. What sets them apart is something I don’t have. I’m not sure I want it.

Social animals evolved to discourage that gene. I suspect in other species, the selfish and greedy ones are left alone to die early.

Not us. Not anymore. Now we celebrate it, and we look up to them as gods. We’re teaching our kids that a success is someone who makes millions without working. That talent isn’t worth as much as self- promotion and doing whatever it takes to stack the Benjamins.

In one way, it’s not a new thing. Edison tried everything to ruin Westinghouse and his superior AC electric. The Wright brothers weren’t the first, but when donating the Flyer to the Smithsonian, it was contractual for the USA to always call Wilbur and Orville ‘pioneers.’

But those early megalomaniacs believed in getting fame while producing value for the rest of us. It wasn’t entirely selfish.

Now? It’s me, me, me. What can I get for me? Move the company overseas so that I make 10 percent more? Done.

You get the idea.

So as a business owner, or rising middle manager, you’re going to have to decide. If you want to be huge, you’ll need to ignore any instinct you have for humanity. Lie, cheat and steal your way up the ladder because we care only that you win – not how you do it.

And if you want, try this: Make your billions and become a star, then use a portion to get back some good will. Yes, you can buy a good reputation once you make it to the top.

Decide it’s okay to stockpile water during a drought in case the rain never comes; you’ll make a handsome profit.

Or let the people bail you out so you can start hoarding aluminum to drive up the price, like Goldman Sachs is doing.  Make your billions. Retire. Then show how good you are by donating a wing to a hospital.

But you won’t do that, will you? You’ll continue being a thoughtful, caring human being; a little person — because you’re weak.

I pity you and those pathetic children you’re raising to care about more than just themselves. I laugh because you’ll never be more than just a decent human being.

And neither will I.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

So what is success - material/financial only? Of course, as a liberal (much more than David, BTW), can I suppose that I do not fit Robert's ideal of a successful person? I am not a 1 percenter. Am I happy or successful, or both? Most of the time, I would say both: My husband suffered severe brain injury as the result of a car accident (not his fault). After 6 weeks in a coma and 14 weeks in the hospital, he required 2 years of extensive therapy. He is permanently disabled, walks with difficulty and can't drive or work. I could have walked at any time (almost did, truth be told), but I didn't. My business took a backseat and what was my life drastically changed. 13 years later, my husband is still at home and we put QUALITY in our life everyday. My business is doing fine. I am successful simply because he is. I thank God, not some innate, inherited, or learned sense of "success." By Vicki on 2013 08 05
I can't tell if you're joking. I hear you saying "I'm right about morality, and the proof is that I make a lot of money" It implies that 'might makes right' which may be where our differences lie (if you're serious.) I just checked and Mein Kampf printed 10 million copies. Is it a better book/philosophy than yours? You're quite funny if you're being satirical though. Speaking of profound truths, what about that Bible, huh? Sales through the roof. I wish I had written it but alas, I'm too Conservative and not old enough......(-: By David Sneed on 2013 08 05
Something I know about Liberals: no sense of humor. I don't need to sell my book David -- it's already a best seller in its 4th printing. And while there's plenty of my original thought in the book, I'll continue to quote the Dean of the personal development field because unlike you,I deeply respect profound truth and feel no need to impress you with my creativity. Obviously I have my own philosophy -- I wrote a book about success and over one million people graduated from seminars I designed and sold. That's the platform from which I asserted you have no idea what you're talking about. By Robert on 2013 08 05
Funny Robert. But good example. Attacking others to bring yourself up and sell books is the exact point of the article. Some people believe life is a zero-sum game and the only way to win is if other people lose. As far as philosophies go, Do you have your own to share or do you just repeat Nightengale's? If we never improve on older thoughts then we'd still be using the Wright Flyer. Thanks for the comment, and keep your chin up: be positive. By David Sneed on 2013 08 05
The inaccuracies in this are your world view. Example: "you’ll see what it takes to be the best. You’ll need to be ruthless, selfish and devoid of any concern for others." So Missy Franklin just set new records in Spain. Is she that person? You'll say no, she's an exception but ........ is the rule. Bull excrement. Earl Nightingale knew more about the human condition in his finger than you do in your entire body. He said "the higher you go in any organization of value, the better the attitudes of mind." I'm the one-percenter to whom you ascribe the world's problems and know what creates sustainable success. Sorting for sociopaths so you can write this mess says a lot about the filter through which you view success. Read my book "Living an Extraordinary Life." (buy it and further contribute to my ill-gotten, greedy gains in life.) You might learn something less cynical. By Robert on 2013 08 05
"Not even talking about the player. It’s just the person. Just the fact that he was willing to use anyone that got in his path. The closer you were to him, the more he would use you. It's just disappointing that a human being could be like that."-------------A former teammate (yesterday) about Ryan Braun. By David on 2013 08 03
Thanks Vicki for the Montaigne quote. I don't know if there's ever been a nobler one. Steven/Robert: Your comments are valuable, but slightly unhelpful. Is there an inaccuracy somewhere in the article that I've missed? OC and Soupy: You seem to have your head(s) screwed on straight. By David Sneed on 2013 08 01
Me thinks David is being targeted by a tiny number of tiny-minded "subscribers" who don't like that he is just a sliver to the left of the center line. Oh, and CB is FREE, so yes, please unsubscribe. Look at the money you'll save!!!!! By Vicki on 2013 08 01
This is simply a large, steaming pile of crap. An embarrassment for Co-Biz. By Robert on 2013 08 01
My company stresses integrity as part of the corporate culture. We are equally assessed not just on WHAT we produce, but HOW we produced it. That's unusual for a sales company. And I'm proud to be affiliated with it. At the very least, it helps me sleep at night smile By Soupy Sales on 2013 07 31
This makes me think about where the baseball commission stands with the hall of fame/record breaking entries with ball players on the juice. Are they still recognized as holding these records/stats? By O.C. Boyd on 2013 07 31
This was the most negative article I've ever read and I didn't expect itfrom this ppublication. If this is normal I will have to cancel it. By Stephen Felt on 2013 07 31
Ah, I am yet again reminded of the wisdom of Montaigne: The great and glorious masterpiece of man is to know how to live to purpose; all other things, to reign, to lay up treasure, to build, are, at most, but little appendices and props. I delight to see a general of an army, at the foot of a breach he is presently to assault, give himself up entire and free at dinner, to talk and be merry with his friends; to see Brutus, when heaven and earth were conspired against him and the Roman liberty, stealing some hours of the night from his rounds to read and abridge Polybius, in all security. 'Tis for little souls, that truckle under the weight of affairs, not from them to know how clearly to disengage themselves, not to know how to lay them aside and take them up again: O, friends, who with me have suffered sorry, drink cares away, for we set sail tomorrow. - Michael D. Montaigne, 1575 By Vicki on 2013 07 31
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