Chapter 3: The System
The Corporate System at Large
At 26 I already had 6 years of work experience between 4 jobs. The first was in the prestigious management consulting world, thereafter I joined 2 startups, and my current stint is at the world’s leading technology company. Unlike many graduates, I wasn’t subject to one career path or only to a few jobs in the same industry. This gives me a somewhat unique perspective as a young man in this world. At least, my ego likes to think so 🙂
Some companies have more checks and balances than others on the path to riches. In a startup, much of your fate is tied to your relationship with the founder and your ability to provide results. Revenue growth with margins is key. The bigger the margins, the happier the founders. In a big company, more politics and management of the system come into play. Performance reviews, team relationships, your ability to document and prove that you are doing a good job. Some companies (like Google) have a lot of checks and balances (fair scoring, reviews from different peers, managers and aligning functions). Others less so. But even with the best checks and balances, the game is played with a strategy for navigating the promotions and career ladders at large corporations. It is the rat race they want you to play. They being The Man. Once you are in the race, going around the circle, your vision becomes clouded and you become focused on the race instead of the big picture. Petty office drama, stupid emails from co-workers on Sunday proving to the team that they were working on the weekend, as if it was a merit badge for wasting time. The rats, having no other vision, like to compete with each other for small pieces of cheese.
As an entrepreneur, I have tried many different strategies. In a startup, you really do have to work effectively and efficiently, and you must have a good relationship with the founder. This requires having a good personality and also being results oriented. Suck up if you have to, but you must have some small genuine feelings of respect for the founders. There is no other way.
As an entrepreneur in a big company, competing with other people leads to dramatic office wars that drain energy and time, and most importantly, drains spirit. It drains your spirit because you are trying to accomplish something big without power, and sometimes this becomes extremely difficult when others also want recognition and power. Does the inter-departmental HR database, at the end of the day, really matter to you? No. It matters that you were recognized for it, and many rats will fight for this petty microscopic recognition. I have personally found that the best way to navigate this is to have a pleasing personality, perform the services required of you, and overall have a sense of peace and avoid conflicts. A pleasing personality goes a LONG way in establishing good will. A person with a pleasing personality can get away with being mediocre at their work because people at least feel good in their presence. There is no replacement for a person with a negative personality. In extreme cases, this person must be extremely hard working in order to balance out his negative traits with even more results and more hours. Even then, he will not be well liked and will create many enemies.
As a member of the “salary-men”, if you play the game right, you can move several dice throws ahead of your competitors with year by year promotions, if you are hard working, good at showing it, AND if you are lucky. Another glitch in the system is the transition from job to job. Each new employer will establish a new hiring rate for your services, and this jump is recommended by many industry leaders as a way to bridge the salary gap between small yearly increases and the big pay most people seek. Another is to seek a high position mentor who will assist you on your quest. He will give you opportunities others will not. However, you must be able to perform the tasks at hand, or his generosity will be short lived. For the gifted, sometimes an opportunity is all he needs. The ultimate glitch in the system is to create your own software. Your own company that you control. More on this below.
Another option is to remain one of the mediocre but pleasing personality workers. After several reviews where you do enough work so they cannot fire you, the managers learn to expect mediocre “do just good enough to not get fired” performance from you. Then, they sort of leave you alone, IF you have a pleasing personality and IF your manager isn’t a person with an ax to grind. Many good looking girls will receive this type of treatment, and older men who have worked their years, thereby earning an unofficial “tenure”.
The one problem with this path for the entrepreneur is that it makes your mind weak, and your behavior begins to mirror your low expectations at work. The entrepreneur can supplement this with activities outside of work. Investment group meetings, entrepreneurship conferences, going out and networking, and of course picking up girls, honing your social skills during non-work hours. Sometimes, the entrepreneur/PUA will feel like a god in a club at night, and then feel incongruent back in his office space. This is a conflict we struggle with on our journey. You are not alone. Entrepreneurs learn to do the job, hide behind the smoke and mirror, while they are working on their own escape plan to join the new rich and leave the matrix are the ones with the plan against the man.
Really intelligent people vs. Really brave people
One thing I learned is that really intelligent people do not end up being really rich. As a matter of fact, often the opposite is true. They never stray too much into poverty, as the current world lacks PhDs and computer scientists. But, they never become financially free. Ironically, their intelligence is their downfall. Instead of taking the plunge at a smart business investment or opportunity, they spend days working on all of the options of the scenario, when they should have followed their instincts or gut judgement. Other times, the math works out and all the logic adds up, yet they still hesitate. They hesitate not because of a lack of intelligence, but a lack of courage. AKA “Balls”.
People at Google often tell me, “it is too risky”, “I have a family”, “Yeah but I wish I could do that!”. At first I was shocked. How can some of the smartest people I have ever known not be smart enough to master their own lives? Over time, I figured it out. Intelligence does not equal courage. Entrepreneurship requires courage, and a willingness to challenge the system. These intelligent PhDs, doctors, engineers are unwilling to stand up in the face of conflict, they often resist change and risk and are often quite high opinionated in their own reasoning, finding no fault in their “logic”. For this reason, Trump is right. Entrepreneurs can very well compete with high IQ engineers and computer scientists.
The previous founder of my startup, who is also my mentor, never went to college. He had a high school degree. He started his own company and within 4 years, sold it for millions of dollars. He is now retired and after divorcing his wife and has a hot new girlfriend. He lives the good life up in Marin county. It was 4 years of hard work and a lot of gray hairs, he tells me, but it paid off. He is now free.
The way I see it, if you are an employee who depends on the bi-weekly or monthly paychecks, you are part of the matrix/system. It has you. Most people deny it. Worse, they are not even aware of it. They are so conformed to the structure that they cannot fathom life without it. In response to retiring young, a dentist friend of mine replied, “What? Most people working for years on end AW? Well. Just get used to it. That’s Life.”
The agents are managers. They are hired to keep the system in place. There are nice managers, but even so, their prerogative is to keep you working for the man. That’s the goal. The system must be maintained. Revenues must be made. Not for you. Do what’s good for the company.
People ask me all the time if I enjoy my work at Google. “It must be awesome!”, they would say. I would reply, “”I like Google. I don’t like work.” To be fair, there are your share of Google employees who work for the passion of it. I do believe this. I also believe that there are more of these people in positions of power than any other company I know. But most of these are founders or pre-IPO employees or high profile hires like Vint Cerf and founders of acquired companies, who already own fortunes anyway. They have the option to walk away. But they choose to stay. That’s real choice. Freedom to work, or not to.
Otherwise, most of us are corporate slaves. Management doesn’t buy into this reality, because in doing so, they are disloyal to the man. It stunts their own career growth. Some are good liars. Not liars in the common sense, but liars to their unconsciousness and subcommunications. They play the game and rise to a level of comfortable income. Nonetheless, many people increase their spending too, and with higher spending, they continue to rely on work paychecks to survive. I once asked a partner at a consulting firm, “Mark, why do all the senior partners work so hard? They all have families and they are all over 50.”. Mark replied with something I always remembered as a young associate, “Well, my young associate… (I was 20 at the time). People get more money, and their spending also goes up. Life changes. Families get bigger. They buy a bigger car, boat. Problems arise, and so their expenditure goes up. They need more money, and so they keep working.”
Those were wise words from a remarkable partner I learned a lot from. The key to stopping the rat race is to reduce your expenditures and increase your assets. Rich dad Poor dad covers this concept extremely well.
The truth is, most people are alright being slaves to the system. As a matter of fact, they like it. To me, the biggest risk is the opportunity cost of life worked away in the system. Society requires structure, and structure requires most of the masses to follow the paradigms that are set by the alphas. As such, the few of us who dissent must join forces. As always, the Internet will facilitate this trend in the near future. But, most people just don’t care, even with a free-will based system such as the world wide web. Some will even fight to protect the system. These people lack an inner foundation of self. They therefore struggle, and have, over time, learned to base it off of appreciation and recognition from their work. As such, you need to find your own will power and seek out allies who will join you in you quest to become unplugged from the Matrix.
At a certain point, once you are freed and have more assets than liabilities, cash flow comes in regularly. You can still go back into the Matrix, this time into a job you like. You chose this job. This is true freedom, because you are no longer doing it for the paychecks and lying to yourself that you actually enjoy signing the TPS reports.
Watch Donald Trump’s response to a reporter’s question of “what percentage of the population can be Entrepreneurs”. Trump remarks:
“In a (general) society sample I would say 1-2%. In this room, with the special audience (real estate seminar) I would say 50%”
Why this is discouraging
You’re going to talk to a lot of people who don’t share your views of the world. Most of them, actually. Many of these people are really smart and actually, may have more talent than you! You see them wasting their talent in a dead end job, trying to find meaning for their egos through useless meetings and relentless credits given to those that “work” the hardest. Try not to fall into this pattern of behavior. We have better plans in store. People have meetings because they cannot simply masturbate at work.
Why this is good
When you do find someone who is entrepreneurial, you will feel a connection with them right away. Most often they already have their own business, but just having this friendship will allow ideas to be shared. Also, the 99% of non entrepreneurs in the general population means that 99% of them, with a high percentage them being smarter folks than you, will NOT be competing with you. This means that the world is for the taking, and that that modern capitalistic model favors the bold, not the intelligent.
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