The Creator and The Copycat | Why A True Leader Throws Out The Rulebook

What can an individual who wrote the book possibly have in common with the person who only followed it?

That is the thought that has gone through my mind over and over again the past two and a half years each time I have sat in on a meeting where I have to contend with yet another unoriginal copycat.

The trappings of material success are on display everywhere. The designer clothes. The fancy watch. The key ring of a nice car. The tastefully done apartment.

Design by Author Dipa Sanatani

But when you get to know them, they don’t seem worth very much at all.

They’re too busy to live the life that they want to live. They’re caught up in distraction after distraction. When they are handed the true treasures of life, they quickly say, “I’m sorry, I was too busy to attend to…”

Never fall for the packaging. Stop, inspect and take a look at what lays within.

Why do you think these people display their wealth and their status so openly? If they were truly wealthy, they would be hiding their wealth in a vault and not showing it off.

Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs were not rolling around in expensive designer clothes. I am not saying that they did not use (and perhaps even abuse) the pleasures of the material world. My point is that the accumulation of wealth is not what drove them to start and build their businesses.

So, if we emulate their journey in the hope that it will get us to our destination, I must caution that wealth was never the destination. Entrepreneurs were driven to create and to actualise the vision that once only existed in the human mind. Wealth was a happy byproduct.

I’ve spent more years than I care to admit as an angel investor. My missus jokes that I am not an angel investor, but a business psychologist. She has even taken to calling me an ‘interrogator’ because I ask such sharp, painful and pointed questions. She also says I have killer instincts about people.

But do I?

When you are standing on the outside–observing, watching and looking in–you are going to see things from a neutral and untangled perspective. You are not in the thick of things fighting those wars and making those decisions. In the early days of our courtship, my missus even said I came across as impersonal and uncaring. It must have been a defence mechanism I had employed without realising.

As an angel investor I know that if the business tanks, it is the entrepreneur’s butt on the line. Sure, I invested X dollars and if the entrepreneur was lucky, my time as well. Truth be told, I rarely invested my time. Why? I was always aware that it was not my business. It is the same lousy attitude that employees bring to work.

As long as I get my pay check and there’s a roof over my head, “Who cares?” they proclaim loud and proud. It is no different as an angel investor. At best, I make an exponential return. At worst, I am back at zero. If everyone behaves in this impersonal, entitled and common denominator way, then we have no community.

And what do I mean by community?

You know, in the old days, we called it a clan or a tribe. It was a group of people who came together and stayed together because they shared common values, a common purpose and a common goal.

If the only goal we have is self-interest or self-preservation, then we are going to be deeply unhappy people. And we, the citizens of the capitalist society, are deeply unhappy people.

It is the impersonal nature of all that we do that locks us in a state of inertia and unhappiness. And everything we do outside of that, we gaze upon as escape from the lives that make us so miserable.

Just earlier this month, I finally made the transition from angel investor to partner in a business that I have believed in from the very start. But was it the business I believed in or the entrepreneur?

It was the entrepreneur.

Without the entrepreneur–the wealth creator–there is no business.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have kids and I’m not even sure if I want to. We say kids bring us happiness and give meaning to our lives, but I’m telling you–they can be the source of all our misery. They can be disappointments, let downs and leave you wondering, “Where did these little Devils come from?” The answer–that they emerged from me–doesn’t seem to make any sense.

The children of larger-than-life fathers can be so incompetent that you realise that genetics doesn’t hold the key to human potential. Neither do the resources that are allocated to an individual to succeed. Who knows why some people succeed and others fail?

I don’t have the answer. The truth is, no one does.

So allow me to return to the question I started with.

What can an individual who wrote the book possibly have in common with the person who only followed it?



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