Meet My Business Guru: Obi Wan Kenobi
I am blessed to be married to my college sweetheart. Gabbi and I meet 23 years ago, and she's been with me through three startups and a campaign for U.S. Senate. Gabbi has seen it all and she knows me better than anyone.
In fact, Gabbi might as well be Obi-Wan Kenobi to my Luke Skywalker. (Note: She makes for a smoking hot Obi-Wan, in my humble opinion.)
Well, I’m a pretty intense dude. When I was a contestant in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Competition in 2012, they asked what one word described me as an entrepreneur. It took me about two seconds to answer: “Drive.” There are lots of people with higher IQs or more resources. But it’s hard to out-drive me.
I’ve found this to be a common trait among entrepreneurs (not to mention young Jedis.) Whether you’re a poet or a quant, your drive is what matters. The intense passion for an idea or goal turns you into a man or woman possessed. You simply will not be beaten.
What does this have to do with Gabbi? Or Obi Wan?
Awhile back, I was having a pretty intense moment with a work-related issue. As I was walking out the door one morning, Gabbi gave me a kiss and said, “Be sure to use your powers for good, not evil, today.”
All day long, I wondered what she meant. When I got home, we talked about it. “You almost always use your powers for good, not evil,” she said. “You were in an intense conversation, so I was just reminding you.”
I dug further. She was basically saying that I have a tendency to come on strong, like a force of nature. I need to channel that force into positive energy, she said. One way to do that is by working hard not to overwhelm people.
I never forgot that.
You may have seen my story about not hiring assholes. Well, that no-asshole policy has to start at the top. You’re in charge and you want to win. You believe that your drive can make anything happen. But that same intensity also threatens to push people away--whether they are employees, clients, or family members.
Bottom line: There is a danger in pushing too hard. Respect the opinions of others. Don’t feel the need to always be right. Try to see the other side of the argument. Get the most out of your people by treating them with the respect they deserve.
In other words: Use your drive for good, not evil. Don’t be a Darth Vader. Or at least don’t marry one.
CHIP PAUCEK | Columnist
Chip Paucek is the CEO and co-founder of 2U, an online education provider based in Landover, Maryland.