I just read an incredibly thought-provoking book, and I am so angry—I can’t publish an article about the book because the author is one of those celebs who now is being accused of sexual misconduct, and I fear the backlash that featuring him in Bottom Line Personal would create.
That’s tragic because I think the book’s message is incredibly important in our current environment of extreme political correctness, where we spend so much time and effort trying to avoid insulting anyone that we are detracting from the business at hand—making the world a better place to live.
So I am going to carefully separate the message from the messenger and talk about being powerful and proud of it—an important message in the book Gene Simmons on Power, by Gene Simmons of KISS fame.
There is a swelling movement in this country toward egalitarianism at all levels, including economically. Gene Simmons’s question: Why is it shameful to be rich and powerful? After all, money funds the aid and social programs for those who are less fortunate…and the same money provides jobs to millions of low- and middle-class workers.
Somehow over time, in literature and the arts, characters who are rich and powerful, such as Scrooge and Cruella DeVille to name just two, are portrayed as evil. In just about every children’s story or mass-market film, there is a money-hungry, power-hungry bad guy or gal who everyone hates. The message: Bad people are powerful, and in fact, being powerful is bad.
But are we doing our children a disservice by teaching them that power is bad? Encouraging them to strive for mediocre instead of stellar in order to avoid being mocked for excellence? Remember “that kid” in class who was an extremely devoted student and yet was derided for being the “teacher’s pet”? I recall feeling guilty in high school because my grades were better than my good friend’s grades. For years afterward, I was ashamed of my academic successes because I thought I would lose friendships as a result. What a tragedy if we are creating a culture of shame rather than one of encouragement that celebrates hard work and success.
Simmons talks about how virtuous it is for someone to give his/her only dollar to charity…but how many more people are helped by the wealthy person who donates millions to charity or the CEO who hires thousands of workers? During recent years, when profits have been less than desirable due to pressures in the publishing industry, our leadership team has been proud that despite the many failures in our industry, we are continuing to help millions of our customers to have better lives and we are taking care of the families of the more than 50 Bottom Line employees, all while making a profit.
Before you ask, “How can you celebrate power when there are so many who abuse it and are truly evil?” Yes, there are. But just because some people choose to use their power for evil instead of good does not make power itself bad. Power isn’t about good or bad—it is merely a tool to help you accomplish what you want in life, be it to become a billionaire…help the homeless…or simply put a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your stomach.
I make no bones about the fact that I have been extremely fortunate in my life. My parents started with nothing…the entire family worked hard and built a very successful business. Bottom Line has changed and saved millions of lives in our past 45 years while also providing a nice income and quality of life for all who work for us.
That said, I have been embarrassed throughout much of my adult life. Not embarrassed because of anything I have done, but because of who I am—because I am the daughter of our company’s founder, and so there are those who presume that because I am family, I have not worked hard and that my income has been ordained rather than earned.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am still wounded by a comment made many years ago by a very dear friend who knew very well how hard I worked and how much my family sacrificed for the business when she “accused” me of being rich and presumed my money came easily. I worked harder than almost anyone at the company to prove that I wasn’t a spoiled boss’s daughter.
I am sad that I had to apologize for my family’s hard work and my personal successes. I am sad if others feel obliged to hold themselves back for fear of being accused of being rich or powerful. But if we hold ourselves back, how can we move forward? If the ultimate goal is equilibrium, there can be no growth or progress for civilization.
There are many practical lessons in Simmons’s book regarding work ethic, resilience, the importance of networking, the waste that is “free time,” the value of persistence and more. Frankly none of them are new. But you can’t use those lessons if you don’t have your eye on the ultimate prize—being proud of your accomplishments and successes. We need to believe, and teach our children to believe, that power and success are worth working for, rather than being embarrassed that we have achieved it.