If you want to take a path in life that will lead to spiritual and emotional validation and harmony, go be a Buddhist monk. If you want to start a business, be a sociopath.
Here’s the defining distinction of a sociopath, according to Web MD:
“A sociopath typically has a conscience, but it’s weak. He may know that taking your money is wrong, and he might feel some guilt or remorse, but that won’t stop his behavior.”
I’d say that describes the most successful businesses out there pretty well. How about the most profitable company in the history of mankind? Yes, Apple (AAPL) is a sociopathic business. They know that sabotaging their devices, making them difficult to upgrade and fix, and forcing customers to buy new ones every so often is morally bankrupt. But they do it anyway because morals and ethics can’t buy you an office campus that looks like something Darth Vader designed.
Out of the top 10 most profitable companies, we have four banks (who like to foreclose on families), a pharmaceutical company (“your money or your life!”), and Altria (the tobacco company once known as Phillip Morris). You’d have to be a sociopath to do what they do and be this successful!
What about the day to day tasks of running a business? A sociopath has a lot of advantages there as well. Especially running a marketing agency, you have to deal with rejection, betrayal, and anxiety. You have to interview a million people. Then you sometimes have to fire them. An emotionally attuned individual is not cut out for such things.
Here’s my problem: I’m not a sociopath.
I run one of the more successful mid-sized advertising agencies in Austin. But I still cry when someone is mean to me. I still let my feelings about people affect how I view their work. I can’t walk into a sales meeting and block out all the anxiety about production. I’m often overwhelmed, over worked, and I let it get to me. Being a stone cold psychopath (having absolutely zero conscious, according to Web MD) seems like a damn delight. I have to turn to content writing like this as therapy because I don’t have time to go to an actual therapist.
So until an evil pharmaceutical company manages to come up with a drug that takes away my ability to produce emotions altogether, I guess I’ll never get that Apple scratch.