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Can You Earn a Million Dollars Honestly?

million dollars

Is Ben Franklin congratulating you or judging you?

You may have heard this quote from William Jennings Bryan, “No one can earn a million dollars honestly.” It’s quite a bold statement to make. Millionaires across the globe might take more offense to such an accusation…if only they weren’t already too busy enjoying their lavish vacations and  luxurious lifestyles. Joking aside, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the idea of whether or not you can earn a million dollars honestly. As a business owner and an aspiring millionaire (I can dream), I worry that such a big income carries an even bigger price tag. Must we compromise our values or risk selling ourselves short in pursuit of those six zeroes?

Earning a million dollars is something many of us will do over a lifetime. Spread out over years of work, it won’t make you a millionaire and – in this economy – it won’t afford you that stereotypical millionaire lifestyle either. My concern is that during our years of chasing after a healthy income, can we do so honestly or will we inevitably contradict some aspect of our business moral code? Here are two key instances in which I feel like though the money is “earned” it is not earned honestly.

Are you selling yourself short?

In an effort to sell as much as you can of your products, services or time, sometimes what you’re actually doing best is selling yourself short. You must always maintain a value for your time otherwise you risk giving it away for far too cheap or wasting it completely. For example, in an effort to gain a client, you may lower your prices. You may make that immediate sale, but you actually lose money in the long run with the opportunity cost of a future client that’s willing to pay you market value. I find this to be one of those instances in which the money earned here isn’t quite “honest.” Sure it’s in your bank account, but you’re left with a time deficit for what you’ve invested versus what you were paid. One way or another, you will have to reconcile this imbalance in your business ledger.

Are you doing a disservice to others?

I talked about selling ourselves short, but what about selling our clients short? This is another instance in which money is not quite earned honestly. For example, if you overcharge for your services, overbook your time or over promise your results all in an effort to earn a greater income, this is not money earned honestly. It is also a disservice to the client as much as it is to your business for they’re not likely to return to you in the future. You may have earned a small profit from them now, but in the long run you have missed out on a growing relationship and bigger opportunities.

I do believe that a million dollars (or more or less) can be earned honestly. But to do so, we must remain aware of the temptations that exist to cut corners or rush along the natural process of increasing our earning potential. This is no easy feat as dishonesty can be cleverly hidden or attractively wrapped inside good intentions. However, if we approach every decision and every client with the same level of integrity, we just might someday join the ranks of honest millionaires.

 
 

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Technology & Honesty: Hiding Behind A Mask?

prom masquerade social media maskOscar Wilde was once quoted as saying, “Man is least himself when he walks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” It seems that even back when “text” was what made up a novel and a “tweet” was the sound of a bird; we have always felt most comfortable fully expressing ourselves, truthfully and confidently, behind a mask. The masks we have to choose from today are aplenty. Some of us find masks to wear for only a few hours a day, for others its part of our job, but with the ever increasing use of technology and social media—the most interesting masks are the ones in which people choose to wear every time they communicate with the online world.

More and more I prefer email communication over any other. I like the shield it creates between direct communication like a phone call or a face-to-face meeting where immediate responses are expected. Email provides me with the luxury of answering requests at my own pace and on my own time. It also gives me a paper trail of conversations that is much easier to search and recall than anything merely spoken. I don’t argue that there are times where a quick phone call can clear up what would have become a lengthy email chain of confusion or that a sit-down meeting can easily knock off a laundry list of tasks in record time. But aside from these particular circumstances, email is my mask – and I feel most confident, professional and organized when working behind this visage.

Email is only the first of many technological masks we can choose to communicate from behind every day. Can you identify yours? Think how much easier it is to write out a difficult conversation over an email than to do it by phone or in person. I admit I still create an outline of a “script” when I have to communicate some difficult news that I know will upset the other person – even when I do it by phone. This mask allows me to say everything I want in the best way possible without forgetting or stumbling. I don’t do it with the intent to be insincere; I do it with the intent to minimize negative feelings and to organize my thoughts.

But what about the most fascinating mask of all – social media? This is where communicating with friends, acquaintances, members of your extended family – and even exes and enemies – is made a lot easier than doing so in “real life.” With this mask we tend to share overly personal information, comment or message people we’d never pick up the phone to call and even develop what can feel like a personal relationship with someone we’ve never met in person. If you don’t believe me, just wait until your next high school reunion where someone you haven’t spoken to in years will come up to you and somehow know your job title, marital status and the last thing you ate. Social media is a masquerade ball after all. Just because you’re wearing a mask, doesn’t mean you’re the only one. People are also sharing more information with you on social media than they might ever feel comfortable repeating to you again in person.

So what’s the incentive to be so confident and honest behind this front? What are we hiding from? The answer to this might be as unique as the person who’s being asked. Introspectively I believe I’m hiding from the fear of appearing disorganized, unprofessional or misinformed. When I can write it out and proof read it before I click send, it gives me time to think through what I’m saying and revise it if I so wish. Real-life, instantaneous responses do not afford me this same luxury. For social media, I think it’s the fear of having to witness a reaction we didn’t expect or having someone reply negatively. We’re not as afraid to be honest because we never have to witness an immediate response. We can say something and walk away and not have to hope that someone laughs at our joke or supports our rant about a bad day at work.

What do these technological masks mean for the welfare of face-to-face communication? I don’t think anything can replace the meaning of a conversation held in person. For the most sensitive topics – whether negative or positive – the ability to look someone in the eye and take in the expression in their eyes, smile and body language is crucial. And while technology can make a person sitting across the world feel like they’re sitting right across the table, it has yet to recreate this important aspect of “real” communication. While Oscar Wilde’s quote rings so very true, I hope that during the key moments in life in which we need to, we can be so bold as to remove our mask and be just as honest walking in our own person.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Technology

 

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The “Unhappy” Trend

It seems as though we are moving toward an “Unhappy” trend. By this, I mean we seem to live in a day and age where it is more acceptable to be bored, tired and miserable than to be publicly happy and content.

I remember so often asking someone–a co-worker, a friend, the cashier at Starbucks–how they’re doing and getting the same response: Oh, hanging in there…Good, until my alarm went off this morning…Minus being at work? Great! And when it wasn’t a gripe or complaint, it was usually a generic and apathetic response like: Good, thanks…Oh, I’m okay…Doing well. For many of my friends who would give me such answers, I knew enough about their lives to know they had plenty of great things taking place that they could share and talk about. Instead, they chose to settle for a sarcastic or emotionless answer, but for what purpose? To make those that are less happy feel more comfortable?

What I’ve come to realize is that it’s hard to be publicly happy and not have it taken the wrong way. Too often genuine happiness is perceived as bragging, boasting or being fake. Sometimes it is even seen as offensive or intimidating to someone who isn’t as happy as you are.

I have a lot of things in my life for which I’m grateful and happy. I started my own business to pursue my passion, have many meaningful and fulfilling relationships and have a flexible schedule that allows me to travel as I please. Yes, life is good. But these tokens of happiness have to be earned each and every day with hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I’m not kidding–those motivational posters couldn’t have summarized it better. What’s disappointing is that even after all of that hard work to create my happiness, I often feel guilty when I go to share this happiness with others. I feel like it’s easier to gripe and complain about little things, even the weather, just to make myself more likable to those who don’t allow themselves to be as happy.

The “Unhappy” trend is one I look forward to seeing pass. We need to get back into the trend of not just supporting each others’ happiness, but working to preserve and grow it. It’s as simple as the next time today you’re asked how you’re doing–respond with a genuine and positive answer about something good in your life.

I know we all have at least one thing in our lives right now that we can be happy about. Even if it’s just the 5 free minutes you had to surf Word Press and find this blog!

Some of My Pieces of Happiness

My cat and companion, Pinot who keeps working from home interesting.

My cat and companion, Pinot who keeps working from home interesting.

The flexibile work schedule that allows me to travel as I please.

The flexibile work schedule that allows me to travel as I please.

A summer full of sweet and simple memories

A summer full of sweet and simple memories

 
27 Comments

Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Life

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: It’s almost never about WHAT you know

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson four: It’s almost never about WHAT you know

I wish my professors would have just been honest with us. How successful you are (basically) boils down to two things—who you know and how well you sell yourself. Especially for all the readers out there with a degree in Public Relations, Communications or the similar, you know what I’m talking about. Our communication skills, social competence and depth and breadth of our relationships are directly related to our success.

Throughout my years spent at Penn State, my classrooms were filled with hoards of Advertising and Public Relations students all training to be “master communicators.” Some students aced every test and could recite any answer a teacher asked of them, but they often blended into the background as soon as they put their hand down. The students who did make the biggest impression weren’t the ones breaking the curve, necessarily. They were the ones who could pull together an impromptu presentation with ease and confidence and could make a classroom of 500+ students laugh and feel as if they knew them personally.

This ties-in closely with Lesson three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer. I’m not talking about the students too lazy to open a book or the ones aiming for a career as a professional “bull shitter.” I’m talking about the students who did more than write the concept on a note card and memorize it; instead, they absorbed the concept and immediately applied it to their communications strategy of selling themselves. I’m sure everyone has a few of these friends in their lives. They catch on quick, have an impeccable ability to read a situation and make lasting impressions that build their networks almost effortlessly.

So maybe this isn’t something that can be entirely taught in a classroom, but these are skills we all possess to some degree. I wish my professors would have worked to help us refine these skills through “social challenges” such as walking into a business and asking for an impromptu meeting with the owner/marketing director to pitch an idea or even attend a party where you enter as a complete stranger and leave with at least 3 acquaintances—these type of challenges would have tested our core social abilities and helped to build skills we would have used immediately in any career.

I knew people who, even as 20-something year old college students, were too timid or insecure to call a restaurant for their business hours or walk into a party if they didn’t know at least 5 people. Anyone, no matter their field of study, could have benefited from at least one course emphasizing social intelligence to supplement the “what you know” with the “how well you can sell it.”

Even if you’re at the top of your class, you’ll be that much more valuable to a future employer if you have the social and communication skills to convey this knowledge.

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Lesson Three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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