Why "Don't Be Evil" isn't good enough
The reality of why “don’t be evil” isn’t good enough, in business or anywhere else, and how to be better.
Author’s Note: This article has been adapted from its original form for publication on Noomii.com. Unfortunately that means that there are no pictures, no formatting, and no links here. I HIGHLY recommend you read the original, 100% ad free and in all of it’s beautiful glory, at: legendaryself.com/dont-be-evil
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Don’t Be Evil.
It almost sounds like a joke, hearing multi-billion-dollar per year companies say those words. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Microsoft, the original “don’t be evil” slogan holder, decided to abandon it in the name of… business. Everyone wanted it to be true, or at least passably aspirational, and yet almost no one believed it could be. Which is fine, because it was never meant to be true.
However, within this story there is a lesson that isn’t being told, and that could very well be the solution you are looking for – how to build and run a massively profitable business without being evil.
The fact is, “don’t be evil” was doomed from the start. Not because it isn’t a better goal than most corporate operating strategies, fake as it was, but because “not being evil” is still only half of the problem.
The real issue?
“Don’t be evil” is significantly different than “be good.”
You can do plenty of things that are not outright evil, and still do harm on a massive scale.
You can have the best of intentions, yet have the unforeseen consequences of your actions destroy lives.
You can be somewhere between average and mediocre and indirectly cause harm by simply not doing good, or by perpetuating a bad system.
So how do you work toward being more than “not evil?”
There are two simple professional ethics concepts that you need to know here:
No, those aren’t Disney characters.
Beneficence is simply – is this thing that I want to do beneficial to the person(s) I want to do it to?
Non-maleficence is the other half – am I doing every reasonable thing in my power to prevent harm?
A lot of good people struggle with running a business and doing sales because they perceive it as inherently bad, because their primary experience with other businesses and business owners is bad. When that experience is mostly door-to-door sales, telemarketing, and horror stories about your evil corporate overlords, it’s no surprise. But these two concepts are part of the cognitive solution that good people need to do business successfully and confidently.
Do people need what I am offering, and is it beneficial to those people?
Is the way that I operate and do business preventing and minimizing harm to other people?
If you can offer something that people truly need, and do it in a way that isn’t deceptive, harmful, or malicious, you have nothing to fear from the process of sales and client interaction. It’s no longer this strange, icky thing that only “sales people” do.
Here is a mental exercise: Every conversation that you ever have is “sales.” You have a point that you want others to believe. Your job in conversation is to evoke a certain emotion and get them to believe you. It doesn’t matter if you are telling a joke, asking for a raise, or trying to get a date.
One of the first things that I work on with my clients is getting them to know and understand their values. Why? Because those are the things that drive not just your decisions, but will also drive the decisions of your clients. Your values will shape your interactions with other people, both inside and outside of business. And if you don’t know what those are, you tend to say things like “don’t be evil” without knowing how or even what that means.
One of my primary values is in being good. A good person, a good father, and a good business owner… a force of good in the world. That shapes the mission here at Legendary Self – to teach good people how to be successful in business and in life… to sell their products, services, and ideas without ever having to sell their “soul” or integrity to do it.
The fact is, anyone or anything that has to be told “don’t be evil” is already going to be evil.
Forget don’t be evil. Let it die.
Be good. Be successful.
Become what you wish they were.
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