English / 27.09.2019 / 1530

Corporations and Attempting to Escape Them

Nikolay Mokhov, author from the Dark Side of Business

If you think there’s no one behind the success of the latest star, rich businessman, or even talented writer... Then you should probably go to the eye doctor. There’s definitely something wrong with your eyesight.

“We are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants,” as a very wise man once put it. It’s never been more true: all modern achievements resulted from joint efforts, not from prideful individualism.

My mom always used to say that she’s a zero, and dad’s a one. And together they formed a beautiful ten. These simple, some may even think banal words are not without meaning. Humans are not creatures inclined to isolation. They need support in the form of other humans. Moreover, they require a system, and the system is always greater than the sum of its parts. And for most of us, our family is the first such system. It's the first structure that provides us support.

There could be bickering, tears, conflicts… But the system is still stronger than everyone fending for themselves. There is one government in the world which promotes relying on yourself and only yourself, and that is North Korea. Except without China’s help, North Korea would go down in flames in seconds, and that would be the end of their self-proclaimed individualism.

not everything that sinks must be saved

The family we are born into is the only system we are part of without our consent. Every other corporation and system is chosen by us, and is often chosen very poorly. We ask ourselves the wrong questions: which university is better, where the pay is higher or the status more prestigious… in reality, all of this is nonsense.

There are only two important parameters. The first is obvious: is the system growing or not. If it’s small, but gets bigger from month to month — that’s a system you can join. But if it’s gigantic and stagnating? Then it’s a place for marauders or saviors. For the latter it’s worth remembering: not everything that sinks must be saved. The Titanic’s place is on the seafloor. There’s no point getting it out from there.

The second parameter is something only very intelligent people notice, those intelligent enough to ask: how does the system treat those who left it?

Imagine this: you leave a corporation and open your own business. The corporation then becomes your first customer and keeps going on about it. Inside the corporation they call you a sack of shit: that’s normal. When a son leaves the nest, the family’s free to pick him apart. But what if they spread that message outside the company? Are they really supporting you then?

For many years, Pablo Picasso was supported by his uncle. The uncle didn’t like what his nephew painted in France. He might have criticized his debauchery and all the money he spent on prostitutes. The uncle might not have understood his nephew… But he did support him. And in public, he would only speak highly of the artist…

This is why, when choosing what system to build a relationship with, you can think of Picasso’s uncle as an example. You’ll see an interesting picture. In every ranking of the best employers, Elon Musk is almost always near the top, but should he be? He’s nothing like Picasso’s uncle. For him, everyone who leaves his companies is like an escaped prisoner. He sends volley upon volley after them. And then in public he playfully puts them down, with a twinkle in his eye, accusing them of every sin in the book.

But Musk’s corporations attract crowds of people. After all, they create fantastic projects; they build the future…

“It’s like a golden ticket! Think of all the experience and the connections I can get,” those lining up to serve in corporate hell like to say. It sounds logical. It’s just that none of them really get to use the acquired knowledge. You need copious amounts of energy and the support of other big systems to withstand Musk’s ire after you leave.

Here’s a telling example, by the way. I witnessed dozens of stories where an ex-employee would try to go up against their old boss.

“We’ll be your most feared competitor! After all, we know everything about business, while you’ve gotten out of touch: you don’t know how to sell and you don’t know how to buy..! ”

It might seem logical. But when you look at it from an energy standpoint, you see that… As one of my girlfriends used to say: it’s not ideal… They disconnect themselves from a system that fed them, not just fed on them. And they don't find a replacement for the system, instead arrogantly stating they could do better on their own. And then they also decide to attack an entity than is far bigger than them. You’re better off going up against a tank with a pitchfork, I swear. There are throngs of such heroes on the market. All of them bankrupt.

There’s another mindset, one that is no less impressive:

“I’m sick and tired of this firm! I wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire… They can go fuck themselves, the idiots. I’ll go draw my pictures…”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with drawing pictures per se. I myself am a fan of art. But wouldn’t it be great if the corporation you slaved away in for ten years is the first, or at least the second to buy one of your paintings?

I know at least one artist who did just that. Let’s just say: he’s not starving right now. He chose not to count off the ten years he had spent in a different field. He decided that those ten years gave him knowledge: the knowledge of how to make deals and interact with his ex-employers. And now they are his biggest clients and they give him the best conditions out of anyone.

But what if you did slam the door behind you? You know, it could be worse. A friend of mine managed to fuck away all his money. A prostitute roofied him and walked away with 50 thousand dollars. The guy was twenty years old, and was now left penniless. Or so it seemed. A year later he plucked up the courage and called up his ex-boss. He apologized from the bottom of his heart. And now, twenty years later, they still help each other out.

Almost every Russian business in the late 80s was based on a Soviet institution. How many famous oligarchs of the nineties had now unknown academics and politicians behind them? Literally every single one of them did. All of them kept interacting with the system even after leaving it, because they all knew they could achieve much greater things while riding on the shoulders of the old giants…

The Student

I’m watching time grinding big businesses to dust. Some of them I know quite well. Just yesterday, their owners used to think they were rich. Today they find out: a couple more months of quarantine and only dust will remain of all their treasures. And not golden dust — gray dust. Tomorrow, those who used to be held up as an example to all will be forgotten. New heroes will appear. Looking at these stories, I remember the words of my Teacher:


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I can picture it vividly. The reader, having carefully whittled their wooden stake, is preparing to strike down their new lover. I suggest they put down their weapon, restore the cloves of garlic to the kitchen cabinet, and get that silver bullet melted down. Maybe it could make a nice pendant for the “vampiress”…


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