• E.M. Burlingame - 蒲 奕 言

Not helping you or anyone | Special Forces and Entrepreneurship

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

Stop taking credit for what you’ve not done. More critically, for what you didn’t think of, didn’t think through in detail. Despite it’s far too easy to take credit for someone else’s contributions. Truth is, if it wasn’t developed in your mind, it isn’t yours. Taking credit for it, is quite literally, theft. Unfortunately, weak and bad leaders and teammates steal what isn’t theirs all the time. In every organization there is. In every corner and culture of the world. Throughout all time. Even our primate relatives do it.


This isn’t an issue of morality. Never take credit for what you can’t defend. Regardless your title or authority, whether you’re the boss or not. No matter how much better educated or experienced you may be. Never underestimate vast amount of information processing went into thought process led to contribution of sufficiency that you’re willing to steal it. Immensely complex thought processes necessary, mean 99.999% of the time, you can’t defend what didn’t originate in your mind. Not with anyone sufficiently knowledgeable. Not with critical decision-makers looking for a reason to say no.

Don’t feel bad or get all self-righteous. As with deceiving ourselves about our value. This self-deception, with intent to deceive others, leading to contribution theft. It’s wired in. Into left and right hemisphere differences, self-arguments built into how each hemisphere perceives the world and our place in it:

-         Left maintaining virtually static repository of vast array of known things “data”. “I know more than you and can defend the contribution better than you”;

-         Right maintaining fluid map of all the many connections between things “context”. “I understand more than you and can explain the contribution better than you”

Our brains are constantly balancing between these two arguments. Internally with ourselves and externally with others, among our groupings. All driven by an immensely complex molecular, electromotive and neuropsychological process occurs in a four-phase cycle, roughly 60 times a second. To be fair, neither argument is true if balance between hemispheres is not maintained. Again, internally and across our groupings.

Reason, each of us, accepting those highly skilled in meditation, is a little more Left or Right Hemisphere dominate. This again, due to differences wired into our own brains. With genetics seeming to play the dominate role in that wiring, though with environment impacting substantially. These differences get amplified among groups which themselves inevitably become a little more Left or Right “data vs understanding” dominate. Problem with unbalanced teams, leads most often to contribution theft, is: 

-         The Right is aware when it’s missing the Left, missing data, but will compensate with what it incorrectly perceives to be complete understanding.

-         The Left is utterly oblivious to the Right, missing understanding, and will employ data it incorrectly perceives to possess contextual meaning.

Only way to ensure proper balance, is to rewire your brain to promote others first. This isn’t some touchy feely, it’s the right thing to do, artificially conflate others, humble ourselves, kind of rubbish. Aside from incredibly important benefits of trust and respect within your professional and social groupings. Far deeper and far more impactful truth is, imbalances between hemispheres in our own brains and among our groupings. Arise almost solely from unwillingness to accept and live with reality. Forcing us to introduce untruths, dishonesty and lies our brains must rectify at expense of balance. Recognizing the contributions of others is only way to live real, truthful, internally and externally balanced.

Rewiring our brains to promote others first, is no easy task. Turns out we’re not actually wired for honesty and truthfulness. Anyone who’s raised a child knows this, having gone through the try to get away with lying years. Instead, wired in is a vast array of ways to deceive ourselves about ourselves, so that we can feel okay about improper and bad things we do. Stealing contributions of others being top of this list. Only way to rewire to promote others first is to first make ourselves worthy of promotion by others.

In Special Forces we’ve a few hard ‘guidelines’ help in developing ourselves into someone worthy of promotion:

-         Really give a F&%$ | Life’s a team event with lives on the line! Doesn’t matter if you like them or not, know deep down in your gut your success is almost solely dependent on that of others. So, really give a F&%$ about others and their success. If you’re not actively working to ensure others rise, you fail.

-         Know your S!@# | No part of this life is uncomplicated! Doesn’t matter what role you play on your team. You must work hard your entire life to be an expert. To help others rise, you must know your S!@#. Particularly, when recognizing and developing talent in others.

-         Stop being a little C%$# | There isn’t single aspect of life that’s easy! Doesn’t matter you believe you’re strong, courageous, intelligent, well-educated or connected enough. You’re not. So, stop being a little C%$#. Own your weakness, accept your faults, get stronger!

Additional to these ‘guidelines.’ There are two ‘truths’ which make Special Forces what it is. Two truths Startup leaders need adopt if they hope to succeed:

-         Your Team First Always | Your team and teammates always come before self and anyone else;

-         Leaders Never Seek Credit | Your value as a leader is assessed solely by the value of your team.

Why not taking credit for what you’ve not done really matters. In Startups and Special Forces, everything you do is dependent on outside decision-makers, with whom you only get one chance. If you demonstrate you don’t really understand or know a thing, because it didn’t come from you. Because you over relied on “contextually incorrect data” or “incomplete understanding.” That chance is gone forever and may have cost you your company and livelihood or your mission and lives. More, the livelihood and lives of others.

E.M. Burlingame: Founder Emerio Group and the Honos Foundation | Author Starving for Leadership and As Rome Burns

Actively engaged, leveraging diverse experience and skills developed during 30 years in technology, entrepreneurship, startup investing and Special Operations to identify and develop the next generation of startup leaders globally.

#leadership #specialforces #startups


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