Substance Versus Showmanship

Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.
— Aesop

I was recently at a very nice networking event where over two hundred people were gathered to listen to a panel of highly accomplished, intelligent, and successful entrepreneurs. There was enormous energy in the room. There were more new start ups and first time CEOs than I have seen in a long time. I knew everyone on the panel as well as the moderator very well, and found the evening most fascinating. 

Two of the panelists were truly exceptional. What they have accomplished is what most of us only dream about. One panelist had moderate success along with lofty philanthropic goals. The last claimed significant success, but paled in comparison to the other ones. 

As I listened to panelists speak, I thought about what Wynton Marsalis famously said, “Don't settle for style. Succeed in substance.” The more successful entrepreneurs were discrete, funny, educational, and extremely smart. They did not hesitate to share ideas and give credit to others. They were humble, reserved, and considerate of others. 

The other one, tried to dominate the conversation, establish his presence, and did not add any value to the discussion. The other panelist showed courteously and class. As Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton said, “A fool flatters himself, a wise man flatters the fool.”

I left early that night, and the next day I heard comments from several people about his behavior, mannerism, and lack of humility. My message in this blog is quite simple. As Manuel Puig “As  a rule, one should never place form over content.”