A Guilty Business

Guilt carries a lot of baggage.

Every now and again it can help us mend relationships or do the right thing. But more often than not it seems to linger long past usefulness.

A proverbial millstone around our necks that usually shows up when we’re already drowning.

I’m not a mental health professional. I’m just a guy who has noticed that guilt comes with two common responses; anger or apathy.

When someone or something has (as we see it) unjustly caused us to feel guilt we’re incensed. It feels like an invasion on our personal feelings.  When this happens the guilt channels into an angry, “How dare they.”

Guilt can be a caustic poison. Which is why I’ve also seen long-held guilt eat away at a person’s motivation. After a while there’s no point in doing anything, because why? It’s not like anything is going to get better.

While I’ve been talking in general terms, I’ve specifically seen guilt trigger anger or apathy in business owners.

For example, when a customer comments about how high your prices are, if you’re feeling any guilt about how much you’re charging then anger can rear its head. It most often sounds like, “Don’t they know I’ve got to eat too? What do they want from me?”

Apathy shows up when, even if your customers are happy, you feel like you’re taking advantage of them. Any guilt here can turn to a slow decline of self-sabotaging. Little fires don’t get put out, and you’ll foot drag right into a conflagration.

I might be wrong about the cause-and-effect nature of guilt. You might completely disagree with my evaluation. And that’s ok, because here’s what I do know.

Time is too precious to let business guilt weigh you down. So, if that means getting into a new career or changing the current business model to one you can live with, then do it.

There are some things beyond what money can buy.

– Zac Smith, VC