Raider or Creator?

Have you been to Chiptole recently? It started as a place that gave free drinks to students, really cheap prices and had a distinctly different attitude. Today, they’re revoking the drink idea, scaling back how much food you get and trying to upsell you wherever they can. I think it’s pretty obvious who is calling the shots now. The first approach created value, the second mines it. One is sustainable, the other is not.

One of the people I work for put it nicely – “we do innovation, not exploitation.” The theory is that most of the big Boomer companies haven’t done anything innovative in half a century. And their conservative, publicly traded leadership is incentivized to milk what they already have rather than create something new. But his logic, although it seems counterintuitive, is that it’s actually a lot cheaper to be innovative than it is to pour over spreadsheets for extra pennies.

If you do your research, the 80’s wasn’t the bull market people think it was – mergers and buyouts were just burning off value for temporary stock jumps. Nobody way doing finance, they were just shuffling cards. The only growth came from massive fees which were debited from the accounts of – you guessed it – the innovators of the last generation.

I guess there are some economic explanations for why this is short-sighted and ultimately suicidal. Umair does an amazing job of it. But to me, the debate is deeper than that. Which person would you rather be? The raider or creator? Is that why you get up every morning, to pick up a few extra scraps from an inefficient entrepreneur? You studied six years in college to do someone else’s paperwork?

The people who are writing their memoirs or teaching your college classes have a lot to gloss over. Mainly the fact that their entire way of thinking creating a smoke and mirrors bureaucracy that hasn’t done much besides institutionalize mediocrity. That system is broken. I think you (I) know which person you want to be. It’s also fairly obviously what slots the system wants you to fill. So, do you want to be the host or the parasite? Do you want to innovate or exploit?

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.