Sales Mastery
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Sales Mastery

3 Ways You May Be Running Your Business Like Joe Exotic

The mental challenges of being an entrepreneur.


Amongst the flurry of insane storylines within the show, Tiger King — it puts on full display all the things one should not do or be as a business owner.

The various business owners within the docuseries show strong displays of a lack of personal and emotional awareness as well as no ethical backbone.

You can recover from bad business decisions like picking the wrong business partner or a marketing campaign tanking, but you can’t recover from being a mentally and emotionally unstable business owner. With this state of mind, you’ll constantly create recurring problems and drama loves your company.

You may be shocked to hear that many business owners are currently, or have at some point built a business with a Joe Exotic in them. I sure have. If you don’t keep yourself in check, it’s an easy state of mind to fall into.

Entrepreneurship magnifies the weakest parts of yourself. It turns your insecurities up to its max level, so moments of egotistical flexing and immature and emotionally-driven actions become your norm if you don’t catch them and correct them.

Here are some of the most poignant displays of big entrepreneur no no’s in Tiger King that you may personally be exercising and how you can kick it to the curb.

The Personal Baggage Cocktail

The major thesis of Tiger King for me was — separate your personal life from your business. Specifically, your personal baggage from your business baggage.

We all have trauma from our personal lives that manifest in the form of mental and emotional baggage.

Adding that baggage on top of your business’ baggage is insanely confusing.

You can’t tell if you’re upset or pissed off about something that went down in your business because it’s objectively upsetting or because it’s related to your personal baggage.

You can’t tell if you’re striving to smash your competitors because it’s related to your insatiable desire to feel seen.

You can’t tell if you’ve decided to go into the industry of exploiting wild animals because you’re a narcissist who needs to prey on a well-known predator in order to feel important.

Get my drift here? This baggage black hole goes on and on and you slowly aren’t able to tell the difference between a genuine business decision and a personal desire driven by insecurities you haven’t resolved.

If you can’t separate your personal baggage from your business, or have zero awareness of it, you let your emotions drive your business rather than sound strategy. And doing this is costly.

Numerous characters on Tiger King blew millions of dollars on lawsuits, hiring hitmen to settle feuds, or on business partnerships gone wrong. Damaged egos and poor self-worth led to businesses being torn down and damaged reputations.

To prevent your personal baggage from infiltrating your business, you have to open your eyes to what your personal baggage actually is. You won’t be able to stop it from hurting your business unless you know what it looks like and when to recognize it.

And once you’ve come to a place of awareness, it will take continuous time and effort to get to a place where it doesn’t unconsciously sabotage you and your business.

There are a couple of avenues to explore this via coaches, therapists, spirituality, and other methods of self-inquiry. Choose whichever will produce the most radical opening for you.

Egotistical Scapegoating

Tiger King was an extreme example showcasing the negative impact of personal baggage on a business, but we’ve all done some of these things in our small ways.

Take Joe Exotic’s insane ego displays through his political campaigns for President and Governor, his Joe Exotic-branded gift shop items, and his country music “career”. This guy wanted his ego stroked and to be famous, badly. He wanted all the glory of these titles without doing any of the work.

Many animals lives’ would’ve been saved if Joe had the realization that he wanted to be famous and pursued that career path instead. But because he landed on his business before radical self-inquiry, we ended up in a reality where he kills a lot of tigers and is now in jail for hiring a hitman.

You have to recognize when a title or path you’re chasing is a scapegoat for something less savory like fame, attention, or adoration.

I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs come and go not because their startup ideas didn’t work, but because the work required involved too much in exchange for the fame they wanted to capture.

There are a lot of entrepreneurs that haven’t monetized their business but still attend all the conferences and love carrying around the label of “entrepreneur” because it’s a dopamine hit to their ego.

Building and running your own business is truly a ton of work — before you commit to it, make sure that you’re in it for the right reasons. Are you in the game because of the title, or because you want to be recognized as being “special”?

Or are you truly in the business of creating a product or service that has a positive impact on others?

Self-Worth Latching

When your business is tied to your self-worth, you will always take things a tad too seriously.

If this goes on for too long, you’re an explosion waiting to happen.

Self-worth is fragile — many of us crumble in the face of a major breakup, a work-related failure, or if we have an event where we’re proven to be “less than”.

Unless you’ve done the work to build your self-worth separate from your identity, career, or relationships in your life, your self-worth collapses in tandem until you find something new to latch it to.

This is exactly what you saw Joe Exotic do when he lost his elections or lost a partner — he immediately looked for something or someone new to latch on to to continue stoking his self-worth fire.

He never took the time to work on himself so that him and his self-worth could stand on its own two feet. This is why he also never gave up his tigers either, even when he was broke — they were a critical pillar of his ability to publicly display his self-worth to others.

Pretty idiotic move for a broke person when it takes about $10K to feed your tigers every year, not to mention their additional maintenance costs.

When you latch your self-worth to your business, you’re along for the ride for every up and down and aren’t able to emotionally regulate yourself. This has repercussions when you’re not able to make decisions for your business with a leveled head.

I make bad decisions when I’m emotional or my self-worth is feeling ravaged — I don’t ever want to run a business for several years on end with this state of mind, where I can’t think rationally or logically to move my business forward.

Detaching your self worth from your business is a constant practice. Diversifying your interests outside of your business and keeping yourself mentally and emotionally stimulated by numerous hobbies, interests, and relationships is the key to fulfilling your whole person.

Once you’ve found avenues to fill up your self-worth cup with things other than your business, you’ll gain the power to show up for your business as a leader with a clear head.

Are you building a healthy business that’s poised to grow? Grab my free checklist to find out.



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Sophia Sunwoo

Sophia Sunwoo


I create moneymaking brands with womxn entrepreneurs who refuse to settle for mediocre.