Donald Trump: Gurus and Demons

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I once heard a saying that I will never forget: "The raised nail gets hammered." It's true. When I see the big boys flying above the radar, they are often targets for the small fish swimming around, wishing they could be "like Mike" (i.e., Michael Jordan).

In today's culture of risk and reward, we all have our mentors. Whether it's Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Donald Trump.

Sometimes our mentors take risks and soar, becoming larger than life. Other times, they lose focus and make some bad bets.

That's the case with Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. Both legendary athletes became holistic, and the risks they took weren't measured by integrity, but by ego. In other words, the bets they took were driven more by self worth than by net worth.

Now Donald Trump is in the news.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the legendary real estate developer. The state is contending that Trump defrauded students who paid thousands of dollars to learn the tricks of the development trade at seminars given by one of Trump's namesake businesses, Trump Entrepreneur Initiative (formerly Trump University).

So what was Trump doing that caused the state to sue him? After all, he is already rich, so why would the legendary developer intentionally defraud 5,000 students?

Well, according to the lawsuit, students were steered into purchasing expensive and useless seminars, hoping they would grow rich like Trump.

Trump says that most of the students were satisfied with the education and he boasts that the school has a 98% approval rating. According to a Trump-originated Web site (98percentapproval.com), Trump students had "overwhelming satisfaction with the program."

The program, which has no actual campus, offers a three-day real estate investment seminar that costs $1,495, a "Trump elite" package for $10,000 and a personal mentorship for up to $35,000.

Trump maintains that he could settle the $40 million lawsuit, but according to a Today Show interview, Trump said, "I didn't want to settle the lawsuit, on principle. The school is a great school, and it's really a shame."

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