"You know how advice is... you only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway"
My friend Sam runs a small retail business in Los Angeles.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Sam asking me if I had some time to talk with him about a professional crisis that he was having at his business.
After a brief health scare, Sam’s general manager and right-hand man has given his 2-week notice. In a terse e-mail, the general manager explained that he wanted to remove himself from the stress of running a small business and go off to do something else with his life.
This is an understandable reaction to a health scare. Nothing gives us more reason to pause and reevaluate our lives than a visit from our inevitable mortality.
The following day, Sam and I spent a good deal of time discussing a few options as it relates to replacing the position including asking the general manager to stay on for a very limited time working as a part-time consultant. This could be a win-win situation for both Sam and the GM allowing them both a transitional period.
If, however, the general manager was intent in leaving the business and didn’t want to enter into a consulting agreement, Sam was prepared to move forward without him, but he also wanted to give the exiting employee a severance package worth tens of thousands of dollars for his service to the company... even though the GM was leaving under his own volition.
A few days after our meeting, I called Sam to discuss the GM’s reaction to his consulting proposal.
Sam told me that the meeting couldn’t have been worse.
Before Sam could even offer up the proposal, the general manager, who had been with the company for over 20 years, decided that on his way out the door, he would "speak his mind" lambasting Sam for every bad decision ever made by Sam over the course of his tenure with the company.
It appears that a lot of ill-will was being harbored by the general manager over the years and it was the time to really "clear the air".
The general manager spent almost an hour ranting about why the business and specifically Sam’s management style were toxic to all those who came into contact with the business.
The message wasn’t offered in form of advice or counsel. It was sheer contempt for what Sam had tried to build over the years.
Needless to say, Sam was completely taken aback by the turn of events but continued to take the "high-road" and never offered any rebuttal to the exiting employee... he just sat there and listened.
After about an hour, the former general manager finished his tirade, placed his key on the desk, and left the building without saying anything else.
In that single hour, the general manager managed to evaporate 20 years of goodwill and burn all of the bridges of friendship between him and Sam.
That temper tantrum cost him a potential consulting client, several tens of thousands of dollars, future character references, and a relationship that had been crafted over two decades.
One can only speculate as to the general manager’s motive behind his outburst... was it stress?... was it a chemical reaction to some medication?... was it simply a case of passive-aggressive behavior?...
Both Sam and I were left scratching our collective heads.
Now I have seen this type of behavior many times before... perhaps in different shapes or forms... but it’s bridge burning at its best...
How many times have we seen where two people who were once so in love with each other that they vowed, in front of family and friends, that they would remain committed together for a lifetime... only to be screaming obscenities and defiling insults at each other sometime in the future.
They purposely are intent to verbally (and sometimes physically) attack each other for no other reason than to cause pain and suffering to another individual.
There is no reasonable expectation that anything said will cause any improvement or change in the present situation. There is no negotiation occurring. There is no constructive criticism being presented.
No... there is only intent to try and hurt another individual for no apparent gain...
...and in fact... more than likely, at a potential loss... a loss of respect... a loss of trust... and in some cases (like the one described above) a financial loss...
When we judge or criticize another person, it is usually not about helping others to improve, but rather it serves our own needs to feel superior at the expense of others. Those who criticize and belittle others believe that they are on some sort of higher moral and/or intellectual ground which gives them the divine right to inflict their belief system on others.
We each have our own belief system and philosophies. Some of these are genetic, some are taught, and some are acquired through experience. These are our core values. They are a part of us and they rarely change.
Over time, we add certain knowledge, training, and experience to what we already believe.
Sometimes this knowledge reinforces what we already believe.
Others times, it helps us to reexamine what we hold dear and helps us to reshape or expand our inner most core values.
Those changes can be subtle and evolve over the course of many years... or they can be sudden due to a traumatic event or an epiphany moment.
I know I had one of those moments on the morning of September 11th.
Although I innately knew that life is precious before that time, there was now a sense of urgency to try and squeeze every last drop of human experience from my life before my clock eventually stopped.
My core values didn’t change after 9/11, but the road map I was using to take me to a place called "success" did.
Each of us are unique and have our own beliefs, values, experiences, goals, opinions and methods to live our individual lives.
Our systems work for us and us alone...
By judging and criticizing others... we are essentially saying that our system of beliefs is somehow better than someone else’s... but in reality... how do we know?...
...what if... in the end... they were correct and we were wrong?
Our goal then should not be to try and live the lives of other people... but rather we should try to live our own lives as the very best person that we can be.
If someone is inspired by our thoughts and actions to become a better person, then that’s great... but telling people what to do, what to think, and how to act is an exercise in frustration and futility.
Each Friday, I offer up some opinions, experiences, and observations... but that’s all they really are... simple musings... it is not a recipe to live life... or criticisms of anyone else’s methodology to live their own life...
...because in the end... I simply could be wrong about it all...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we welcome your constructive comments to help us to try and improve what we do.
Jim Kalb President
Email - email@example.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse