I met a self-made, multi-millionaire for drinks and dinner last night. Chris is the owner, CEO and principal engineer for a private software company that nets 20 million dollars a year in profit. He’s an elite businessman with a big heart. The compassion and chivalry he shows his employees and clients is unmistakable. He has been an idol of mine for many years. And as we sipped wine and chatted, he carried himself with the refined composure and confidence you’d expect from a man of his stature.
Then his wife joined us.
This was the first time I met Victoria, and she was a bit different than I had envisioned. She was beautiful, yes, but she complained about everything. According to her, the waitress was too slow, the centerpiece on the table was ugly, and her brand new Lexus doesn’t drive as smooth as her girlfriends’ Mercedes.
Chris grew increasingly irritated with each negative comment that rolled off Victoria’s tongue. His expression turned sour, his posture deteriorated and his cheeks blushed with frustration. After just fifteen minutes at the dinner table with her, Chris, the man of power and prestige whom I idolize, had completely lost his poise.
“Where’s the waitress? This bread is stale.” Victoria huffed under her breath.
“The only stale thing I perceive is your incessant bitching!” Chris yelped. “Will you please stop whining and just allow us to enjoy a pleasant evening for once? For heaven’s sake!”
She gave me a wide-eyed glance, as if to say, “Do you see the crap I have to put up with?” He gave me a similar look a moment later. The tension between them stirred my nerves. I wanted to excuse myself, but I didn’t want to be rude. Needless to say, the remainder of the evening was rather uncomfortable.
My Brain Malfunctions
Chris called me this morning and gave me some ingenious advice on how to solve a contractual business dilemma I told him about last night. He then proceeded to apologize for his behavior at the dinner table.
“The work involved in running my business comes naturally to me. I love what I do. I’m successful because I understand all the inputs and outputs, and I can precisely tune the production gears to acquire a set of desired results,” Chris said.
“Yeah, I’ve seen you in action,” I agreed.
He continued: “But when it comes to long-term, intimate relationships, my brain malfunctions… and I inevitably fail.”
Multidimensional Human Beings
All people, even our idols, are multidimensional human beings. Powerful business men, polished musicians, bestselling authors, and even our own parents all have dimensions of success and dimensions of failure present in their lives.
Our successful dimensions usually encompass the things we love most. We are successful in these dimensions because of our love, because we naturally spend the most time perfecting and nurturing what we love.
And this is the part of our lives we want others to see, the successful part that holds our life’s passion. It’s the notion of putting our best foot forward. It’s the public persona we envision as our personal legacy: “The Successful ABC” or “The Award Winning XYZ.”
But behind whichever polished storyline we publically promote, there lies a multidimensional human being with a long list of unprofessed failures. Sometimes this person is a bad husband, or fails to choose a suitable wife. Sometimes this person laughs at the expense of others. And sometimes this person takes their eyes off the road and rear-ends the car in front of them.
So Do We
The incident at dinner last night reminded me of this idle truth.
Our biggest idols and childhood heroes are just human… with all the flawed dimensions humans have. And we shouldn’t feel let down when we are faced with the reality of these flaws, because they have always been there. It’s just part of being human.
Sometimes our idols act like obnoxious, emotional, fools.
But sometimes so do we.
And sometimes they argue, cry, and fall flat on their faces.
But sometimes so do we.
Photo by: Mike Baird