An evening in the Presence of Bob

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend a charity affair, where I met a certain Prominent Citizen® – philanthropist, Captain of Industry, Titan Among Men, etc. Let’s call him Bob. Bob regaled me with insight about the art of influence, and he has in fact written a book about how to get people to do your bidding.

He also took at least two opportunities during the evening to huff up out of his chair, stride to the front of the room, commandeer the microphone, and pitch a mortal hissy fit about some folks in the back of the room who were talking when they should have been listening. In his favor, note that the people being shushed were, in fact, being rude. So at least his arrogance was, in this case, tempered with a measure of righteousness.

On the minus side of the ledger, if you were really a wizard at getting people to do as you wished, you wouldn’t have had to make that second strut up to the mic, now would you?

I’ve been thinking, since that evening, about this man, his considerable deeds, and the art of influence. To be sure, he has a track record of getting people to see things his way, and at the end of the day it’s bad form to argue with bottom-line results. But I also spent some time pondering what kinds of qualities it takes to get people to do your bidding. Having no real track record of bending people to my will, and having not read the book, there was considerable guesswork involved.

Looking at Bob’s life, though, I have reached one solid conclusion: if you want to be influential, there’s no substitute for being born richer than God.

Bob, you were born with a silver spoon up your ass and a sense of entitlement that’s bigger than the hole in the ozone over Donald Trump’s hair. That plus some basic smarts and a bit of aggression will take you places. Good for you.

Life is a 100-yard dash. Despite Jefferson’s horsewax about all men being created equal, the truth is that some folks begin with a 99-yard headstart. I get it. I understand that’s how life is. I run as hard as I can and I try not to begrudge anybody their advantages. I also try to keep a clear head about my own advantages, because while I began at the starting line, I know that some people began the race at the bottom of a hole 20 yards back.

Here’s what I’m over, Bob. I’m sick of guys who started a yard from the finish line writing self-absorbed books lecturing the rest of us on how to be better runners. Getting there first in your case proves that your daddy was fast, not you. So take your win for what it is and shut the fuck up.

I know dozens of people as smart as you or smarter, Bob. Maybe hundreds. And a lot of them are struggling just to get to the finish line because of how guys like you have rigged the game. This much I’d bet my life on: had you grown up where I did, you’d be pumping gas. Or, let’s give you some credit. You’re still pretty smart and have some attitude about you, so maybe you’d own the gas station.

But you’d damned sure not be writing any books on influence and you’d sure as hell not be arrogant enough to stand up and treat a room full of successful artists and professionals like they were your third-grade class. Not unless you wanted an ass-kicking in the parking lot.

I’m like everybody else around here, Bob. I know what you’ve done for the community and I appreciate your willingness to support worthy causes. Honestly, I do. But your abject lack of self-awareness is one of the most obscene things I’ve ever run across.

Take your victory in the 100-yard dash of life gracefully. And quietly. You have nothing to teach those of us who’ve actually worked for what we have.

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11 thoughts on “An evening in the Presence of Bob

  1. Oh dear lord that was great. I can see you now, sitting in your seat with that “Sam” look and the one liner on your lips that would bring him crashing down if only he were smart enough to understand it.

  2. I wonder what the world would be like if everyone had to start out with the same “external variables” – money, social standing, etc. But it still wouldn’t be “fair” because some would start out with better genes. Is the solution to life’s unfairness to make everything equal?

  3. Or to give more credit to those who spent the most “effort” – willpower, overcoming the odds, whatever, those impossible-to-measure things – instead of the most money? Socially, I guess some of us try to do that, but there’s more to be gained by sucking up to the rich and powerful than by encouraging the poor and disadvantaged.

  4. Well, what we need is clearly a Handicapper General to deal with that. See Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.”
    I certainly don’t think we need that kind of externally enforced “equality,” but I’m a big fan of a level playing field. And I’d like it if our evaluations of worth could at least be partially based in reality, you know?

  5. This is America. When you ask about someone’s “worth,” you’re assumed to mean “how much money or objects of monetary value does this person own?”… when you ask what someone “does,” you mean “What does this person do to make money?”… money is just the default measure of whether someone is valuable, powerful, etc…
    I guess everything else is relative, but money is the easiest objective measure of “worth”… you can’t tell how “good” or “honorable” or “respectable” someone is, well, not objectively… but you can easily see how much Bill Gates earned in 2005, or how much land and oil some Saudi prince has.
    I guess it says something about us as a civilization – no, as a species – that the only constant measure of value has been power and control – to which money gives a convenient numeric value.
    Thus, Kenneth Lay is “worth” more than, say, a homeless person who gives his food to someone who has none. One of them has money, the other has “compassion,” which doesn’t pay the bills.
    Who to blame? God, if you believe in it. Evolution, if you want to blame something real and observable. Blame the Universe itself, if you want.
    It’s just the way things are. The more power one pattern has, the more it’s able to suppress other patterns and co-opt their resources to maintain and expand itself, thereby lasting longer and making more copies of itself. These copies go on to compete and determine the most powerful among themselves. Only “winners” survive.

  6. And what of social virtues like ‘compassion’ and ‘generosity’ and ‘kindness’? All illusions. Mere evolutionarily-determined “fitness indicators” showing that *this* organism has so much power and resources to spare that it can go around giving it away to the less ‘fortunate’.
    No rich person has ever given enough to charity to become poor – except maybe the mythical Buddha, and we see how useful his philosophy of rejecting the world (because he saw the universal pattern and didn’t like it) has been in ‘improving’ things… it can’t outcompete the philosophies of centralized power and control and killing-the-unbelievers.

  7. And what’s ‘reality’ anyway? Who decides what things are ‘worth’? Individuals, I guess. But those who decide that kindness and generosity and altruism are worth something seem to be losing out to those who decide that service of self is the highest virtue.
    What’s ‘worth’ anyway? Is it what makes you happy? What makes others happy? Are people who believe in ‘virtue’ and ‘good’ just suckers for the leaders who espouse virtue while never believing in it or following it themselves?

  8. It’s not just humans… even if VHEMT or the Church of Euthanasia or PETA succeeded in convincing the world that to save itself we’d all need to kill ourselves… some other species would eventually evolve intelligence and run into the same problems we have.
    It’s the *innate nature of reality itself* that things that destroy other things to improve themselves will last longer than things which use their ‘own’ energy without taking it from others.
    Actually, that is, the things which last the longest of all are those which *do not change at all*, like dead white dwarf stars, protons, etc. Things which don’t require any input or output to survive. Even the biggest black holes eventually evaporate; their pattern exists as an input-output system, and eventually if they don’t continually get input, they disappear.
    Perhaps it has to do with how we see patterns themselves – things which are distinct from other things are by definition Order, which we have defined as always decreasing in the universe (the ‘second law of thermodynamics’); local Order is maintained only by increasing Disorder elsewhere.
    So I suppose the Taoist thing to do would be to simply acknowledge the world being as-it-is, that things inevitably disappear and decay, energy is inevitably used up, and in the end all things shall cease. The world is like a finger trap – stop struggling, you’ll only make it tighter.

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