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.