I recently had the opportunity to meet a person I have long admired for his work. I’ve read two of his books, diligently follow his blog and have recommended his work to many as I feel his message is both vital and important. Yet the moment I met this person I found him to be rude, disrespectful and lacking in generosity, which is ironic given that generosity is part of his mantra.
Then deep disappointment set in as I had previously held this person is such high esteem, and I began to question whether I would continue to recommend his work. I was feeling conflicted because I still feel his work is vital and important and that the message of generosity is one we all need to hear.
Fortunately with a little help from my partner I was able arrive at a peaceful understanding that his work is by no means diminished by his rudeness. His work is still valuable; the person delivering the message is merely being human by showing us his shortcomings. While it may be hard for most of us to admit, we all have character defects; we are strong in some areas and fall short in others. We could say that one person’s defects of character are greater than another’s, yet that would be subjective to say the least.
So when we meet someone who’s work is so cutting edge, powerful, eloquent, vital, and downright entertaining, we tend to place this person up on a pedestal and think they can do no wrong. Yet this is never the case. Steve Jobs, who was arguably one of the greatest innovators we’ve seen in the past hundred years, was notorious for being a difficult person to work for. The most creative people tend to be emotionally imbalanced and many times even rude and arrogant.
I have a friend who used to drive a two-toned Rolls Royce in Los Angeles, and if you drive a shiny Rolls in LA you will quickly find that people will just get out of your way on the road. Then after driving a Rolls for a little while and switching to a common person’s car, you’ll notice a distinct difference in how people relate to you in traffic. It’s as though we think that those who are highly successful somehow deserve preferential treatment.
The point being that putting people on pedestals is not fair to them or us. It’s not fair to them because we isolate them into a world of false perceptions and expectations, and it’s unfair to us because our expectations of them tend to be so high that we’re inevitably bound to be disappointed.
I heard it said by one friend who is held by some as a spiritual teacher, “Don’t put me on a pedestal because I might fall off.” The takeaway for me is this, I will continue to recommend this person’s work and personally recognize him as an important thought leader. I’m still following his blog, and I will also recognize him as equal in humanness to myself and all others, whether it be Sally in accounting, Joe the janitor, Randal the CFO, or even someone like a well known thought leader.