By: Ron Wolforth
When I was in junior high school and lasting all the way through high school, I had a teammate that was pure cancer. He was nasty, petty and vitriolic. The problem was, he was also very bright, articulate and charming when he wanted to be. For those who remember the reference, he was a living, breathing personification of Eddie Haskell of “Leave It to Beaver” fame.
He was a ‘pot stirrer’ and a ‘muckraker’. He was constantly attempting to play one individual or circumstance against another for personal gain, influence or advantage. He was a classic… “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of guy. I really struggled with how to deal with him, and it caused me many good night’s sleep.
I haven’t seen him in years… thank goodness… but if he is alive today, I cringe just thinking about what the speed of social media allows him to disrupt and damage.
We all know these types of individuals. They are on our teams, in our organizations, in our businesses and even in our families. They are thin-skinned. They are vindictive. They are arrogant and self-important. Many get away with their nastiness because often they are bright, insightful and sometimes even brilliant.
These people LOVE to be against something or someone. They love to tear others down. They see it as their appointed duty to point out the flaws and shortcomings of others. They are schemers and manipulators. And if, and when, they get their sights set on you, watch out, they won’t stop until you are mortally wounded. They are clever at mixing in just enough fact with balderdash that an outsider might surmise that the criticism or condemnation must have merit.
Regardless of your political stripe, can you imagine what Bush, Obama or now Trump has to endure on a daily basis? 30% of the population cursing the very ground you walk on. Your political enemies will place blame on you for EVERYTHING and give you credit for NOTHING.
This phenomenon is not new. For example, many mistakenly believe the Founding Fathers were more-or-less monolithic in their beliefs, and had great affection for each other.
Consider this piece detailing the rocky relationship between Washington and Jefferson by historian, George Muse:
Another type of enemy, more-or-less the result of this differing with Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Randolph, was sundry editors and writers who gathered under their patronage and received aids of money or of secret information. One who prospered for a time by abusing Washington was Philip Freneau. He was a college friend of Madison’s, and was induced to undertake the task by his and Jefferson’s urging, though the latter denied this later. As aid to the undertaking, Jefferson, then Secretary of State, gave Freneau an office, and thus produced the curious condition of a clerk in the government writing and printing savage attacks on the President. Washington was much irritated at the abuse, and Jefferson in his “Anas” said that he “was evidently sore & warm and I took his intention to be that I should interpose in some way with Freneau, perhaps withdraw his appointment of translating clerk to my office. But I will not do it.” According to the French minister, some of the worst of these articles were written by Jefferson himself, and Freneau is reported to have said, late in life, that many of them were written by the Secretary of State.
Few young people today know that Washington & Jefferson had little love or affection for each other.
More recent history is the nasty feud between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as detailed by Matt Weinberger:
A furious Jobs accused Gates and Microsoft of ripping off the Macintosh. But Gates didn’t care — he knew that graphical interfaces would be big and didn’t think Apple had the exclusive rights to the idea. Besides, Gates knew full well that Apple took the idea for the graphical interface from the Xerox PARC labs, a research institution they both admired. When Jobs accused Gates of stealing the idea, he famously answered: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”
Going further back in history, on the day the Christian Church was started by the Sermon on the Mount, it was reported that in the audience that day… some mocked and laughed, some were confused and others…. believed.
My contention is that if Washington and Jefferson sincerely disliked each other, that Jobs and Gates had a very nasty and public feud, and the greatest teacher in the history of man had serious distractors regarding his divine message… then you and I will certainly not be immune from that same dynamic.
No matter how hard we work at building relationships and our professional competence, we are going to have people tell us we can’t do something… that we are substandard, insufficient and lacking… even wicked or deleterious.
I suggest you follow a prescription like the one forwarded by Don Miguel Ruiz on a daily basis, and simply relax on worrying about the enemies and naysayers all around us. We all have them… it’s universal to all of us. Stay true to yourself and your beliefs. Doing well is the best revenge.
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