I’m pretty sure you can’t answer the question in the headline. I’m not positive I can always answer it. That’s because I think there’s often an inconsistency in how I react, and I like that. Being predictable, to me, is being boring.
But there are certain guidelines, I believe, that govern the general philosophy behind my actions. As I posted the other day on FB, one of my biggest strengths and challenges (and yes, there’s a reason I say challenges instead of weaknesses – unfortunately, it’s kind of an inside joke to myself, and trust me it’s not the funny kind of joke) is that I’m very self aware, sometimes to the point of being self absorbed.
I bring all this up because that self absorption recently landed me squarely in the darkness that descends over me from time to time. The reason for the most recent period is important to me but not so much to anyone else, so I’ll skip that part. But trust me, I was in a dark place, and I didn’t like anyone – even myself – except for Karen, who is always my anchor to reality. She tried – she really tried – to find some light in me.
And she succeeded in at least providing a spark that I subsequently was able to ignite into a full-fledged flame (thanks in part to a tragedy that befell a friend that made me realize my problem – much as it meant to me – was embarrassingly insignificant at the beginning, middle and end of the day).
That spark – a simple sentence Karen said to me: ‘I know you always do the right thing eventually.’
That’s a helluva compliment, and I’m vain enough to think it’s true. I’m certainly not perfect, but I can own a mistake and do my best to make it right.
My moral compasses
I’m not a religious person, but I believe I have a strong sense of right and wrong, and that I fall on the side of right pretty darn consistently, even if I don’t always follow the same path to get there.
How do I do it? I look some people I admire – OK, some are fictional characters – and try to walk around in their skin when I’m confronted with a problem. And then I try to act as I believe they would. Let me be clear: I could never be the person any of these people/characters are, but I can darn sure aim that high.
Let’s examine them and the qualities I try to emulate:
- Dean Smith. The greatest basketball coach of all time – don’t even mention the guy in Durham if you don’t want to fight – got me started on the right path at an early age. Coach Smith championed civil rights when it wasn’t popular, particularly in the South, and that resonated with me at a time when I was growing up and deciding how to treat people. He was a competitor and wanted to win, but he had a way of making me feel OK about not winning (and sometimes even making me feel not so good about winning) – the philosophy of feeling good about not winning sticks with me today at Red Ventures. I’ve said before that we fail (lose) better than any other company because we don’t call it failing (or losing) – we call it learning. Finally, and this is really important to me because I have a HUGE ego about my skills, I learned from Coach Smith to do what he did – never take credit for victories but always own losses.
- Rick Blaine. This, of course, is the character Humphrey Bogart brings to life in Casablanca – now and forever my favorite movie. ‘I stick my neck out for nobody,’ he says, except he pretty much sticks his neck out for everybody. Where I try to model my behavior after his is by putting others first. I’ll never eat the last piece of apple pie or pizza as long as I think someone in the family wants it. (A disclaimer: Potato chips and jelly beans are the exceptions – I’m pretty selfish about these.)
- Superman/Batman/Spider-Man. No, I’m not faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and all that other jazz. But I like to think I can employ some of Kal-El’s other powers: Super-hearing, to understand what folks are really saying – and not saying; super-vision, to see the wrongs around me and when friends need a kind word or a smile; and the courage (and voice) to speak up for those who can’t. From Batman, I try to use my brain – my biggest superpower – to solve problems. Like him, I can seem aloof – some might mistakenly say combative, and that’s something I try to work on. And like Peter Parker, I was thrust into a position of power at a very young age and had to learn the responsibility that comes along with it, especially in a team setting. Karen also says I have a pretty good dose of Spidey-sense – an awareness that often, but certainly not always, keeps me from being blindsided by developments around me.
None of this is meant to say I’m perfect – I’m filled with ambition, jealousy, greed and all the other vices you can imagine. I don’t suffer fools gladly. But I do try every day to exceed the expectations I have for myself.
What Would Arthur Do? I still don’t know exactly for every situation – and I often disappoint myself. But I can’t think of a better way to put it than that I’ll always, ultimately, try to do the write – and right – thing.