Several years ago I met the Dalai Lama and it was truly a wonderful experience. He was delightful and lighthearted. And he giggled. Actually giggled, and it was contagious. I thought he would be a little stiff or serious, but he wasn’t at all. He smiled and joked and giggled, with an almost child like quality. But he talked about many serious things, and I was captivated by his delivery.
I have been in Television, radio and theater. I have met many celebrities and those who would be called “super stars,” and I have never been star struck. But the Dalai Lama was quite different. To me he was the embodiment of Love. I know it sounds weird, but he was so delightful in his conveyance and articulation.
That day he was speaking on Medical and Professional ethics and I took pages of notes that were later hard to read because I did not want to take my eyes off of him as he spoke. I was struck by how he spoke of the importance of being humble, among other things. A humble and compassionate spirit is needed in order to understand true ethics in this day and age. And also to live a successful life.
And the Dalai Lama is right, of course. The best example I can think of is my ex boyfriend, the one who was a financial executive. When we met, he was Vice president of Finance at the 7th nationally ranked children’s hospital in the country with the #1 ranked best NICU in the country. He was making about $450,000 per year and working with his long time friend and CFO next to him. He was tapped to be the next CFO when his friend left, which would put him at over $750,000 per year and on track with his professional goals.
I remember one of our first fights. He told me that I was stupid, that I was ‘just a writer” who wrote about finances. However, he, HE, was a wealthy high powered financial executive who would soon be CFO of that hospital, that he did his job better than anyone else and that he was absolutely irreplaceable because no one could do his job better including his then boss and friend.
I was completely shocked at what I as hearing him say and told him that he needed to humble himself, immediately. Everyone is replaceable and the reason why he was successful was a combination of him working hard and people taking a chance on him. That there were thousands of people out there just as educated and talented as he, but that in every job interview, someone had faith in him and chose him over the others. THAT is why he was where he was. He quickly told me that he alone made his career happen, with no ones help at all, and that was why I was a dumb writer and he was an executive that I was lucky was even speaking to me. I told him then that his attitude was going to destroy his career.
He was fired from that VP of Finance job – well, given the choice to be fired or to step down and become a “consultant,” which was extremely generous. And yet he never thanked his boss or gave any credit to his boss for NOT firing him when there was plenty of grounds to do so. And because of his drinking and poor life choices, he ruined his friendship with is CFO boss with whom had worked for over 10 years, (his bosses wife would look after his children most nights and saw the neglect of his kids).
But instead of taking responsibility for the mistakes that led to the demotion, my ex blamed his boss, saying his boss had been out to get him. My ex was then fired from his lucrative consultant job after that CFO left. Now he is at a tiny hospital that was over $20 million in the red and had to be bought out or go under. The hospital had 45 employees before it was bailed out. That is all he could get, but at least he got that. Now he has a chance to start over fresh and be humble. Because even after all of that mess, someone was willing to take a chance on him after his many mistakes that got him fired from both positions in DC.
Now I make more money than he does. The difference between us? I fully recognize that I am replaceable. I recognize that while I work my ass off and am incredibly talented, there is always someone better, smarter, and more talented than I. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how fortunate I am that those who have hired me, did so because they believed in me more than the others they interviewed. And I am deeply grateful for their trust and faith in my talents. And I work every single day not to let them down.
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am successful not just because of my own talents, but because I have stood on the shoulders of giants – People who believed in me, took a chance on me, mentored me, taught me, advised me and trusted me. That is a trust that I hold sacred. If I am a good leader, it is because I had good leaders teaching me. No man is an island, and no one reaches success alone. There are many, many who have and who continue to help and lead, and teach and mentor me.
The other difference? I am happy. Being humble and acknowledging others along your path to success adds to happiness. You know that you are not alone, not matter what the circumstance. There are no demons in my closet or under the bed or in my soul. They have been dealt with minimized. There is nothing that keeps me awake at night, as a clear conscience makes for a comfortable pillow. I rest safe in the knowledge, and am forever grateful, that I have a network of people who believe in me.
Life is short. Be humble. Be thankful. Know your worth but also know that there is always, and will always be, someone who is smarter, better, richer, prettier, …and just More, than you. When someone chooses you for a job, or relationship, or a friendship, or anything, they could have chosen many others, but they didn’t. Out of everyone else they could have chosen, they picked you. It makes you smile, doesn’t it?
Writer’s Note: I highly recommend this book, written my the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both men I have had the immeasurable pleasure of meeting.