I have learned that if you’re motivated, ambitious for good things, and willing to do what it takes to get there, at some point people will try to bring you down. This is something all virtuosos, those desiring to be as good as possible at what they do and to achieve something in life, will have to deal with at some point. And the worst, most insidious part is, it will more often than not come from those who know and who supposedly love you.
For many reasons – jealousy, victimhood/entitlement mentality, envy, insecurity – certain people, usually very ill-informed will want to hold you down, to lash out based on their completely wrong-perceptions of you, just to make themselves feel better about their own crappy lives, or to get back at you for doing well when they haven’t. Juvenile? Immature? Counter-productive? Of course. Will it get them ANYWHERE? Not on your life. And you know what? They will do it anyway. They don’t see it and they don’t want to because that might cause them to have to change their own lives.
On one hand I am blessed that 99.99% of the people around me, the people I work with, and the people I play for are completely supportive. They’re willing to celebrate with me when I do well, to sympathize when I don’t, and to call me out in a constructive way when I cross a line. That is a blessing.
But I have to tell you, not everyone will be on your team, and you just have to be ready for that. If you’re good and getting better, if you’re willing to stand your ground against bad deals and wrong approaches, and/or if you deal with people who don’t play by the same rules and moral standards, it’s coming. I have had people steal my original material. I’ve had speakers bureaus keep money paid by clients to me, and then have the nerve to want to try and book me again. Worst of them all, a while back I had a former agent steal a half-year’s income from me, all the while accusing me of lying to him (which I’ve never done) and, get this… his equally infantile parents each wrote hateful things to me. Friends, if you are successful, these gnat-like human beings will find you sooner or later and in varying ways… what can I say? It’s a fallen world.
So, the question becomes, what do you do? I mean do you sit there and take it and just let it burn inside? Do you ignore it? Do you fight it tooth and nail? OK… for what it’s worth, here’s my process and I hope it helps.
1. I try to start with the biblical principle outlined in the famous Desiderata: “As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all people.” That means, try to make it work, bend over backwards for others, even those who hurt you… as far as you can WITHOUT surrendering your personhood and moral code. Try hard but know where to draw the line.
2. When someone wrongs you start by trying to work it out, talk it out, negotiate a solution. Be accommodating but firm in pursuit of fairness and justice.
3. There is indeed, a time to ignore and that’s when someone wrongs you with words… by cutting you down, telling you you’re a loser, or you’re not good enough or that what you’re doing is crazy, bad, or just impossible. Though it can be hard, ignore it and move on. If someone did this to you growing up and you’re still hearing (and believing) those echos, realize they’re NOT TRUE! Do what you have to, counseling, personal development… or just trust me… you’re a freakin’ genius, at something, and perhaps many things. My book “What If…?” explains this on the first page.
4. If the wrong is deep enough, provable, and worth winning in court, there is a time for litigation and/or legal recourse. To make this decision the first question is, what if you win, what will that look like? It’s not always like TV. Many times worthy cases are litigated to victory, only for the defendant to declare bankruptcy and move on free and clear and it becomes quite the hollow victory. The next question is, is it worth it? Litigation is a negative affair no matter how you spin it. How long will it last? How long will you live in a negative mind-set and relive the same wrongs over and over, and will that be worth the victory? Can you handle the defeat if, even though you’re right, the court finds for your opponent? I’m not telling you not to litigate. I’m saying you need to look long and hard at exactly what that will entail and decide if the effort has a good chance of being worth it.
5. You wanna know what the best solution is almost always? A bit bold of me to say it like that but I will. Of course this is just my opinion but I have some strong backing on this.
The best solution is simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing you can do and it is simply this: Nothing. The best way to deal with those sad little human beings who want to hurt you and bring you down is, if at all possible do absolutely nothing. Smile, or cry, let it go, then move on. This is easy because… well, it’s doing nothing. It’s hard because our animal instincts kick in and say, “But that’s not fair, it’s not right! I deserve better! I deserve JUSTICE!” And you’re right, you do. I certainly have. Here are the reasons I advocate doing nothing in most cases.
A. As I said in a past blog, you can be right, or you can be free. As long as you’re right, you’re not free. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to be right, but you live longer when you’re free.
B. Jesus said to “turn the other cheek.” When someone hits one cheek, offer him the other. What did Jesus know about that that we don’t? Perhaps he knew that as a true virtuoso, as someone after the best in life, spiritual (read: real) growth is not achieved by being right, it’s achieved by acting on a higher plane of understanding, of forgiveness and conscience (a big enough subject for an entire book).
C. And in conclusion… While I am a devout Christ-Follower I’m going to share a story from Buddha because it’s a great story. Buddha was famous for responding to evil, meanness and negativity with goodness and kindness (like Christ by the way). There was once a man who traveled a long way to test Buddha on this. He spent an entire weekend with Buddha insulting, impugning and saying all manner of evil and filth to Buddha, who for two days said nothing, going about his business. Finally, in a surprise moment Buddha turned to the man and said, “Sir, may I ask you a question?” Startled, the man said, “Yes.” Buddha asked, “If a person comes with a gift to give, but the intended receiver refuses the gift, to whom does the gift belong?” So the man reasoned, “If the receiver rejects the gift, it belongs to the giver.” Buddha replied, “Yes! You have answered correctly.” Buddha then added, “So tell me sir, if I refuse to accept your abuse, to whom does it belong?” There was a long silence. Then the man hung his head and went away, carrying with him all the anger and meanness he’d created.
I feel sorry for those who’ve stolen my material, but I’ve watched as their careers spiral downward. I wish people had never taken my money. But I know for a fact, keeping that money will continue to hurt them far more than my not having it ever hurt me. I’ll likely never know about it, but it’s coming back to them and they’re each living that. We all do until we make it right. Jesus said “Make peace with your brother before you bring your gifts to the altar.”
So, friends, I hope it doesn’t happen but you’re going to encounter those who want to hurt you and bring you down. And I say, just don’t accept it. Choose your best course of action and ultimately, smile (or cry) and move on… and by so doing you’ll stick it to them without saying a word.