Sunday, June 26, 2011

What do you talk about?

Success is almost meaningless if you define yourself merely by the numbers and luxury goods you’ve achieved through association. If that’s how you perceive and communicate success, you’ve missed the point.

Shortfalls, on the same note, have very little meaning or weight if your life – until you insist on defining yourself by your failures. You have a choice, but if you talk about losing millions on a bad bet or that you were head of product development for Pepsi Clear, you give people very few alternatives with which to identify you.

You are not measured by your income. Your income can be measured, yes and is, as such, a measurement, but it does not measure you as a person. If you insist on forcing it on people in that way, you’re selling yourself short – regardless of how much or little you make. Your character is invaluable, and therefore will always be worth more – to you and to others.

I met two people at a fundraising event yesterday.

The first introduced himself and promptly launched into the details of his expensive hobbies – equestrianism and international travel. He owns businesses, started his own line of luxury foods, lost a few million in his last venture (“which is fine” he made sure to add, “I’ll make it back”) and never once did he ask what anyone else in the group did for a living, or clue in on the hints we dropped that we’ve been riding horses longer than he has. "For all he knows," I sighed to a friend as we turned away, "we could be self-made millionaires or the top competitors in dressage. He never bothered to ask, though." And, in failing to do so, made a fool of himself.

The second individual spoke to everybody as though he’d been waiting all day for the opportunity. He had a way of listening as though he had no intention of interrupting, a way of talking that warmed everyone in the group. He looked at you as you spoke, and he shared things that connected to the conversation. What does he do for a living? He recently walked out on his plush corporate gig and is planning on travelling for two months. And, oh, by the way, he asked, what do you do?

Guess which one we walked away from (twice) and which one we wanted to have another drink with? Don't let your spending habits or your income dictate your presence with others. 

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