Why Being Romeo Sucks
I am outing myself as being somewhat of a Romeo. Hard to believe given my Danny DeVito shape. But it’s true, and here’s why being Romeo sucks.
Settle down! This is NOT an X-rated expose. It’s a story challenging you about who YOU are. Many fine people screw this up. When they do, they hurt others, and themselves. Those hurt keep wondering: “Why? What have I done to you to deserve this?” First, a thought from Oprah Winfrey, and then my explanation:
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
Now- I’m not looking for sympathy here. No need! I’ve never been happier, am having a blast and -literally – all my professional dreams are coming true. It’s this observation of human nature, and the lesson from it, that I want to share.
I quit my big job nine months ago. Since then, some former colleagues and associates who I had supported consistently, relentlessly, loyally for years, who always reached out when under pressure for counsel, a hug and a dose of optimism… have simply dropped me like a hot potato.
You see, I no longer have the power or ability to directly benefit them. I immediately became invisible.
They show me my invisibility by not returning phone calls, or by not turning up to scheduled catch-ups. “Sorry, my daughter was sick,” said one when I called after waiting an hour. Okay! Fair enough. Understood. But could you not have called to let me know? There are several more ‘no show’ examples, all with no phone call to alert me.
I was telling Authentic Guy Mike of the most recent incident, where I realised I’d become Romeo.
I was in a coffee shop near my former offices on the harbour. An ex-colleague walked in – someone I’d mentored for seven years, who’d always call me for an urgent ‘tyres pumping’ session when he needed it. I was on the phone. I waved. He waved. He sat down a few tables away with a friend. My call ended. I was reading the paper. He got up to pay, glanced several times at me, and then turned away and quickly walked out.
Really, J? All those chats we had… all those times you confided your deepest fears to me and I’d give you my very best counsel… all meaningless now because I am no longer the big guy? You were happy to ride with me in the limo, right? Here’s how you made me feel…. and with thanks to Mark Knopfler ….
“You promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin,
Now you just say “Oh Romeo yeah, you know I used to have a scene with him.”
Feeling like Romeo sucks. You feel second rate. It leaves you with a sinking feeling that you’ve been duped all along. Wayne Dyer says how people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours. Fair enough. I react with bewilderment. So be it.
Authentic Guy Mike recalled the day he was fired as CMO of a major company. The boss of his media agency, someone known to me, had called him: “Mike- if you need money to help over the Christmas period, no worries, I’ll transfer it today.” Authentic Guy Mike cried in telling me. He did not need the money, but he’ll never forget the positive intent. I wrote to that media guy, relaxing now in New Zealand, to remind him of the story. He’d forgotten it – how he’d given someone love and heart just when they needed it. He was happy to take the bus ride together.
“The problem is,“ said Authetic Guy Mike, “That many people see us as big, strong, invincible. They don’t think we need company on our bus ride.”
I get that. I’m talking about a simpler authenticity…. about basic, table-stakes, downright entry-level common courtesy and respect. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated. What you will value most when you near the end of your careers will be the relationships you’ve built along the way. Don’t screw them up needlessly. Don’t treat people with disdain and disregard. Particularly those who have stepped up for you. They just don’t deserve it.
If I ever do it to you, tell me- loud and clear. I did it once to Former CEO Client Jeff. He’d always supported me. I should have callled him when he got fired. I didn’t. We bumped into each other a month later. I could see the hurt in his eyes. I was ashamed. I had let him down. I had let me down.
Respect relationships. Treasure them. Show your true colours are consistent and genuine. Your true friends, in business and in life, walk through your door when others are walking out. Never make someone feel like Romeo… “You know, I used to have a scene with him…..”
I know we live in a WIIFM world (What’s In It For Me). Just remember, the most powerful thing in it for you are the relationships you form, nuture and evolve. And for those who haven’t returned my calls or have left me stranded at those coffee shops, stay calm. It’s okay! I know sometimes it can be embarrassing and awkward being with former ‘lovers’. Just remember – if ever you are in trouble, are down, vulnerable or scared, please call me. You see, from my heart, and with thanks to Chrissie Hynde:
“Take me in, into your darkest hour,
And I’ll never desert you.
I’ll stand by you.”