One night my friend Laurie, a local actress and the kindness of a very special spirit evident from a distance, gave me this “dumb as a rock” statement. She went on and on about how exceptional I was. But like any good Texan I took to her bragging. While I was wallowing and basking in the flattery of her attention, I realized Texans only brag on Texas – not themselves. This reminds me of something my old friend John used to say to me. He used to say, “Richard…You do the work and I will do the bragging.” That was the confirmation I was looking for and it hit me just as I turned the corner into the American Airlines Center for a hockey game. I said to Laurie, “I know I am exceptional. I just try not to remember.” That stopped her dead in her tracks. Sadly, she has not bragged on me, to my face again since. Instead she grabbed her phone and sent me a text reminder. Thank you Laurie for the dumb as a rock story.
People that focus on what they do seldom have much of an ego. Often perceived as arrogant, the true drive behind their speech is the ultimate objective. When that objective is achieved there is little for them to do but establish another one. Like old John Propes used to say when I was a teenager, “Richard, you do the work and I will do the bragging.” I think this is a cliché that well describes what high achievement means. When one is truly committed to an objective the clarity of that present vision is without equal. Evident all too often is what is going wrong, winning that objective is overcoming, what could go wrong often does. That is why it is so good when we get it right. People write songs about this stuff.
There is a passage in Proverbs that says, “A haughty spirit goes before a fall every time.” How true that is every time my ego gets the best of me. I get used to listening to how good I am, and all the wonderful things I’ve done and the next thing I know I’m doing the bragging – which then takes my eye off the objective. Need I say that all hell breaks loose and what can go wrong usually does? Then I hear John again in my right ear, “Richard…you do the work!” Some days later when I have cleaned up the mess I reflect on the lesson; resolved not to learn it again.
Now I am not saying this is a trap I have mastered my way around. Quite the contrary, I just hope I see it coming. It is like focusing on the objective again- pay attention, go about my business with humility and avoid the trap of flattery. Flattery is pleasant to my ears, and it sure does taste like honey in my mouth, but too much honey is bitter in my belly.
I would like to leave you all with one last thing. My friend John was near 70 when I met him as a teenager. Long since passed, he lives in my words I share with you. Even though it has been years since I actually heard his voice, I would like to ask him something, “If you are not here and I am to do the work then who is going to do the bragging?” I suppose that is a story for another day.
Laurie, I hope you will keep on saying good things about me. Thank you for the motto, I am mindful even when I am trying not to remember.