Retaliation, Reputation & Happiness

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Nobody likes to hear it – but you are alone in this world. People do not care about your problems. If you are blessed with a close, faithful friends and family who genuinely loves and cares for you, you should be grateful every day. It is a precious gift and should not be taken for granted. Having family or friends do not guarantee they will love you, be loyal or respectful. In private life, in business, there is so much pretentious and damaging behaviors, insincerity, and backstabbing. The number of people who can be considered vain and selfish is going up. Research shows that over last 30 years, 30% more kids think they are more awesome than everyone else. This idea is broadly reinforced by today’s media, parents, education system, youth coaches. Young people grow up with a sense of entitlement and have no issue to call themselves gifted and successful, with no objective data to back it up.

This data troubles me as I have always admired humble, smart people. Not the kind who projects modesty but deep inside claims superiority over others, behaving like jerks. There are too many of those individuals in various organizations. I refer here to exceptional people and leaders but still ‘normal,’ approachable, helpful and genuinely friendly towards others. Bearing in mind the growing epidemic of excessive self-admiration, I think the second category, may just become extinct one day, like blondes and redheads.

I find myself to be a ‘simple’ and ordinary individual. Analytical and rational, straight shooter, transparent, loyal and overall trustful. I do not try to hurt people intentionally but sure, I am not ideal, and I did and said things several times that I later regretted. When I did something I was not proud of, burned a bridge by error, I made an attempt to rebuild it. I correct my mistakes as a matter of principle. Integrity is critical to me. I do not assume people are evil unless I am proven otherwise. I apply a “rule of 3”: “hurt me the third time, then I know it was not accidental.” I used that rule couple of times in my life. I left the perpetrators behind, without giving it a second thought. I would never consider them a loss, but I am grateful for the harsh lessons I received. They will serve me well throughout the rest of my life and career.

That brings me to the topic I wanted to write about. Revenge, reputation, and happiness. Those subjects are very closely connected with each other.

I, like many others, went through the events in my professional life that were extremely challenging and emotionally difficult. It is hard to learn that people who smile in your face are working hard behind your back to hurt you professionally due to their jealousy, insecurities, and fears. It is tough to have bosses that do not support you when you go above and beyond and move mountains for the organization. Sure, all of that can be painful. Some people may try to alleviate those unsettling emotions and release the accumulated anger through a personal vendetta. Again this is merely my opinion – however appealing it may seem; it is just not worth it. Life has a strange habit of coming full circle. What goes around comes around. Revenge can take a lot of energy, resources and will harm you at the very end. Negativity has a tendency to escalate and generate ripple effects. Also, we always should take a step back and try to see the situation in 360° view. Explore our personal faults and weaknesses. It is always easy to assume the fault lies only on another side. Sometimes it may be true, but self-reflection is a proof of professional and personal maturity. Do not damage your happiness by focusing on the past events and people, who are most likely not worth your attention anyway.

Another reason to not retaliate is your personal and professional reputation. Reputation is both a behavioral and consequential risk. Although reputation cannot be entirely controlled, it can be influenced by your behaviors; e.g. showing mercy to your enemies. Reputation is fragile, is earned by your hard work, and trough trust of various stakeholders. It can take a lifetime to build and seconds to lose. The real value of reputation can only be appreciated once it is lost or damaged. The external trust and confidence in you and your business are essential for business sustainability. Consequences of damaged reputation can be catastrophic.

I do not believe that forgiveness is the only way to address the personal harm. Some things should not be forgiven due to terrible consequences to the damaged individuals or businesses. I prefer to build the emotional distance and forget, defer, and show clemency. While I have no assurance that this approach will change the unfortunate status quo, I know at least that my happiness, personal and business reputation remain unhurt.

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