People Say the Darndest Things

A few years back, I was being considered as a potential speaker for a group of senior managers from different organizations that would gather once a month to learn about leadership. The gentleman who contacted me predictably asked if I had a website he could look at to see if I would be a good fit for his organization. I liked my site and happily sent him the link. He called me back two days later and, after the standard niceties of weather and such, told me I didn’t fit.

Disappointed, of course, I managed to do what anyone can do when something doesn’t go as well as one wants: seek feedback and learn for next time. He accommodated my request by referencing my site. Though he could tell I was experienced and widely sought after for my work, he said my client list was…well… “too Jewish.” He referred specifically to the work I had done in synagogues, other non-profits, and as adjunct faculty at Hebrew Union College. I asked if he had seen the consumer product companies and professional service firms I had served as well.

He said he did. The list was still too Jewish. He thanked me, and so on, and said goodbye.

As long as you and I are alive, people (those we love and don’t) will say and/or do things that anger and frustrate us. Yet, a scientific fact in all of the emotion is that you and I have choices about what to do with that anger and frustration. In future writing, there will be more about my path through choice-making and I will continue to invite you to look around on your path.

Until then, consider some 300-year-old advice from Rabbi Baal Shem Tov.

“Your fellow man is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection you are encountering— you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”

Homework? (Likely the hardest I’ve assigned yet) Take 5 minutes and identify the last time someone pissed you off and exposed their blemish.  What got you so angry or frustrated? Now, push through to the harder question: what specifically can you learn from your reaction and change? Lastly, pick a place where you can practice what you’ve learned.   

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