I'm continuing to write a set of Sunday posts that revisit in turn the ideas Tony Schwartz offered in "Turning 60: The twelve most important lessons I've learned so far". This week, I'm considering the fourth of Schwartz's observations:
"Never seek your value at the expense of someone else's. When we're feeling devalued, our reactive instinct is to do anything to restore what we've lost. Devaluing the person who made you feel bad will only prompt more of the same in return."
I dearly wish this was a strong suit. It's too easy for me to both perceive and respond to perceived slights without really thinking things through.
An example that stands out took place this summer. A trade magazine arrived and I starting reading the cover story, which addressed a topic I think I know well. Overall, the article was thorough and balanced, offering an array of data points to help anyone from a novice to a reasonably well-informed publishing professional.
What it didn't have was a quote from me. I hadn't been called to talk about a topic that I think most industry people would associate with me. And I was upset.
In the moment, I wrote and sent the editor a note I quickly came to regret. The article was a good one, period. It offered the perspective the industry deserved. I would not have added anything that wasn't said in some form or another in the piece that went to press.
In short, I blew it. When the editor and I exchanged e-mails the next day (his magnanimous, mine apologetic), I realized that I'd assumed a slight without really thinking through the other possibilities, including my relative invisibility in certain parts of the publishing community.
Fortunately, I don't do this every day, or I'd never work in this town again. Through the good graces of people who could have sent me packing, I had a chance to apologize and reflect more than a bit. But I wasted the better part of a day stewing about it. These days, who has time for that?