Wow, do some people love themselves! They’re enamored with their job title, infatuated by their social status, and obsessed with their worldly possessions. Unfortunately, some think these “conquests” give them the right to look down their nose at others, avoid saying please and thank you to “commoners,” and treat underlings worse than their pets. If you can believe it, these people won’t even pick up something they drop in a store, feeling that that’s the job of a “minion.”
Please don’t misunderstand…all successful people have earned the right to take satisfaction in their accomplishments, but not the right to be rude, inconsiderate, condescending, or selfish with others.
When these “me-obsessed” individuals burst in on a private conversation, push their way to the front of a line, or continually arrive late for appointments, they’re being just outright rude. There’s no excuse for throwing a tantrum to get their way, for “crying wolf” just to see how high their employees will jump or for letting their children run wild at a restaurant just because their family is “of means.”
From Bad to Worse
Unfortunately, many of these self-centered people suffer from a debilitating disease called Conscience Deficit Syndrome. That’s when the devil on their shoulder becomes hyperactive, and the angel on their other shoulder goes into hibernation.
The resulting behaviors range from rudeness to belittling people, culminating in an obsession with wealth that causes them to hoard everything in their path (even at the expense of others).
Some people should hang a neon sign over their head that screams, “Can’t you tell I’m important?” These people feed their self-worth by paying handsomely for first-class treatment, splurging on upscale brands, and wanting to be seen with the rich and famous. Others, with larger egos, make a “sport” of ridiculing people. They believe that their status (such as income level, title, or number of “toys”) gives them the right to squash others. They’re not satisfied merely with their achievements. Instead, they spend their waking hours boasting, “I’m important — you’re NOT.” They have private conversations with someone in the room while pretending others are invisible. They demand to be part of the decision-making process, then ignore timetables and still hold others accountable for deadlines. They expect others to jump to attention when they make requests, yet they can take weeks (if you’re lucky) to respond to requests that others make.
The Conscience Deficit Syndrome of some other self-centered people is even more troublesome. They’re not only inconsiderate and rude to others, they’re outright cruel. They make themselves feel good by making others feel bad. Why would they ream out a waitress because the restaurant ran out of their favorite dessert? What gives them the right to freak out at someone because that person took “their” space at the gym? What do they gain by making an example of someone in front of his or her colleagues?
With some, wealth and power start out as a goal and end up as an obsession. For them, too much is never enough. Their egos spiral so far out of control that self-worth becomes an addiction. They view themselves as indispensable and their contributions so priceless that they’re completely blinded by the damage and pain they inflict on others. For example, they spend endless hours negotiating obscene bonuses for themselves and then have the chutzpah to tell “valued” employees not to expect raises. Others negotiate fancy golden parachutes for themselves, yet fire employees at a moment’s notice.
While some people are so tone deaf that they don’t know this behavior is wrong, others simply don’t care. Some even attempt to justify this behavior by saying: “Hey it took me 35 years to make it to the top (my boss never made it easy for me).” “It took me years to get my Ph.D. (I paid my dues).” “Look, I make more money in a year than some make in a lifetime (that has to count for something).” The fact is, regardless of whether they’ve had terrible role models or worked their tail off to attain their accomplishments…rude behavior is still unjustifiable.
The cost of acting this way is significant. Like a twister, these me-obsessed individuals leave disaster in their path. And while colleagues, friends, and even family remain silent out of fear of reprisal, they often view these people with contempt and disgust. Moreover, as world travelers, they serve as horrific ambassadors for our country (the ugly American) and as terrible role models for society.
What kind of legacy do you think these egotists are leaving? Imagine the funeral of one of them. Speakers might cite the numerous talents and countless achievements of the deceased. Many in the audience, however, would be thinking how tragic it was that such a gifted person, one with so much potential, could have hurt so many people during a single life’s journey.
This, then, is the legacy these egotists leave behind: Sure, they make it to the top of their field, but often at the expense of others; they give freely to those in need, but expect their ego to be fed in return; they are always surrounded by friends who admire them more for their possessions than for what they stand for; and yes, they have a wonderful family, but they never have time to get to know them. In fact, when these egotists are around, do you think their children learn from a positive role model? Or sadly, are they much more likely to continue the family tradition?
Are You a Giver or a Taker?
You’re at a fork in the road. The path you take is your choice.
It’s not too late to wake up your angel. Will you make a difference in the lives of others?
Will your eulogy be: “You always made me feel special, you gave me the chance when I needed it most, you were an unbelievable role model, you changed my life”?
Or, is it “all about me”?
Linda Ellis may have said it best, in her poem, The Dash?
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard;
are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile…
remembering that this special dash
might only last a while.
So when your eulogy is being read
with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash?
© 2005 Linda Ellis. All rights reserved. http://www.thedash.net
50 Things Money Can’t Buy
The Many Faces of Greed
Being Lazy is a Drag
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So true. Unfortunately these people who are so impressed with themselves don’t realize that no one else is.
Jordan Kimmel says
This is a great poem. It reminds me of the familiar story told of Scrooge, who learns this lesson unfortunately so late in life. While too many are focused on the cash, the richest are those that focus on the dash.
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Shawn Murphy says
I learned a quote from a teacher that has resonated with me to the point of altering how I view my leadership: “Who am I being so that others around me realize how great they are.”
What the quote and your post illustrate is the distinction between leading for personal gain or leading to gain through the development of others. The latter seems less illustrious than the former. The irony, however, is the latter leaves a lasting impression on life that isn’t observable. But it’s experienced and remembered far longer than pursuit of material possessions, fame, notoriety.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Pat, Jordan, Online Poker, bet365, Shawn
Thanks so much for your thoughts and encouragement.
Jordan, your thoughts are right on the mark. By the way, Linda Ellis recently published a new book, “Live Your Dash” It’s a GREAT read.
Shawn, I love the way that you think. It’s no wonder that you’re so successful.
Have a wonderful day!
Sharon Reed says
Frank – What a strong and powerful post on the dangers of egoism and entitlement in all of its various forms! It’s not only offensive to observe, but as you point out in your post, egoists erode trust and alienate others at lightening speed, regardless of whether they are ever aware and/or called out on their behavior.
As always, your words ring clear and true and I appreciate your steadfastness in modeling a better way.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thanks for your kind words, Sharon.
As you can tell, I find this behavior appalling. What they don’t realize is that they’re hurting themselves by alienating people and eroding trust.
On a happy note, after I wrote this piece I contacted Linda Ellis to secure permission to reprint The Dash Poem. We’ve been friends ever since. I think she did a remarkable job of capturing the meaning of a purposeful life. I hope you like her poem as much as I do.
Have a wonderful day.