I’ve learned a whole lot of things professionally over the years, and one of them is this: People at the top of the food chain can have some mighty fragile egos. I’m not sure why this is, but I promise you it is a true story. I’ve been in the center of many insecurity-driven ego storms before, and if nothing else it has helped me to fine tune my diplomacy and validation skills. Look, we all have insecurities, right? To be successful, it is imperative to know how to best manage them – in yourself, and perhaps more importantly, in others.
There is a descriptor of a specific strategy of human interaction that refers to being “dumb like a fox.” While that is all well and good, it seems to depict a cunning nature that is prone to trickery. I’m not about that, because I do believe – naive though it may be – that authenticity is still the paved way to honorable success. So instead of being dumb like a fox, I’ve decided that I want to be smart like a Golden Retriever.
I had a dog once who I had claimed was of the “big, dumb, yellow” variety. He was actually half Golden Retriever and half Yellow Lab. His name was Jethro, and he was 105 pounds of pure love. It was impossible not to love Jethro. He was happy, he was playful, he had an unbridled adoration for anyone in his midst. No matter who you were, he liked you and he wanted to be around you and had only good thoughts of you. It’s no wonder he was so universally loved by all. There was nothing not to like.
So I’ve decided that this Golden Retriever mentality – one of being pleasant, consistently loving, and maybe knocked down an intellectual notch or two – is really the way to disarm the fragile egos. As I told my friend the other night, “Sometimes to be truly smart, you have to play a little dumb.” That is very different than being dumb – I have no time for that. But to display humility, to not need to be right all the time (even when you know you are), and to express an openness to learning from anyone who wants to teach you – that is the golden ticket, my friends.
And so, as much as I can, I am going to be just that. I will be sitting faithfully by your side, wagging my tail, and hoping you will ask me to play. I’m smart like that.