We ALL think or have thought about it at one time or another. Revenge! Yes, we plan, we let our minds conjure up ways to get back at someone who we believe has wronged us (at this point you should hear the Austin Power-Dr. Evil maniacal laugh in your head).
I’ve yet to hear a speaker on success really discuss revenge so I thought I take a stab at it (no pun intended) by sharing a recent incident that happened to me.
Let me step back for a moment and tell you that during high school I sprouted over night to my current height of 6’2” and was skinny as a rail. In school I was never one of the cool guys. I was always one who hung out on the periphery hoping to absorb the coolness from my fellow classmates.
I was invited to play on a local YMCA team. I was sucked in by my friends telling me, “Victor, you’d be good at it.” (See the video on my website to see how this turned out). I don’t know what possessed me to say yes since I had the grace of dizzy duck and the coordination of an inebriated flamingo. I was all fowled up! (Sorry, bad joke) I had grown so quickly that I wasn’t use to my height.
On our team there was a guy, we’ll call him John, who was constantly belittling me and took pleasure in finding any opportunity to make fun of my: height, weight or lack of basketball ability. He was shorter, stealthier and could play the game. Given his scoring ability, he was always going at me and wouldn’t let up when it came to ridiculing. I wouldn’t classify him a bully because there was never a physical threat, but he rode me every moment he could.
Every time I saw John my mind would race with all the bad things I’d like to see happen to him. I wanted some type of revenge or satisfaction. But in the end, both never came. I graduated from high school, mentally intact, and went about creating my success. From what I heard, John couldn’t wait to get out of High School and didn’t go on to college.
Let me now fast forward almost 23 years later.
I was invited back to do a keynote speech at my High School in Chicago. I gotta tell ya’…going back after so many years was chilling (in a good way). I had so many good memories and enjoyed walking the halls and peeking into the classrooms where I use to sit.
By 10 a.m. the auditorium was filled to the brim with students. As I approached the stage door which led to the stage, coming from the other direction was a familiar face wearing a dark green jumpsuit. Yep, you guessed it, it was John.
John looked at me, paused, looked at me again and said a sense of amazement, “You’re the speaker?”
I nodded my head as he continued to look at me in disbelief; as if a ghost from the past had come to pay him a visit.
It’s funny how we wait for a moment where we’ve replayed in our mind everything we want to say to a person. But guess what happened? Nothing came out. My thoughts, anger and resentment dissipated the moment I started talking to John. I treated him as I would any stranger I’d meet on my speaking tour.
I went to ask him how he was doing, about family and on and on. Before I excused myself to go speak, he mentioned that he was married, had kids and that he was the school janitor. My mind yelled, “Huh! The school Janitor?!” as I stepped inside.
The host introduced me and I took the stage to speak to an auditorium packed with students with A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder). Corporate crowds are tough, but nothing is tougher than speaking to High School students. As I looked into the audience while speaking, I saw John off to the side smiling as he seemed to be enjoying my talk on success.
After my speech, John came by to shake my hand and congratulate me. He said, “Victor, that was great. I was telling some of the students that I went to school with you.” We talked a little longer before saying our pleasant goodbyes.
For the rest of the day, my mind was whipping from the past to the present and how much John and I had changed. I no longer had ill feelings towards John. I no longer wished him harm. I began to reflect on how time changes us all, but yet in our minds we hold onto relics of the past.
Many of us carry some sort of angst towards someone who has wronged us in the past. And yes, some of us may very well fantasize about revenge. Seeing John again reminded once more that revenge is often bitter sweet. It’s never as sweet as you planned or imagined it would be. And bitter when you think on how foolish it was to have wasted all that mental energy on thoughts of getting even one day.
People change over time but our memories of others don’t take that into account. On that day the ‘old John’ died and a new updated memory of him took its place; a more pleasant one at that. I don’t think I forgave John for the past; that would be too trite. I just decided to bury the memory and put a R.I.P. tombstone on it. It was no longer relevant to me.
As we grow older, so does our appreciation for life and humanity. None of us with a true sense of decency can possibly wish any harm or misfortune to befall a fellow human being. We shouldn’t torture ourselves by exhuming the past. Stop it! Cut it out!
Maybe, just maybe, the best way to get even is to simply ignore the past, and focus your time on building a new YOU. Maybe, you should focus your energy on building or rebuilding your success. And if destiny is kind enough to smile in your direction, you may just run across one those old memories on the road to your greatness and create a more pleasant one.
Please forward this on to someone who needs a bit of inspiration today.