Wednesday, January 17, 2007

He's a a**hole: No, he's an a**hole who's made it

I remember describing one of the prospects that I introduced to 10AM Communication as an A**hole to Wei, who was then Business Development Director. Wei then corrected me and reminded me that the person I had described as an a**hole was an a**hole who had made it. As Wei pointed out, whatever the defaults of this person, we were the ones going to him to look for business, he did not go to us.

That incident has always stayed with me. I think, very often, we are quick to dismiss people for their negative traits and its actually alot more fun to blame the other guy for all your problems rather than to look for answers within yourself. Everytime I think of that conversation I had with Wei, I often look back at the instances in life where I was down and out and ask myself - who did I blame? Sad to say, it was always easier to blame the other guy! I'm told that this is a human trait and its also human to look at the nasty bits of others and to make fun of them.

However, as is often said, while we're busy having fun making fun of other people, we don't often realise that we are being pooked fun of ourselves. The joke, as is said, is often on us. So, what's there to be said about all of this.

I think the first thing we often forget, is that we fail to appreciate the strengths of the other party. Weaknesses are so much more fun, particularly when it comes to making ourselves feel good. I'm great haha - arn't I so much better than perso x,y and z? However, other than providing us with an ego boost from time to time, what does looking at the other guys faults actually do for you?

Sad to say, this glorious activity of fault finding is on the whole an unproductive one. Looking at the other guys strengths on the other hand, is a gloriously rewarding one. Looking at person and appreciating him and her for the strengths rather than weaknesses provides one with an understanding of that person and when you have an understanding of that person, your ability to get value out of them increases tremendously. its like this, when you look at a person and keep harping on about what they're doing wrong, you'll never get anywhere. But if you find out what they do right and know what they're doing wrong, you'll be able to maximise the value out of them.

I have friends, who are great drinking buddies. I'll never take part in a business venture with them but I'll drink and bounce ideas of them anytime. There are sad to say, some people whom you can never work with. But that does not mean that they're useless to you. One of my friends is a Pub Manager. The man has a fantastic inability to keep money and is indebted to a mere 20 or so loan sharks. - Would I lend him money? NO! Would I trust his recamendations on things - probably not - he's the type of guy who recamends things based on his self-interest rather than on the value of the produt. But would I spend time with him. - YES, for all his faults, this friend of mine is also generous with his time and is helpful in his own way. As such, I don't bring my friendship with him into an area where I know I'll only get upset with him and keep it a level where both of us can manage.

Then there are those who are good to work with but not much fun outside the office. Another friend of mine has a brillant mind and encourages me to come up with all sorts of ideas and more importantly, he ecourages me to put them into practice. But outside the office, we don't socialise. It's not him and I wouldn't venture into that area because its not in his nature and moving into that area would be a gross violation of that relationship.

One of the friendships that I've made in recent years that I've found particularly valuable is my friendship with The World's Chubbiest Flesh Ball aka Zen, The Queen of Geylang Lorong 16. Zen, as I'm well aware of, has proved to be a very interesting friend, one that many of my other friends dismiss. - After all what could I possibly see in a ball of flesh, who is at times crude and obnoxious. Not only does she work in a profession that many patronise but develop a "Moral" shield against, she looks so awful that people are terrified of her. My mother for one, suggested that I not make the point of being seen with her  - "She's SO UGLY, she's so FAT, you can't see her eyes." Han Li, ironically gets worked up by her.

And yet, Zen's amazing ability to upset polite society is an asset to me. She may be fat, she may be ugly and she may be crude but she catches people of guard. Hadi once said, "You can tell a character of man by how he acts towards Zen." People are basically shallow. They'll be nice to you because they want something from you. If you're the man in charge, everyone will agree with you for fear of offending you or because they think agreeing with you brings them your favour. If you're a man with money, everyone wants to be your friend. Its a case of, everyone thinks you can give them a free ride. For women, its even better. If you look good, men will go out of their way to be nice in the hope that they can get laid, while women will kill themselves to be nice to you because they're desparate for your beauty secrets.

Suddenly you have someone who is crude and ugly in front of you. How do you react? Do you whisper about her? Do you fidget around her? You certainly won't get close. I'm glad to say that most of my friends that I've introduced Zen to, have behaved curteously towards her. It shows me that my friends are willing to look beyond their initial feelings about her, no matter what they may be, to respect their friendship with me and regard her as a human being. It also shows me that my friends are also mature enough to look at a human beings value beyond false pretentions of status - ie Zen's very presence on certain occasions revals a human beings real value rather than the facade they put up.

Of course, my mother would remind me that I'm unable to curb my rebellious streak and the secret desire to stick my middle finger at the type of people who judge people on the shallow. Dad used to tell me that I was better off bringing a gorgeous paid-for social escort than to bring Gina (Who was my legal wife) to certain functions. And what have I done instead? I've brought the ugliest, chubbiest hooker to the Marina Mandarin and the InterContinental and the Grand Hyatt. - I'm sure people snigger behind my back (please, it says more about them) and I'm sure I infuriate quite a few (A man is also judged by his enemies as well as his friends- it takes balls to upset polite society and people will want to know why you're doing it)  

Of course I don't take this that far. There are situations where you don't need to provoke and brining someone who would provoke the worst in people could be detrimental. I certainly wouldn't bring Zen to the Saudi Embassy. My presence there is already provocative enough - I mean who is this bum who comes to the Embassy, greets every Saudi, "Salaam Ali Kum," and yet remains a non-believer with no political agenda and is definately in no position to stitch up the deals that they're looking at (I mean, seroiusly, do I look like I have a couple of 100 mil to play with?)

Not only does everyone have a strength or weakness to add to you, certain strengths may be weaknesses in certain times and strengths in others. I look at some of my business partners. Sometimes, I've cursed them for certain things (I'm sure they've done the same about me) but when things are over, I've come to appreciate how their strengths and weaknesses complimented mine and I've also come to realise that much of the game of life is about managing people - including, as PN Balji so often said, "Your bosses." Peter Lim, former Editor in Chief at SPH, managed then Chairman (now President) SR Nathan.


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