Elton John wrote a song with the lyrics “I was everything and nothing all in one.”
While I don’t know Elton John’s meaning behind the words, I do have some thoughts on the subject. Basically, you cannot go from mountain top to mountain top without going through a valley every now and then. Even though the song was a long way from being a spiritual, there is meaning to the phrase.
I think when you are on the mountain top, how you act somehow determines the length of the valley ahead of you. If you act arrogant, elitist, and like you are better than your fellow man, I think the valley may be a little longer walk than if you had acted with humility. I saw a guy at a conference one time who was probably 75-80 years old, and he had on the finest of suits and shoes and had dyed his hair jet black. He was walking around like a strutting peacock thinking he was looking good, when in reality he was just embarrassing himself. He was probably a successful person at some point in his life, but he refused to treat each life cycle with grace and acceptance. I saw this other guy one time driving a big 1985 Cadillac Brougham series with the gold package. His personal license plate said “Slick.” This man was also probably in his late 70s and probably bought the car new and had paid the fee each year to keep his license plate current because he thinks it describes himself.
You can go from everything to nothing pretty quick, and the last recession proved that point very well. The ones who survived were the conservative ones who didn’t over leverage their business and stayed within their means. The ones who lost everything were the highly leveraged ones who never thought a downturn could ever happen.
Humility is a very real and very present choice in all our lives. You will not always be on top, and the deciding factor is usually how you handle yourself when you are.
Mac Collins was a congressman from Georgia in the early ’90s, and he was also a friend of mine. I called Mac one day, and I told him I wanted to fly up to Washington and just hang out with him in the congressional building to understand what he did. He said “come on.” When you walk in the building, immediately you can understand how power can be addictive to men and women and how they will do whatever it takes to stay in the position of power. Not Mac. He owned a concrete business in Jackson, Georgia, and the Mac Collins I saw in Washington was the same Mac Collins I saw at church. He did not change even though his surroundings changed. In Georgia, we have had some doozy congressmen and congresswomen who simply could not walk away from the heady power of Washington; a few of them walked away to a jail cell.
The one thing I remember the most about Mac Collins’ office was the sign hanging over his desk chair. The sign simply read “Be Real.” It was a great lesson for me that day and one that Mac Collins lived every day.
We all need great examples to follow of men and women who are honest, bold, forthright, transparent, and real leaders. It is so great when we meet one that did keep it real. KT