CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A tiger doesn't change its stripes. Fake it 'til you make it. You can be who you aren't for only so long.
We're all familiar with the first two statements. The third one -- not so much. Yet when my business partner, Steve Morrison, mentioned it in a management meeting last week, it definitely struck a chord.
We were discussing changes in behavior. The subject came up while predicting how someone would act. You may have heard that the best predictor for future behavior is past behavior. People do what works -- whether it's consciously or unconsciously.
That got me thinking about when bad things happen to good people. (There's even a book by that title.) Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get treated unfairly. And when we look for the reasons, they're not always apparent.
I remember an incident that happened to me years ago. I kept replaying it over and over in my mind. I remember saying to myself, "I don't understand this. I played by the rules. I acted with integrity. What's the life lesson here?" Some time later, someone mentioned that the life lesson may not have been for me, but for someone else, and that I was merely a player in the scenario -- or that it was my lesson to learn to let go -- or that another opportunity would come about because this one didn't. All of these were comforting, and it turned out (years later) that "doors number two and three" were right on target. Just that small change in perspective was very comforting.
We can't always know why things happen. And we can spend a lot of energy wondering. A simple philosophy is that we're all just doing the best we can. If we knew better, we'd do better.
The situation we were discussing in our meeting involved someone who had been acting like a bully. Normally when we see someone exhibiting this type of behavior, it's a good bet they have some insecurity issues -- and they overcompensate by putting on a blustery exterior.
I used to work with someone like this many years ago. Often, he would build himself up by putting someone else down. It's actually a sad state of affairs. Though even if you know -- logically and rationally -- the reasons behind the behavior, it's no fun being on the receiving end of such antics.
And then there's always the temptation (or rationalization) to think "what goes around comes around" or "they'll get theirs." Which is true in a karmic sense. It's just when we try to impose a hypothetical sentence on the person -- or wish that harm would come to them -- that things can get out of control. After all, it's not up to us to hand out punishments or sentences we feel are justified. If you believe this to be true, you may want to tender your resignation as CEO of the universe. (It's way too tough a job, anyway!)
We can also find ourselves playing games and wondering how long the bully can sustain a different behavior. In the case we were discussing, this atypical behavior was being viewed by our folks as manipulative. And they were calculating the over and under on how long it would take the tiger to revert to its original stripes.