Leadership Tips: Why we should not be selfish?

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Pablo Edronkin

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There are many moral arguments against selfishness, but there is one that is quite practical: In the end, life gives us back what we deserve, and not what we want; if by any chance you want to be a leader, you should understand this concept thoroughly, and for that, I will tell you a personal story.

"El que decide vivir como gusano, pierde el derecho de protestar si lo aplastan." - José Ingenieros

There is some talk about something called "The law of attraction". Scientifically speaking, there is insufficient evidence to speak of a natural law like that but that belief is based in some empirical observations that hold some degree of truth. Essentially, this so-called law states that you attract things, facts and people that reflect your own outlook on life.

So, if you are a good person eventually you will likely be surrounded by other good people, despite the occasional S.O.B. that you might encounter. On the other hand, if you are a S.O.B. you will end up being surrounded by others like you as well as good people either leave your company on their own or are let down by you.

Whether the attraction hypothesis will be proved or not in pure scientific terms is another matter, but the fact is that people who play others often end up being played by life itself since after a while the only people that is left around them are similar. It is a natural fact of life that people seek to be around those that have things in common and natural selection helps things happen in the same direction. Call it law of attraction or whatever, but biblically speaking, you reap what you sow.

In life you can act as a good or bad person. Acting as a good human being might make you wonder at times whether you are letting some individuals take advantage of you, but in the end will turn you into a better persons and there is no way to get there otherwise. On the other hand, the problem with being mean to others is that if you play hard and others do the same the result of those interactions has nothing to do with desires or justice but ruthlessness and opportunity, and once you lose, there is no way to recover. That is, by being mean to others you will be in a game in which the one with the lesser moral values will tend to win, based on the opportunity windows that your own mistakes will open for them to approach and use you. And you will always find someone that is meaner than you; your survival will become a gamble that depends on not crossing on the path of others that are even worse than yourself, because you will be alone to deal with them.

If you choose to be a bad person then you will have to stay mean and sharp until your last day on Earth. Of course you can behave like that - you shouldn't, but you can -, but your survival will depend on how bad you can be ans whether you can keep your enemies at bay because there will be no good intentions left around you, and unless you can do that - which is highly unlikely - your own bad nature will bring your downfall because you will gather enemies and lose friends, and with that, you will lose all your good opportunities and chances in life, which will be transformed only in a matter of surviving the attacks of everything and everyone else.

Even organizations and countries can behave badly. Aside from the errors that politicians and statespeople might incur in, certain political paradigms are bad just by their own nature. For example, an empire. Behind the pompous name, the word is related to the Latin term "Imperator", which means dictator. So, strictly speaking, an empire is a dictatorship imposed on conquered people, and indeed, empires are popularly known by their abuses, not by their virtues. It is odd that - say - people speak of "The British Empire" or the empires of the French, Russians and so on without realizing that they are really saying "The British Dictatorship". Indeed, Britain is a democracy but its imperial past has nothing to do with that and still today, the Brits quite literally impose their will unto others - just remember Gibraltar or Malvinas - who do not welcome them at all, and even the local occupants know that they are not there rightfully, no matter what they say in public.

Sooner or later, even if it takes centuries, such things backfire or produce disastrous results, like in the Middle East and Africa, where borders were redesigned according to the ideas of people who knew nothing of the culture and social realities in the ground. Despite that the civilization ad progress that empires supposedly brought to conquered regions, empires have been and still are a very negative influence in the history of mankind.

Anyway, let me tell you a personal story to show this in practice at the people-to-people level, not-so-grandiose indeed, but as pedagogic as any great disaster.

Line was a Norwegian girl that lived at my home for a year. Se was an exchange student that ended-up being by GF. In retrospect, I do not understand how or why she was selected among many candidates because in retrospect, if I have to grade her as an exchange student and as a person, I would put her a failing grade.

But in the beginning we had a pretty good relationship. Since I have been extremely lucky to be born in a well-to-do family, we well... do well... Certainly better than most people in Argentina, Norway or anywhere else. So we enjoyed my swimming pool, a big garden, visiting the expensive shops of Santa Fe Ave. in Buenos Aires, and things like that.

I was her first true boyfriend and she was elated. But one day she left for her home town in Norway and as days passed, something seemed not quite right. Afterwards I only got total radio silence from her. Eventually I found out that she had decided to end up our relationship without telling me anything. Quite on the contrary, up to the last minute her official line was that of continuity.

"We are too different" she said on the phone after I alled her and waited for long... Odd that she never said that while we were shopping around in Santa Fe Ave. Of course, she seemed to suffer amnesia regarding the things that she had said before.

Nevertheless, some years later I decided to have a chat about her vanishing act. So in one trip in which I had to do some things in Poland and Norway, I first got in touch with her again and then went to visit her right at her home. - I frequently make such trips since I have an ancestral connection: I descend from Rognwald I Eysteinsson[1.42] (See also The Skowronek Bankers) and I also hold a Polish citizenship, so trips to those countries are quite common.

Naturally, I had to consider that our past relationship might bear some influence in the whole thing, and indeed, I would have liked to get her back but only in the case that I got a sufficiently good explanation for what had happened, and assurances that it would not happen again, which of course, was almost impossible. So, in principle, my trip was just to talk and maybe - just maybe - something else.

Se received me with open arms. Everything was nice for a while, apparently a good start, but it became apparent pretty soon that she was trying hard to seduce me again. However, I almost immediately concluded that she was a total no-go: Her own words spoke volumes:

"I was with my bf, Erik was his name... but no more... well... you now how it is here... Now I am with another guy, but he is not my bf... anyway, he is not here, so we are alone...".

Oh Yes... She had gotten new sponsorship as soon as she left but her pal eventually dumped her and she couldn't care less for her yet newer dude... I pondered the issue for a second or two while looking at the fjord. The I said "Line, do you know why I am here?" and when she answered that she had no idea, I said "Just to end this properly..."

Her face dropped to oceanic depths, then came the tears and poo faces, and from then on my whole visit consisted in dealing with someone who acted like if she were 12 instead of 21 years old, plus the hostility of some of her relatives and friends that became offended either because of what I said or because of what I didn't say. Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

My mistake then was that I should not have expected to reason with Kelpers. Theirs was to assume that I didn't understand Norwegian.

Line even daydreamed about me staying there for "a year" or so at the same time that she rolled her eyes in contempt for whatever I said or didn't say... She even spoke to me about having five children...

I wasn't in the mood for anything like that. Having her as my GF was like having a brand new sports car. But at the time of my visit to her home town the paint job wasn't so shiny any more due to quite a bit of mileage and ostensibly several uncaring owners. No thanks.

She cried, tried to pick up fights, tried to seduce me repeatedly, and then cried again in a show of the typical Markov cycle of someone that cannot admit a mistake. Her mood swings were so quick and extreme that made me wonder whether she has a bipolarity disorder, a borderline personality or something like that.

The scientific conclusion was that right way to deal with her, her friends and family go was the way out as soon as possible. That was precisely my choice but I stayed there to the last day, as programmed. If you are wondering why on hell did I stay there so long, I say that I would have left the place the next day but I didn't want to change my seat reservation on a return flight to Oslo and thus pay a cancellation fee - after all, my family is one of Jewish Jewish bankers. Plus, if she stayed at home for a year at our expense, I would make use of similar lodging services.

Needless to say, after I left there was again radio silence and so she eventually faded into memory. Life went on, years passed by and I continued to visit Norway - even her town a couple of times but taking care not to get near her last known address, where the odds of having one of that lot detect me to say an insincere hello were highest.

Added to the requirements of my family history research I should add that I am a pilot and pilots do fly to places; besides the landscape of places like Patagonia, Alaska and Norway are particularly attractive seen from the wild blue yonder. I wouldn't miss the beauties of a landscape because of the foul manners of those inside it. You don't miss a picture of a nice panorama just because a dog left some crap under a nearby tree, do you?

But as life has its own sense of irony and God sometimes wants you to watch, about two decades later I actually spoke to her once again. She was already married eight years by then, had two kids and was expecting a third.

Her ability to lose her temper in average once every ten minutes was still intact and she was busy then at reproducing. But she didn't seem by that time as enthusiastic about manufacturing five babies as she was while she was with me - it almost appeared as if she somehow accepted that her fate was only that of a "KKK Hausfrau" (Kinder, Kirche Küche).

Not surprising, because even if you hate your other half it is not that difficult to make a child, but post-production is indeed another matter, and my guess is that there were some complications with her little complications in that department.

Her voice was less quite unlike Mozart's Requiem than the last time I saw her and betrayed some sort of narcotic stupor, and at one point she broke in tears and could not speak for about a minute.

When I asked "So, tell me what did you do in these years?" she immediately answered, without a doubt "After you left, I finished college in seven years... and did nothing interesting since then."

The few more things that she said about herself were like "I married in 2002... I don't know what I was thinking..." and "My head was somewhere else" while attempting to explain why she essentially dropped her career for the sake of a marriage that brought exactly nothing interesting into her life. She felt bored, frustrated and complained repeatedly about the sacrifices that she allegedly endured.

Fortunately for him, her hubby wasn't there listening.

That tiny town of hers is also a nice place with people with rather modest pockets and cultural life; can't expect a lot of intellectual activities there. No swimming pools, no tennis, no big gardens and no shopping in cool places. Mostly standard white trash dwellings - even the folks at Oslo and Trondheim say that - and they laugh at the "northerners".

There were no tender words or enthusiasm for anyone or anything around her - not even her kids. In other cases, like that of her hubby, her few comments were on the antipodes of something that could be called positive. In fact, it seemed that she was blaming him for what happened to her much like any standard banana republic would blame the Yanks and oligarchs for all things bad.

The truth is that in order to live eight straight years with a person like that, Boolean logic dictates that the dude must either be a saint or far worse than her. Not my business, so let them enjoy each other.

Despite of her degree, the job she had was something like a help desk for students at the local university, and I was amazed by the way in which nature could turn a girl that was TV studio material for her beauty - literally - by the time she was in Buenos Aires, who loved what she studied at college into a graduate clerk with the rank and privileges of a frustrated redneck housewife being slowly textured by wrinkles and nicotine fallout.

Indeed, beauty is only skin deep.

In other words, she was telling me that her life converged to a steady state of crappiness like a Lyapunov function gone berserk. However, she insisted with clichés like "we are too different..." which is naturally used since the time of Babylon as an excuse to hide a lot of rubbish under the carpet. In fact, it struck me that she used a lot of clichés to refer to almost everything, like the kind of programming that you get by default when you unpack and turn on your brand-new android. It wouldn't have surprised me to find an AOL promotion there.

As she continued talking, she tried to learn more about my life than talk about hers... I told her the basics: I got a degree, made some more money, started flying, then some more... and son on...

While speaking about her life, her voice resembled that of a person half asleep, half stoned. Her expression and enthusiasm was totally different when asking me about what I was doing than while talking about her deeds. By no means I told her about everything I did in those years because I had no time. I would have needed a whole day.

So we talked for about fifteen minutes in which she lost her temper twice but received news from the world out there like a plant that desperately needs water to survive. I don't think it will. Then I waved goodbye.

I never heard from Line again and don't expect that to happen. What for? To see how a person finally succeed in destroying everyone around her? To experience her lack of manners? To receive one day a message from her descendants asking if they can come home and visit me - i.e use the swimming pool or ask me to take them on a plane ride?

No thanks. I am far, far better off dating daughters of army generals and ballerinas from the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Since then, I always look for women with with less ability to show the shortcomings of their parent's efforts at teaching manners. Whenever I want someone to bark at me I ask my dog, plus I don't have to fly around the globe for that, you know.

And that's it, there is no more to tell.

So remember: Be a good person because it is healthier and will bring you the goodness of others. But if you choose to be mean, at least try to be smart: You can't be bad and stupid at the same time. If you are mean you can't settle for the little of little people. Bad character requires ambition because it is very, very stupid to lose all your friends on quarrels about frying pans and TV sets.

And above all, if you chose to be dishonest with others, unfaithful, and a hypocrite, learn not don't ask for what you are not willing to give since in the end life won't give you what you want, but what you deserve.

Greed; pencil, 1998, by Pablo Edronkin.
Greed; pencil, 1998, by Pablo Edronkin.

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