By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.
The man sitting across from me was obviously disappointed about something. His eyes, his posture, and the way he had introduced himself to me all conveyed his belief that he had failed at something. And his next words to me confirmed it.
"Jim, I was one of two candidates for CEO of this firm," he said, gesturing at the office around him, both angry and uncertain at the same time. "And they chose the other guy. Now what the heck do I do?"
This was my first meeting with Joe, the president of a global services company. He had called me at my office a few weeks previously at the recommendation of one of his colleagues, to discuss executive coaching help. Now I was sitting across from him in his well—appointed office in the heart of the financial district.
Joe's office told a different story than the one he was telling me. From its size and location—and the several staff who ushered me into the inner sanctum—he was obviously important to the firm. Tasteful art hung on the walls and a couple of smiling family photos were some of the few personal touches in evidence. Had he not begun to confide in me, I would have thought he was a man in command of his own life—a man on top of the world.
But I was not sitting in his office because of what I—or others around him—might have thought. I was ...