I have a high school friend who told me the other day that she could guess what I was going to write about this week. I am quite confident that more than necessary has already been written about the latest New York politician to implode. I watched a brief press conference today in which the moral high ground was held by a celebrity lawyer who specializes in taking high profile clients and ratcheting up the public embarrassment to squeeze additional dollars out of people who have morally compromised themselves. At least I think she held the moral high ground. It might have been the dancer next to her who just wanted her life back.
Anthony Weiner seems oblivious to the damage he is doing to his reputation, to his party, to his marriage, and to his causes. It is clearly all about him, with his life meaning inextricably tied to his ability to retain power and the benefits that go with it. He is what he does. It is hard not to wince.
But he is not the only one. West Virginia University head football coach Bill Stewart recently resigned under pressure after being accused by a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter of asking the reporter to dig up dirt on head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen, who is now the head coach, made the job somewhat easier a few weeks ago by allegedly being escorted from a casino at 3 a.m. by security personnel, leading to other rumors. WVU athletic director Oliver Luck thought that it was a good idea to hire Holgorsen while telling Stewart he would be gone in a year. This was despite the fact that Stewart had been hired after being the interim coach for a huge upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and followed that up with three nine-win seasons. This is roughly equivalent to being asked to wash the socks of your girlfriend’s new boyfriend (only you get paid seven figures to do it). I think it is safe to say that we will not see any more head-coaches-in-waiting.
Stewart was understandably upset at being dumped. But he managed to take a bad situation that elicited sympathy even from people who thought he should be fired, and turn it into a permanent divorce from the university. He could not accept that it was time to move on.
Last year’s news was dominated by this same story involving Brett Favre, whose closing chapter of his career managed to combine both football and sexual harassment. As his body and his season fell apart, he finally found it in himself to say that it was over.
UPDATE: Shortly following the publication of this column, Rep. Anthony Weiner held a press conference announcing his immediate resignation from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Or did he? Few believe that John Edwards can ever be a viable presidential candidate again after his scandal. But apparently the taste of power, and fame, and money can make men do strange things. Some things are apparently so precious that they must be secured at any cost, regardless of the damage to others.
Maybe we can think of Weiner, Stewart and Favre as the Fellowship of the Ring. But what they bring to mind for me is a song from the early 70’s that the Jackson Five made famous—”Never Can Say Goodbye.”
One day they will ask me to walk away from the classroom and not come back. My name won’t be on any statues or doors on the campus. My day will have passed. And that day will be here before I know it.
I only hope, when it comes, that I have what it takes to say thanks and walk away. Because, if what you do is who you are, you never can say goodbye.
I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. Thank you for your wisdom and willingness to share. We are a sad country some days. We have everything. Our parents only dreamed about…yet some want more.
Thanks for the great article Dr. Shaub !
I somehow feel that reading news about famous people/or idols performing such acts has a negative effect on the community overall. People start to accept such stories in the future knowing that the early generations did it and rationalize their way into doing it too..
I think, the only useful way for a person to maintain a healthy ethical system is by formulating a set of principles that he/she will be strictly following. Religion can be a good example of these set of principles. This way, if a person does a mistake, you can trace it back to its origin(set of principles) and know exactly what caused it. By knowing the cause, people can avoid falling for it in the future.
I think it’s appropriate to have such a commitment to your career that you never want to leave, but the circumstances of you leaving should be the focus. Are you having to leave because you’ve acted wrongly or because you’ve contributed so much that other things deserve your attention. I’m reminded of an old camping or scouting adage, “you should always leave things better than you found them.” Can Favre, Weiner, or Tressel say that?
Knowing when to walk away is probably the biggest struggle in a professional athletes career today. Most of them do not have an exit as dramatic as Favre did but it is still definitely a struggle they experience. I am sure the majority of the struggle goes on behind the scenes, with family and friends and ultimately in one’s heart. But we unfortunately for them do get to see a lot of it on television. Whether it is retired athelets trying to make a comeback and failing or seeing an athelet who pushed themesleves to the limit be taken out by an injury, they all struggle with having it come to an end.
At the end of the day I beleieve each person just has to look at their career and then back at their family and know when the best time is to step away not just for their family’s sake but also for their own.
You recently mentioned in class that yes, awards, honors, and achievements are very exciting and we should all enjoy them when we work hard to achieve them but at the end of the day, the plaques and medals don’t mean as much as we make them out to mean. And I agree, that “the taste of power, and fame, and money can make men do strange things.” People’s true self is revealed to those around them when power, fame, and money come into the picture. If we focus throughout our life on achieving awards at our professions and in some cases “at all costs”, when those things are taken away, we are not left with much. If we are all consumed with work and being successful at our chosen profession, a lot of other factors of life will be over looked. This conversation came up in class after someone found the statistic that on average fathers only spend 37 seconds with their children. The father might be achieving great things in business, but is it is worth it and at what cost? In both my personal life and professional life, I hope I can walk away from situations knowing that I worked hard, stayed focused, formed strong relationships, and learned from every obstacle that came my direction.
I believe it is hard to walk away from something that you have consumed most of your life trying to build. In many of these situations you mentioned, it just seems like one last cry for attention before they are just another face in the crowd. Whether it be being remembered as a great quarterback like Brett Favre, or having an affair on twitter like Anthony Weiner; any attention, is attention. For these high-profile people, I think the biggest issue is not giving up a career but giving up their fame. It is sad that the last memory of some of these people will be negative, which will follow them the rest of their lives. Even though it tarnishes their reputation, it is just 15 more minutes of fame for them.
This article reminds me of a few emails that got passed around the office during my internship. They were actually hate letters from former employees who where either fired or resigned from the company, that were sent out to the company inbox right before they left the building. These emails became viral on the internet and were forwarded to companies across the world. It was safe to say that these guys will have the hardest time to find their next job… In the work force, we must take professionalism seriously.
It is important to remember that a decade long reputation can be spoiled by a single misdeed. Furthermore, a person might only be remembered for that single misdeed. Therefore, I would say that a person’s conduct at the tail end of their career is probably the most important aspect of a person’s long term reputation.
However, the “tail end” of a person’s career could be much earlier than expected. This is especially important for Mr. Wiener. Those poor actions killed his growing career.
I would make the argument that a person should make every decision as though it were the one that they would be remembered by. If you conduct yourself this way, hopefully you will avoid becoming a headline for doing some bizarre misdeed.
“Some things are apparently so precious that they must be secured at any cost, regardless of the damage to others.” Some people would do anything to get what they wanted, regardless other people’s outcome. It is just like the example I am going to talk about in my group presentation today. They don’t realize it here is that their reputation is more important than money and power. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it. People are often bad calculators and yet they often use calculations to guide their decisions.
One lesson I’ve taken away from this course and this blog post is that we represent a whole body of people. We look at these high profile scandals and probably wonder why someone in the spotlight made such poor decisions. Didn’t they ever think about what would happen to the people connected to them? Did they only think about themselves?
John Edwards, Brett Favre, and Anthony Weiner’s scandals all involved adultery. They are public figures yet their poor decisions tainted their image, their team, and their political party. It goes the same for Mays students once we head out into the real world. It felt strange hearing that an Aggie was involved in the Enron scandal and the Walmart case. We hold Aggies to a high standard because we all believe in the Aggie honor code. We believe we are good people.
But in all these cases, these poor decisions has reflected poorly on the families that brought them up. It also taints the friends associated to the individuals. And on a higher level, it taints the culture of their race and their school. I think it would be a strong practice to remember who you represent. Your action and behaviors will not just be reflected onto yourself, but to so many others that may not come to mind in those instances. This is certainly something I want to keep practicing.
What you do should be an extension of yourself, a stamp you leave on the world around you. But it should never BE you. The two should be easily divided without any rough edges. It’s easy for the greedy or self-possessed to become obsessed with what they do because they see it as their investment of self. If that investment gets no return, what are they?
Those who are leaving their mark and can say goodbye are the ones who don’t see it as an investment, expecting a return. It’s more like passing the torch. They don’t expect it to come back, they just watch it go.
You’ll always be a teacher, Dr. Shaub. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble saying goodbye because the classroom is but only one opportunity to teach something valuable. You may be a professor now, but you can’t stop being a teacher.
After investing everything you have into a certain aspect of your life, I can understand how it becomes a part of you. It is a very emotional experience to say goodbye to something you have focused your efforts on for a prolonged period of time, so I can understand why it was hard for Favre to ultimately end his career. What I believe is important in situations where one defines themselves by what they do is often one of the hardest things to see. Favre should not let his accomplishment on the field determine his worth, instead he should have realized he is a combination of how he played the game in all its aspects including work ethic, class, and putting his heart into it.
I think it’s hard for people in these kinds of positions to accept that their reign is over. They have been so consumed by their work that they don’t know how to live life without it. I think they often neglect relationships with family and friends, so when that’s all they have left, they feel lost. I don’t think having this kind of relationship with your work is healthy. I think a situation like that can lead to unethical behavior because they pressure to keep performing at the same level is very strong. I’ve heard of men that don’t even live very long after they retire. It’s like work was all that was keeping them going. Without it, they didn’t have anything to live for. That’s got to be a sad way to live life. The men mentioned in this blog wouldn’t let go and they ended up tarnishing the reputation they had spent so much time building. Therefore, in the end, they were really left with nothing.
When I look at scandals like these, I always wonder how they are possible. Their frame of mind when making these decisions seems incomprehensible. When I really take a look at any of my own mistakes, however, I do get the same feeling of disbelief. I do see the same unreasonable aura of invincibility and the same bloated sense that I can “have it all”. I guess what I can take away from this analysis is that it’s important to stay grounded and thoughtful. It’s important to take an objective, birds eye view. It’s even more important to realize that I am probably not the ideal person to provide it. It is important to maintain a circle of trusted confidants.
Knowing when it is time to walk away is a huge part of showing maturity…something I feel that the men talked about in this article lacked to a certain extent. For some of them it seems that the need to have power and to be in the limelight is the only thing they care about and are unable to let go at the appropriate time. This is because they have let these things define them. While your job should be taken seriously and is an important aspect of your life, it should not be the definition of who you are. This is something as accountants who will work long hours in the future we should all keep in mind. Every one needs to have their priorities in order, and if your job has taken over your life and become your number one…it is definitely time to walk away.
I feel like celebrities and other famous individuals have a very hard time coming to terms with their mistakes. I believe they are so used to being on top and looked up to that they are is disbelief at the fact they have done wrong. As a non-celebrity it is still hard sometimes to come to terms with mistakes and changes, but I can understand why someone in a public spotlight would have more difficulty. For the head coach, everyone knew who he was everywhere he went. That makes it quite tough to be able to cope and develop his own reactions. I am sure everyone he knew was asking him about it and voicing their opinions.