For my international readers: parts of this article may be somewhat confusing because much of the discussion is in reference to a well known football player in our national league here in Australia (the AFL). Just know that he's a champion athlete and a champion person and you'll get the rest.
So, the other night I went to Robert Harvey's testimonial dinner hosted at Telstra Dome by the St. Kilda Football Club. Rob and I have been friends for a long time and apart from training him for three years when I worked at the club, he has trained on and off in my gym every summer for the last ten years.
To be honest, I'm not a massive fan of the formal, social function, so it was with under-whelming enthusiasm that I put on my suit (me and suits are kinda like oil and water) and headed out the door. Don't drink, don't smoke, don't 'party', can't dance, not into close-talkers in loud rooms, and not a big fan of drunk blokes getting in front of a microphone and talking mindless crap. As they do.
I'm more of a 'make an appearance, shake a few hands, be seen for an hour or so, and politely and discretely sneak out the back door while all eyes are focused elsewhere' kinda bloke.
"No Sam, I was there all night; you must have missed me."
So when Rob's wife Danielle rang me and asked if I would like to attend, my thoughts were 1) yes I'd love to come along and honour the great man and, 2) I wonder if I will be able to slide out the back door by nine, nine-thirty. Love Rob; don't love the formal sit-down function with nine hundred speeches and the overly-enthusiastic, hilarious MC. Who isn't (hilarious).
So me and my not-very-good attitude arrived at Telstra Dome at seven-thirty and walked into the auditorium. I had naively assumed that there would be a couple of hundred friends, family, team mates, club people and fans to honour the Champ. There wasn't.
There was a crowd of about fourteen hundred!
I soon learned a few things:
1. I was sitting with Rob's in-laws, ten feet from Rob, three feet from the stage; there would be no early departure.
2. People had paid up to $600 a seat to attend and over two thousand people(!) had missed out — so I was privileged to be there (okay, I felt guilty enough).
3. I was actually going to enjoy myself (shock, horror — the boring old anti-social fart was having fun).
So the bloke with the less-than-ideal attitude had a great night, sat with some fantastic people, laughed his guts out (why am I writing in the third person again?) and learned a whole bunch about humility, friendship, generosity, work ethic, (good) attitude and what it takes to be a champion person, not just a champion athlete.
It's amazing what we can learn when have a learning mindset.
While we all knew about his amazing achievements on the sporting field: multiple all-Australian player, multiple Best and Fairest awards (club MVP), 349 games (and still going) and dual Brownlow medalist (competition MVP), all of this paled into insignificance when it was compared to his achievements as a dad, husband, son, team-mate, friend, humanitarian, and role model.
I know the last sentence sounds trite and fluffy — but it's absolutely true.
Without doubt, he is the most self-effacing, humble, high-achiever I have ever met. And I've met and worked with many, many high achievers. Never talks about himself. Never looks for accolades. Hates the spotlight. Is all about making others feel and look good.
As the night wore on and person after person got up and paid tribute, the great man looked more and more uncomfortable; and while (I'm sure) he appreciated people's thoughts and words, he looked as though he would (genuinely) prefer to be somewhere else. Kicking a football perhaps. Hanging out with his kids maybe.
At one point in the evening a painting of the champ in action was auctioned; it went for $67,000! As the fans waged a bidding war for the work of art, my attention switched from the auction action, to the uncomfortable champ squirming in his seat. Not digging the financial 'war' over a painting of himself at all.
Even though the sporting public will remember Rob for his amazing sporting achievements, what will ultimately define him is not what he's done as an athlete but who he is as a person. Unlike some great athletes, his identity is not the sum of his sporting achievements. Nice.
For me, the most endearing quality a person can have is humility. It's what makes people attractive. I'm not talking about pseudo-humility here (very common these days and an art form of its own!). I'm talking about 'real-deal, I don't know what all the fuss is about' genuine humility. And isn't it ironic that often, the people who desperately want to be popular are more likely to alienate than endear because of their arrogance and ego. And their desperate attempts to impress. Instead of attracting, they repel. They create the opposite of what they really want. And invariably they don't learn; they keep doing it.
So I want to say thanks to the champ for a fantastic night, those great mini-cheesecakes – all seven of them (who's got food issues?) – and a lesson in humility.
The take home message? Wanna be attractive? Lose the ego. Get some humility.
So, two questions for you:
1. What makes people attractive to you?
2. What is your favourite quality in a person and why?