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Some time ago I worked in construction building new homes for first time home buyers. I worked alongside one exceptionally surly superintendent who had made the rounds in the industry for decades. He had stops at a minimum of six homebuilders that I could count, and didn’t make it to Wednesday without threatening to walk out. One day I looked down the block where we were both building homes and saw my co-worker in a yelling match with one of his homeowners. At least twenty of our trades had stopped their work to enjoy the show. Later that day back in the office he had cleared out his desk and written some colorful language on the company whiteboard. Apparently he thought all of his team members, including me, were a special kind of number one.

A mentor of mine recently hit his 80th birthday. In a recent small gathering of friends, he took some time to talk about what he has learned along the way. For decades this individual was a high profile leader of large organizations. He has written dozens of books, mostly on leadership, traveled all over the world speaking to groups of up to 100,000 people, and counseled both Presidents and foreign dignitaries. The scale of his influence would be difficult to quantify. He has aged gracefully but has not escaped without his fair share of wounds and the scars to prove it.

He reflected on a season in which he made a very public mistake and the subsequent fall out for him and his family. In some circles, his reputation was forever tarnished. He experienced, first hand, the fragility of success.