Me and Forbes Magazine
As far as I can tell, apart from those who spend their time at certain remote beaches or on seriously twisted reality TV shows set in the Amazon or Aboriginal Australia, wearing clothes is unavoidable and necessary. And, as an introverted sort not wanting to call attention to myself, the only place I ever make nude appearances is alone, safely concealed behind a shower curtain. Anthony Wiener, I am not. But even though I am profoundly psychologically-dependent on the security my clothes afford me, clothes are not something I celebrate or spend too much time thinking about. I dress for comfort, style is just an afterthought- or, the older I get, not even a thought at all. I can’t stand getting dressed up for work and thankfully I don’t have to all that much anymore. Like most office jobs these days, my job requires a tie only on special occasions- like when trying to impress a customer, a banker or a potential investor.
But after finishing college in 1980, I felt differently about getting dressed up. At that time, I was innocent and couldn't wait to purchase a wardrobe of suits, particularly classy three piece suits with vests- just like John Travolta wore in Saturday Night Fever. Up until then, I only had one polyester suit with no vest, a couple of dress shirts and I had to steal a tie from my Dad when I needed one. At the time I was both excited and anxious to obtain a job that would require me to wear an uncomfortable wool suit, starched shirt and silk tie to work every day. But most of me was just plain ready to leave, tired of the sterile shelter of college and the mundane and physically-demanding jobs that had financed it. I couldn't wait to assume a job that required a collared shirt and wouldn't get my fingernails all mucky. For the first time in my life I would have a career, not just a job, I thought. And with that, I started working in August, at one of the World’s largest international Accounting firms.
One of the first partners I encountered in the Accounting firm was a guy I’ll call Donovan. Donovan astounded me. The first thing you noticed about him was how much he looked like a model or a TV anchorman. Tall, dark, slim at the waist, broad-shouldered, with salt and pepper hair and a Burt Reynolds mustache, he looked like one of those handsome, ED-challenged, middle-aged hunks in the modern-day Cialis commercials. Donovan was not just any run of the mill partner though; he was the National Director of Accounting and Auditing, which implied that he was one of the best technical minds in the firm. Other members of the firm needed to get his official okey-dokey on particularly complicated or perplexing accounting situations that were confounding them. Donovan arrived at the office each day promptly at 7:00 a.m. — right after his five mile jog around Central Park- and he usually worked until 10:00 p.m. each night.
Donovan was also probably the best speaker I ever witnessed when it came to accounting matters. Now, accounting is not something that even accountants find remotely interesting. Let’s face it- most accountants choose the field for its job and financial security, not out of any passion for reading and analyzing FASB pronouncements. But, in front of a large audience, Donovan was funny and engaging; his deep, friendly voice commanded the room and he could make a discussion of the mundane, say, leases or embedded derivatives, actually interesting.
When Donovan went out of town to visit big, prestigious, high-revenue accounts he always took two suitcases with him, even if it was a short stay out of town. When the lower echelon bean-counters offered to help Donovan with his smaller sized bag, he would scold them. “Don’t touch that bag. It has my weights in it.” That’s right, back before all hotels had exercise rooms with fancy exercise equipment, Donovan took his free weights on the road with him. I guess it would have been unbearable for him to break his Spartan routine of weightlifting right before turning in each night. And, at the time, I admired that determination and rigor.
As years went by, however, my initial awe of Donovan started to wane. Despite all his superlatives, Donovan was a crappy leader. He was aloof. He didn't or couldn't socialize as an equal with others and mistakes by colleagues were seen as intolerable. Over the years, I watched personal assistants quit in frustration and a new, younger wife enter his life every few years. In his quest for personal perfection, it seemed he lacked an essential piece of humanity- empathy. Ultimately, my admiration of Donavan turned to pity. Although he never lacked human contact, he was nevertheless so alone.
Although I do a bit of reading in my spare time, there is one magazine I don’t often pick up. That magazine is Forbes. You see, Donovan is the prototype of the executive profiled there on a regular basis- demanding, detached, driven and ultimately doomed. Nope, I don’t often pick up Forbes; it makes me sad. Everyone reminds me too much of Donovan.