Big Fish

Edited on April 24, 2007

1989 was a spectacular year for the Seton Hall University basketball team. They played in the NCAA championship game, losing to Michigan by a point in overtime. I was a member of the SHU board of regents at that time and had been a faithful fan and supporter of the basketball program for years. Prior to that year the program struggled and was perennially at or near the bottom of the Big East Conference.

During the lean years I was very close to the program and the players. I lived in South Orange with my family and we attended all of the games and occasionally had the players and coaches to our home for meals. I loved it. It was great to be recognized by these young men as a friend and occasional mentor. My ego was well fed and I felt important.

However, these late eighties were a difficult time for me and my business. We came perilously close to going under and had to ask for financial help from friends who stepped up and loaned us what we needed.

The NCAA Championships were played in Seattle that year and my then wife wanted to go. I didn’t because I was embarrassed to be with people who were helping me over the business hurdles I was experiencing at the time. I didn’t want them to see me having a good time while they were bailing me out. I felt less than and I wanted to be invisible. My wife said that I didn’t want to go because I was the kind of guy who wanted to be a big fish in a little pond. I hated hearing that and denied its truth. I went to Seattle and had a great time. I hung out with all the Seton Hall big shots and felt good about myself, but only because I was included by them.

I thought the “Big Fish” desire that had been unmasked was a failing but I don’t think so now. It’s part of who I am and it’s not a bad part. It’s actually helped me to make a difference in people’s lives as it guides me to the less popular causes. I’m the kind of guy who likes to be in charge and be recognized. It feels good.

I’ve also come to believe that those of us of the boss persuasion gravitate to the right pond size for us. I remember feeling inferior to the other members of the Seton Hall board but loving the idea that I was a regent and letting others know about it. It helped me to achieve “Big Fish” status and reduced the relative size of most of the ponds I frequented.

Posted April 24, 2007

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