Published January 19, 2011
Are you an angler?
No, not the kind that requires a fishing rod. I’m talking about the type of person who’s always working an angle.
You know what I mean. Very often doing nice things — maybe even doing most things — because you have an ulterior motive. Always trying to stay a step ahead, whether it’s in your personal or professional life.
Need more clarity?
You’re at a networking event and someone approaches while you’re having a conversation with a good friend. You’re annoyed until this person introduces himself and you realize he works for the company at the top of your potential employers’ list. Suddenly you light up and shower this person with charm and laser-like attention because now there’s something in it for you.
You’re dating a guy you find enthralling and your every move is designed to sway or cajole. This example brings to mind Lea Michele’s character, Rachel Berry, on “Glee,” utterly grating in her prissy manipulation. During her sexy GQ
cover dust-up last year, I remember thinking I’d rather a teen-aged girl see honest sexuality in a magazine than learn the art of angling by imitating Michele’s TV character.
What made most of the humor on “Seinfeld” consistently funny and enduring was that it derived from watching the characters angling to get their way. On “Friends,” when Rachel wasn’t dating Ross, she was almost always angling to win over guys instead of being straight up. In our contemporary entertainment, we get to watch people angle on “reality” shows that consistently highlight this kind of behavior.
It is, sadly, the norm.
I wish I could say I didn’t know anything about angling, but I used to be a pro. I don’t even think it was conscious; it came so naturally. What’s in it for me? What have you done for me lately? Or what can you potentially do for me next week? If I do this, will I get your love? If I say this, will you do this for me?
Just as I never made a conscious decision to be an angler, somewhere in the last few years that just as subconsciously flipped the other way. Blessedly, I found out how exhausting, shallow and unsatisfying it is and (mostly) eliminated it from my life.
Interestingly, that came with a high-minded desire for everyone else to stop doing it, too. And to stop assuming other people are doing it.
We see this over and over again in the political arena. We elect leaders and spend a good portion of their time in office parsing their every move, declaring every tic a part of their attempt to get re-elected. That’s why when they are called to lead, really lead, we seem awestruck by it. Crisis often brings this out.
Last week President Obama delivered an address at the memorial service for the shooting victims and the community and nation at-large that was rousing and inspiring. Only the most jaded among us could see it as anything but a leader doing what he could never have anticipated when he was simply an earnest candidate — helping people heal. No angling, just leading.
To suggest otherwise, or even feel the need to critique that service in any way, is a sure call for that critic to go within. Don’t you want to know what is driving your inability to let humans connect and heal without having to parse even in a time of clear tragedy?
That would be like suggesting President George W. Bush grabbed that bullhorn at Ground Zero and rallied the rescuers and a stunned nation because he had the next election in his sights. So wrong. That was a leader acting on his truth, being a man, doing what came naturally. It was so inspiring because he wasn’t angling.
In a week when we’re celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all he brought to our country, let us heed his words.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,” he said.
That means catch yourself shrugging off another person at a party and make an effort to smile and say hello. It means helping with the dishes, not because you want sex tonight but just because. It means opening to the possibility that coming from a place of authenticity will ultimately be a great gift to yourself and all those you come into contact with.
It means realizing the next time you feel the urge to do some angling, the best thing you can do is pick up a fishing rod.