[Editorial Note – This is actually a piece that was rejected by one of my clients. They were looking for “life lessons from celebrities”, but believe that Rob Ford is not well enough known outside of Canada (if only that were true). C’est la vie. Anyway, I kind of like the piece, so here it is…]
We all need heroes. Role models. People to set the bar high, and give us something to aim for in our day-to-day interactions and relationships. Some people look to athletes. Others to singers, actors, and authors. Kardashians, even. They all give us a glimpse at a greater self, but none more so than the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.
You know his name. You’ve probably heard his greatest “hits”, and seen him unfairly lampooned on late night television ranging from The Daily Show and Colbert Report, to The Late Show with David Letterman. The man deserves better treatment than he has received of late. And here’s why: Rob Ford is the greatest role model in the world today.
Taking a page from the Rob Ford Playbook, anything and everything can be forgiven if you give a hasty and insincere apology. Lied about smoking crack? Apologize. Lied about being drunk in public on numerous occasions? Apologize. Made crude comments about your wife and your private life on live television? Apologize. See the trend? Ford has taken bad and unscrupulous behaviour to heretofore unmatched heights. And what has he taught us? Apologizing does not make everything okay. We need to be mindful of that in all that we do. If you’ve done something wrong, and it’s sincere, then by all means apologize for the mistake. But know full well that it doesn’t erase the indiscretion and give you a clean slate.
Rob Ford is the greatest living statesman in the history of the world…at least according to Rob Ford. He is quick to point out that he has saved the city of Toronto over one BILLION dollars during his time in office, that he has reduced the size and cost of the municipal government, and he was elected with the largest political mandate in Canadian history. Pretty impressive, eh? One problem…none of it’s true. And literally anyone can find that out with an internet connection and Google. And what has he taught us? Be careful with your words. At any time, you don’t want to be accused of exaggerating your accomplishments (or outright lying), and in the digital global village we all call home, it’s rather easy for anyone to either confirm or deny those assertions. We all tell a little white lie from time to time, but blatant, bold-faced lies will come back to haunt you, and eventually no one believes a word you say, even when you’re telling the truth. Whenever Ford is caught or questioned about a lie, he simply dismisses it with a smile, wave of the hand, or with yet another lie. Cherish your word and speak the truth.
Depending on where you live, the average person appears in video surveillance multiple times per day. Most of us carry a video recorder with us at all times via our mobile phone. YouTube gets about one hour of new video uploaded every second. George Orwell was off by about 30 years. Big Brother is watching now. This is a fact lost on Rob Ford. In less than a single calendar year, he has been caught on video smoking crack cocaine (which he initially denied, and then later confirmed and apologized), drunk, stumbling, and slurring his words in downtown Toronto (for which he apologized, sort of), drunk and ranting about (metaphorically?) killing someone, and then drunk, stumbling, slurring his words, and using a racist Jamaican accent at a Toronto fast food restaurant (after he had sworn up and down that he had “quit drinking”…so he apologized). And what has he taught us? Don’t treat people like idiots. Rob Ford seems to think that no matter what he does, or how many times he does it, a half-hearted apology fixes all, and makes it fine for the mayor of Canada’s largest city to smoke crack, lie, stumble around in “drunken stupors” (his words, not mine), purchase illegal drugs, slander reporters, and generally embarrass the city and country. Does he honestly believe that Torontonians and Canadians are that stupid? Yes. Yes he does. Respect the people around you, and you’ll be respected in return.
On November 14, Toronto City Council voted to strip Ford of almost all mayoral powers, transferring them to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. This was done only after repeated requests and motions that Ford either take some time off to seek help (for drug and alcohol addiction) or to step down permanently. He refused. He has since officially started his campaign for re-election in October 2014. And what has he taught us? Have some self-respect and recognize when it’s time to move on. This does not mean quitting at the first sign of hardship, nor does it refer to allowing yourself to be pushed around. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when you need to cut your losses. It might be in your personal life. It might be in your professional life. But it happens to everyone at some point, and stubbornly sticking, or absolutely refusing to accept the inevitable, does no favours for anyone.
Rob Ford is a man clearly in need of help, and hopefully he’ll eventually get it. In the meantime, he serves as a larger-than-life example of what NOT to do in any situation. When faced with something difficult – whatever that is – ask yourself “What would Rob Ford do?” and immediately do the opposite. You can’t fail. And if you do, just apologize.