This essay of mine originally appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog.
I have a friend who rides bikes. Expensive bikes. Ultra-light bikes. And you know what the rule is about bikes, right? The lighter they are, the more expensive they are.
My friend’s bikes cost many thousands of dollars.
We both live in San Diego, where there are some great bike trails.
He can go inland to the desert, up the coast along spectacular ocean views, down to the border – anywhere he wants. They all involve pretty serious hills. Most mornings he rides anywhere from 50 to 100 miles.
One of the reasons he rides is that he was an executive in a very stress-filled job.
He had a financial quota to meet, and if he hit it, the boss wondered why he didn’t exceed it by more. If he didn’t hit it… well, he was always too driven to find out what would happen if he came in below.
The CEO was a decent enough guy.
But my friend reported to the person just below the CEO.
The boss was one of the bad guys.
Unethical, verbally abusive, didn’t always tell the truth.
He was like the Kevin Spacey character in Horrible Bosses. His employees wondered if their emotional or professional lives would survive. I suspect, similar to the movie, that some pondered killing him.
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, my friend thought.
So my friend quit.
Life’s too short to live under that kind of intense, unnecessary pressure.
His personal life was suffering, and so was his emotional health. He could figure out the money later.
One particular morning, about a year after he quit, he put his bike on top of his car, as was his routine, and drove to a trail.
He rode his bike hard, working out a lot of toxicity in his muscles and his head. He felt good. He was back in charge of his life.
This was the way it was supposed to be.
He put the bike back on top of his car and started the drive home.
His phone rang, and it was one of his former co-workers who had stayed at the company and withstood the onslaughts of the boss all of this time.
“Our company was sold,” the co-worker told my friend. “The CEO is gone and they are interviewing candidates to replace him.”
My friend thought about this.
“How about you apply for the job?” the co-worker continued.
“You could come in as CEO, fire your former boss, and then quit the next day. Then you could go back to riding your bike.”
My friend actually considered this.
He thought about it most of the way home. He thought about how miserable this boss had made his life. He thought about revenge. And it felt pretty good.
Clearly, it was payback time.
As my friend pulled into his driveway, still thinking, still plotting, he pushed his garage door opener and pulled in.
But he forgot that his bike—his very expensive bike—was still on the roof of his car.
The bike was destroyed. The frame of the garage door needed replacing.
All my friend could do was laugh.
“I get it—I get it!” he said.
His desire to get even, his desire to satisfy his own ego, his brief consideration to plot someone else’s downfall, resulted in the destruction of something he loved very much, something that was going to be hard to replace.
Sounds like something out of Shakespeare. Or Scripture. Or a friend’s garage.
Have you ever let your ego, your sense of payback, ever get the best of you? It costs a lot, doesn’t it?