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What I Learned This Week -- Yes, Your Honour

10/20/2013 09:47 EDT | Updated 12/20/2013 05:12 EST

By all measures, last week was a memorable one. I gave a speech to hundreds of international delegates at the Future Leadership Group of the Consumer Goods Forum, finalized a major deal for Just For Laughs Gags and a mega worldwide brand...and I was the honouree for a major fundraiser by the Canadian Hadassah-WIZO organization.

We'll get to the first two later; I'd like to concentrate on the third. But perhaps not for the reasons you'd think.

On the surface, being honoured is a lot of fun and games.

  • People spread your Photoshopped likeness all over the place; on printed invitations, glossy posters, email mega-blasts and websites.
  • They preface your name with a lot of effervescent adjectives every time it's spoken, treat you and your family like deities, and seek your royal approval for even the smallest of details ("Do you prefer penne or rotini as a pasta?").
  • Even though, at most times, you don't know what exactly you've done to deserve the honour being bestowed, you nonetheless get a lot of hearty and heartfelt congratulations from friends and strangers alike. It's a heady time of lofty, floaty, fuzzy feelings.

Scratch the surface, though, and things rapidly come back down to Earth. Being honoured can also be a heck of lot of work.

  • You have to provide the honouring organization with a detailed mailing list of close to everybody you've ever known.
  • To that list, you have to compose a persuasive letter that solicits varying levels of support, from mere ticket purchases to major sponsor procurement.
  • And then you have to follow up on it.
  • And follow up on it again.
  • And because there's no such thing as a free ride, you also have to be prepared to make some sort of commitment -- financial and/or time -- to the cause that's honoring you.

Finally, you get to the whirlwind of "the night of."

  • On one hand, there's the euphoric scrub-washing of being told non-stop that "tonight's all about you" by gaggles of people who have assembled there "just for you."
  • On the other hand, there's the stress of making sure you attend to everyone in this gaggle properly; eyes darting about them like a surveillance camera to ensure that they are all eating and drinking and having a good time.
  • And while all this is going on, even though you are merely this year's figurehead, there's the pressing guilt as you wonder whether your reputation and efforts actually helped the organization reach its fundraising goal.
  • As well as whether or not they're happy with you.
  • And if they really mean what they are saying in the speeches they're making about you.

In the end, as I suspect is the denouement of every wedding, bar mitzvah, birthday, anniversary party or other celebrative occasion, it's over before you know it...leaving you pondering over a late-night drink what the hell just happened.

Not that I'm ungrateful; far from it. But in my reflective time, I sat wondering about the real meaning of the word "honour." The plaques, kind words and other souvenirs of one's "night" are fond keepsakes...but don't reflect what a true honour is.

At least, not to me. Because the way I see it, the true honouring of a person cannot be measured by a certificate, by a trophy or by the glowing words said via a microphone to one's face in an assembly.

To me, the only true honour is what people say about you when you're not around.

No matter how good the party planner, one can't manufacture an honour. As a human being, you can only act honourably, and let the chips fall where they may.

So in that spirit, and on the topic of honour, I wondered what others involved in the evening were saying about me and "the night" in their reflective moments.

Or what the Consumer Goods Forum delegates were saying about the speech I gave.

Or what that superstar brand was saying about the experience of dealing with me.

A true honour is the opposite of the tree falling in forest, where one needs to be there to hear if it makes a sound.

A true honour occurs when you're NOT there to hear, or feel, it.

Eventually, somehow, it makes its way back to you.

So the point here, the learning of the week, is that I'm far from unique. Most of us have countless nights where we are honoured.

It's just that we're not invited to them.

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