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CEOs rarely get sprayed with bear mace

I’ve been accused, once or twice in the past, of being somewhat full of myself, which is obviously a load of hogwash, as deep humility is one of my many admirable traits. Furthermore, if I were full of myself, which I’m sure I’m not, could you really blame me? I mean, I’m offputtingly attractive, and I write a snarky opinion column once a week, so I’ve clearly reached the pinnacle of the writing profession.

Even so, I find it’s in my best interest to periodically serve myself a decent helping of humble pie so as to nip my rare conceited thoughts in the bud. There are a handful of ways to accomplish this, but my favorite way is to attend the Fortune magazine Brainstorm Tech Conference held in Aspen each July.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right — a lesser man would probably get a swollen ego from being one of the few members of the press granted access to such an exclusive gathering. But I’m not like that. Instead, I look around at the other attendees, and I let our relative positions and net worths speak for themselves.

You see, in addition to me, an occasional thousandaire, Brainstorm Tech brings together dozens of millionaires, billionaires and senior executives of some of America’s largest banks and corporations to discuss ways in which they all will be getting even richer in the coming years.

This year’s conference, which I attended last week, included such luminaries as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal and other CEOs, CFOs, COOs and CIOs too numerous to mention — all of them successful, all of them rich. The fact that many were younger than I am was just icing on the humble pie. (Yes, I prefer my pies with icing.)

It usually takes a good two days of attending seminars that I don’t understand a word of to make me feel stupid and insignificant, but for some reason, this time around it happened almost as soon as I set foot on the grounds of the Aspen Institute. I was surprised because I wore a collared shirt this year and almost looked the part of a respected journalist. Still, something about the atmosphere made me painfully aware of the fact that I did not belong there.

Typically, I would respond to such a blow to my ego by eating large amounts of fried chicken and ice cream and then forgetting all about it, but this time I needed more extensive therapy — by which I mean I needed to immerse myself for a while in stories of people even more pathetic than I am. Thankfully, my brother had emailed me a few days earlier with the perfect article to lift me out of my funk.

The story concerned a San Francisco man named Christopher Hall who had a bit of a rough stretch recently. It all began when he met a woman in a hacky-sack circle and then got engaged to her two weeks later. Sadly, the relationship quickly turned rocky, and the couple broke off the engagement a couple of weeks after that.

According to the article, Hall then “took his few possessions and moved out of his fiancee’s home and into a tree at McLaren Park.” However, the tree proved cold and difficult to sleep in, so Hall abandoned his roost and “curled up under a tarp under the woman’s backyard bushes.”

Shortly thereafter, the woman returned home with her date, “a former U.S. Marine with extensive combat training.” Hall punched through a window, let himself into the house and confronted the Marine, who soon had Hall on the ground in a headlock. Then, just to add injury to insult, a shirtless neighbor sprayed Hall in the eyes with a can of bear mace as he fled the dwelling, and he was arrested minutes later.

Fortunately for Hall, a jury that must have taken pity on him acquitted him of all charges. Fortunately for me, Hall’s story made the news, so I got to see that I have much to be thankful for compared with some people, which helped get me over my little bout of self-pity.

So maybe I’m not a billionaire CEO. Big deal. Compared with a guy who met his fiancee in a hacky-sack circle, tried to move into a tree, got beat up by a Marine and got sprayed with bear mace, I’m every bit as awesome as I usually consider myself to be.

Todd Hartley started a company just so he could call himself a CEO. Unfortunately the company’s name is too appropriate. To read more, visit the company website at http://www.zerobudget.net.


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