I have just learned of the recent death of a former colleague — a man who was my nemesis for most of the thirteen years of our association. That he was a nemesis is evident from his actions toward me; for example:
- He tried, in vain, to block my promotion to the senior position that he sought for himself in order to justify his presence in the company. (He had been kicked out of what was then our parent organization and given the courtesy title of general counsel of the company that employed both of us.)
- When I was trying to block a “sweetheart” real-estate deal — one that resulted in the relocation of our company to inferior quarters — he pretended to side with me and then informed the chairman of our board of the blocking effort, thus putting an end to it.
- Years later, while I was working to relocate our company to more suitable quarters, he tried — clandestinely but unsuccessfully — to block my efforts.
- He insisted on involving himself in legal matters affecting my operation, even though he was incompetent in those matters.
- Although he was nominally our general counsel, that title was a “cover” for his role as our lobbyist on Capitol Hill. He failed spectacularly at that job except when he called, reluctantly, for the help of me and others who were knowledgeable, competent, and articulate.
- He consistently sought compromise on issues where compromise would weaken the company’s reputation for integrity and management’s ability to manage. He and I were invariably opposed in such matters.
There is much more to our history, but you get the picture. He was an incompetent, inarticulate lawyer who held what was essentially a “political” appointment in a hard-nosed, non-political research organization. When he ran up against a competent, articulate, organized, and tenacious non-lawyer whom he saw as a competitor for leadership, his envy and resentment got the better of him. Being unable to compete openly, he resorted to treachery, regardless of the cost to the company and its effects on those touched by his treachery.
I last saw him almost nine years ago, on the occasion of my retirement. He was true to form even then, trying to put a good face on our relationship, which had become openly hostile. Soon after my retirement, however, he tried to sully my name, which only earned him a rebuke from our mutual boss, the CEO.
What do I feel now that he is gone? Nothing more than a vague sense of closure. Because I had prevailed over him on the issues that mattered most to me, the news of his death did not come as a kind of vicarious victory for me. Rather, the news simply drained from me the last, faint traces of bitterness I had felt toward him. Those traces were faint because when I retired I simply walked away from my job and looked back only to keep an eye on my final project — relocating the company to a better place — which came to a successful conclusion within a few years. And then I moved away from the dank environs of the D.C. area to a warm, sunny clime, where I lead a relaxed and serene life.
The best revenge is doing a good job and then living well after the job is done. I have done both.