Would Passive Aggression Kill You?

You can't actively pursue your goals and be passive agressive at the same time.  Those excuses don't work.

And yet we try so hard to be the exception.

Thinking it might work (this time) for us.

And instead of noting all the destruction and carnage that come from being passive aggressive people, we somehow imagine that we can "handle it."

It's silly thinking.

What irony to expect greatness from self-destructive behaviors.

It just has never (ever) worked.


It's you working against yourself.

And it's the nonsense that you don't really need to do.

  • It's when you purposefully cloud the real issues so that you don't have to take responsibility for your performance, your beliefs, or the hurt you cause those around you.
  • It's when you deliberately create "no-win", double-speak situations so that you don't have to be rejected or experience failure.
  • It's when you use indirect, ambiguous, sarcastic, or self-centered wording with a smile so that you never need to confront the real problems with interpersonal relationships.

You do this because you're scared.  Because you're scared you might not achieve what you want so desperately much from life.

And so instead of letting fear push you toward more activity - toward more creativity, more passion, more  purpose - you let it devour your soul.

You let it crush your spirit, cloud your sense of an amazing future, and turn triumph of spirit into helplessness.

And it doesn't have to be that way.

You are actually a lot stronger than the fear in your heart let's you think you are.

You can do just about anything when you decide what you want is worth living for.

In July of 2007, Grant Achatz shocked the culinary world with the news that he had just been diagnosed with stage four cancer in his mouth.  More specifically, his tongue.

With his severely advanced stage of carcinoma, doctors told him that the only way to stay alive was to remove almost all of his tongue.  But that wasn't something that Grant was willing to accept.

You see, all that Grant had ever dreamed about was being was a chef.

Since his earliest days working in his parent's restaurant in Michigan, he pursued entrance to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.  After graduation he worked his way up to sous chef at the prestigious French Laundry in California; only leaving for the 4-star Trio in Chicago to become Executive Chef.

Three years later with Grant leading the restaurant, Mobil awarded Trio a fifth star; making it one of only thirteen restaurants in the world with that distinction. And then Grant did the unthinkable.

He left Trio at the peak of worldwide acclaim to start Alinea.    A block from the famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Alinea was located in a simple brick building with no sign on the outside, just a building number.  It had no bar, no lobby or waiting area, and just enough room for five dozen diners.  And the guest's didn't get menus.  They were served a twenty-eight course tasting menu of tiny portions that Grant created personally.

Less than two years later, his brand-new creation was rated five stars by Mobil and Gourmet magazine named it the best restaurant in America.  Restaurant magazine went on to name it one of the top fifty places to eat in the world.

And at the peak of his success, Grant got cancer and lost his ability to taste anything.  More importantly he was close to losing his life.  Doctors told him that the cancer was likely already spreading to his lymph nodes.  He had to remove most of his tongue in order to live.

But Grant decided to go a different direction.

He underwent chemotherapy and radiation.  For five months as he underwent experimental procedures under the watchful eyes of leading doctors at the University of Chicago, he struggled past his fears to stay alive and fuel his energy into creating culinary mastery.

He was so sick that he would vomit on a brief car drive to the office.  And the radiation stripped layers of delicate skin off his swollen tongue and throat.  For weeks he could barely swallow anything and he completely lost his sense of taste.

To cook, he had a chef follow him around and describe in intricate details the tastes he was making.  He also developed a over-active sense of smell.  He started to rely more on the nuances of smell and color to create a dining  experience.

Despite his pain and fear and desire to let other people feel sorry for him , Grant decided to do whatever it took to keep his dream alive.  To keep himself alive.

And five months later, when doctors looked at scans of his throat they saw that the cancer was gone.  And so a week  before Christmas in 2007, Grant announced that his cancer was in remission.

It would be months later before he started to get his sense of taste back.  Sweets -- that's the first thing that he could taste.  And as the skin started to grow on the rest of his tongue, he started to sense "salty" and "sours".

And that's not the rest of the story.

In 2008, Alinea would be rated in the top twenty-five restaurants in the world, then tenth in 2009, and seventh in 2010 - the highest rated restaurant in North America.

Later in 2010, Michelin would give Grant a coveted three stars for his brilliance.

Grant wouldn't be alive now if he were made passive aggressive.

He wouldn't have a world famous restaurant and a legacy of creativity, culinary design, and inspiration.


He would be:

  • Sulking,
  • In denial,
  • Evasive,
  • Over-sensitive, and
  • Pessimistic.

And maybe with good excuse.

But instead of talking around his tombstone about what a great guy he was, we talk right now about who Grant is.

And what still greater things he might do.

And that mindset is a choice.

It's a personal transformation from excuses and self-pity to passion and self-purpose.

And while you might not have a fight with cancer to help you define how much you want your destiny, every day (a dozen times each day) you choose your reactions to life.

You make the choice to offer passive aggressive excuses and hide from the fear that consumes you.

Or you decide to stand up and make your mark on the world.

And like Grant Achatz, you inspire those of us who watch you to be better people.

And there's nothing passive about that.