Do you know who Rachel Hollis is? If so, have you watched her fall from grace?
In a nutshell, Hollis is the author of Girl, Wash Your Face, and Girl, Stop Apologizing. Hollis was the self-improvement guru whose virtual conferences attracted 50,000 viewers and whose speaking fee was reported to be between $100,000 and $200,000 per appearance.
But that ended when she told her devoted TikTok fans that she had a housekeeper who came in twice a week to “clean the toilet.”
When a commentor accused her of being “privileged” and “unrelatable.” (NYT, 4/29/21) Hollis responded that “I am super freaking privileged” and that she “worked my ass off so I can have the money to have someone come, twice a week, to clean my toilets.”
That doubling down, plus Hollis’ inability to take responsibility for her own mistakes while she also compared herself to “unrelatable” women including Harriet Tubman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Marie Curie, and Oprah Winfrey (amongst others), caused her fans to abandon her in droves.
Before you “Tsk tsk” too loudly, consider taking a look in the mirror.
Regardless of who you are or what you do, I’m sure you’ve stuck your foot in your mouth more than once – even when you didn’t think so.
I know I have. Here’s just one of those times:
For the first 15 years that I ran my ad agency we unsuccessfully tried to win a cruise line account. Maybe we weren’t big enough or didn’t have the right skillsets or connections or whatever but no matter what we did, we couldn’t seem to land a ship.
Finally, after a number of failed attempts, we got a small project for Carnival Cruise Lines. This helped us get some project work from Oceania Cruises. And because we did a really good job for them it led to us winning the Seabourne account.
I figured we’d finally arrived.
On our first day with Seabourne’s executive team I was introducing all our people who were going to work on their business. I introduced our Account Manager, Creative Director, Media Director, Copywriter and so on. I told our new clients that they were in great hands because I had put our A Team on their business and they would be very happy with the work these fine people would do for them.
“If they’re all so good,” the CEO asked me, “what’s left for you to do?”
“Me?” I answered with a big smile. “I’m always willing to do less.”
I thought my little retort was cute, funny, and clever, and that it demonstrated how much I trusted my people.
Turns out the CEO thought it was rude and flippant and demonstrated that I didn’t care about her business.
How do I know that? I found out when she fired us.
My point is that we never know how someone will take what we said. And, except when it’s on video, we can never even be sure of exactly what we said. But it doesn’t matter. The damage was done.
I’d be willing to bet that many of us have told an audience or a client or a friend or a family member that they should focus on their “highest and best use.” That they should spend their time doing what they’re most competent to do and to not do things where they don’t bring their “highest value.” Maybe we talked about the “Three Ds – Do It. Delegate It. Dump It.”
Whatever words we used, they had the same basic meaning as “I bring someone in to clean my toilets because my time and expertise is better spent elsewhere.”
In that light, were Hollis’ words ham-fisted and unfortunate? Yes.
Were they honest? Also yes.
Did they merit the way she was treated? I can’t say because I had never heard of Hollis before I read the linked article and I don’t know anything about her except what I read. But I would suggest that it probably could have happened to any of us in some way or other.
The article also explains that people abandoned Hollis because she’s getting a divorce. Unless she had been pontificating on her perfect marriage and how everyone should follow her lead that also seems a bit severe to me. Imagine how few people we could work with or work for if we considered divorcees to be pariahs.
Remember that people love to put their heroes up on pedestals and then pull their heroes back down into the mud. And that each step up the ladder of success only makes the fall back down to earth that much longer and that much harder.
Or remember the words of someone infinitely more eloquent than me (and someone I probably don’t need to point out was also carried on the shoulders of his followers before they jeered him as he walked to his death): “Let (s)he who has not sinned cast the first stone.”