For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched my dad work hard. Beyond the norm, hard. Beyond the extraordinary, hard. He’s the sort to put his all into whatever he does and he gave his heart, soul, mind, and body to every company for which he worked. He wasn’t home much when I was a kid, because he was constantly on the road, taking the trips no one else would, doing the jobs no else did. And for as long as I can remember, I watched my dad be taken advantage of. He expected the best of people, always trusted to a fault, and continued to give long after they had moved on.


This trust in people inspired me when I was a child. My dad would — and does — offer the coat off his back. He’s been screwed countless times in business, but if the screwer were to call my dad and ask for help, my dad would once again give. I admire his faith in humankind and that he chooses to be trusting even when the stakes are high, as they are in business, but as a result of his choice, he’s suffered some. He doesn’t get contracts signed — to him a handshake and your word is enough; he doesn’t ask for as much as he’s worth — he believes you will reward him when your pay-off comes in; and he errs on the side of you have his best interests at heart — each and every time.


I know some of you will think my dad is an idiot, but I assure you he isn’t. However, his judgment is often clouded by the stalwart belief that people will always choose the right thing based solely on its rightness. It breaks my heart to write that this tact hasn’t paid off for him. Not in the way most people consider pay-offs anyway. He is one of the most beloved men in his industry, but also one of those guys who is still working well past retirement. His ship never came in, docking instead at the ports of the many, many people he’s helped along the way. There was a man he trusted who tricked him out of his entire 401K in a false-stock scheme, another man who used my dad’s credit card for “business expenses” and then disappeared, and an associate who calls countless times a day, every day, weekends included, for advice on a start-up business. Of course, he will pay my dad for his time and work when the business takes off. And although that promise was three years ago, the guy is still calling. And my dad is still answering.


I’m not so naive to think that my dad’s business choices were or are wise. The way of the world is that you sign contracts, you don’t expect someone is going to repay your kindness or hard work, you ask for what you’re worth, you choose your friends and associates based on mutual trust. But I’d rather a father who lives from the soul than from the what-can-you-do-for-me. And how do you separate the two? How can you be one person in business and another person altogether in your heart? My dad isn’t. The two are the same for him.


He taught me well.


I live from the soul just like my dad, not so much from the brain….


Or the pocketbook. I always see the best in people. And that’s not a brag, it’s the (sometimes) heartbreaking truth. I don’t ascribe self-serving motivations to friends, lovers, co-workers. Those perceptions are foreign and alien to me. When I see reasonable indifference to the human factor in business (so easy to rationalize!), life, or love, it does not compute.


But I am coming to see that this blind adherence to “everyone is good! let’s just love each other!” is more damaging to me in the business sense than not. Because it excludes discernment. Just like Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” To me, this doesn’t mean I drop trust, it means that I make better choices about who surrounds me. That I expect they have my best interests at heart, that my hard work means something, that there is soul-heart involved, but to be prepared when it doesn’t go that way. A grain of salt is always a good thing, I suppose.


But this is really about “those” people, it is about me. You will be less likely to be taken advantage of, if you believe you shouldn’t be. The core issue is worthiness. A little something that colors so much of my life. As it is with my dad, it is with me: There is a small part of us that believes we are not worth taking care of ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I will get in the back of the line because I don’t think I deserve to be in the front. I’ve let opportunities slip by because I don’t want to leave someone out, or I put friendship above all else. Ahead of reason even.


That was my decision. And I am sure I will continue to make judgment calls based on what my soul wants to believe about inherent goodness. Yet, I find myself processing how I can make it less black and white. This person can be a good friend, but not always tell you the truth? Or someone can pretend they like you for what you can do for them, but they are still good people? Friendship is friendship? Unless it’s business? I need to reconcile treating myself well in conducting my business while treating others well, too, and knowing I deserve to take care of myself. Even when money is at stake. Especially when money is at stake. This is about personal worth, and belief in self, and knowing when to draw the line between being taken advantage of, taking care of you — and as it turns out — taking care of your family.


Because see, as long as I saw my dad work to the bone, and give his all, and trust with his heart to the exclusion of good sense, I saw his family pay for it. I certainly don’t wish he would have been a different man. Or at all like the people who took his trust. Just that he would have realized what a good man he was at that time — and still is — and have known that good people can be good at business too. That you can exist from the soul and be successful at what you do. That other people didn’t always have to be first just because they pushed past him and he was too nice to remain standing tall at the front of the line. Because I don’t and never will believe that business is mutually exclusive of decency. Or vice versa.


It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to figure out I’ve been recently affected by a situation akin to the above. I certainly don’t fault the decisions made, not by a long shot. I mean, in all honesty, I get it. I’m not mad or anything close to it. Just surprised, I guess would be the best word. Or if I’m remaining truthful, hurt. And I thought to write this because I am coming to see that there is no place for “hurt” in business. And while I get that, I still don’t know what to do with it. I suppose you move on, and take care of you, and stay true to who you are. If anything was missing from my dad’s approach to business, it was the second point.


I’m still figuring out the rest.


16 thoughts on “Lessons”

  1. As a business woman, I completely understand the need for trust. It’s so difficult for me to separate business from friendship because I believe that friendship is essential to building trust in business. In my heart I want to believe that everyone is like me; trustworthy, honest, faithful. It’s not that way and sometimes it’s extremely heartbreaking. And when you bring money into the equation, well, it makes things even more dicey. It’s taken a long time for me to heal from some major letdowns.
    My philosophy now is that everyone gets a chance. One chance. If they screw me, then it’s over. Because trust is a two way street. You don’t have to earn it, but you do have to prove you deserve to keep it.
    Okay, I’m done mumbling. I must have rewritten this 12 times and I don’t even know what it says anymore. lol.

  2. “When people show you who they are, believe them.” That is the best quote ever. My problem is that I have a very hard time believing people can actually be so self-serving. I know what I would never do to someone else and then stupidly assume others have the same belief/value system. Wrong. And then I spend way too much time trying to figure out why people are the way they are. How do they justify what to me is very questionable behavior? How do they sleep at night? Why are they okay being a user, a taker, when I am not?

    Then, I come back to reality. It isn’t my business why other people do the things they do. And really, once I figure it out, what good does that do? My having a better understanding of someone else’s psyche does nothing to change the way they conduct themselves.

    I am not perfect, not by far, but I am not someone who steps on someone else’s face to get ahead. Never have been, never will be. And since it bugs me to no end to associate with people who are, I need to not associate with them. OR, associate with them, but not in a way that does me harm. Which means I have to break my pattern of being too much of a giver; being too quick to help other people out. To eager to share all I know. I am working on this right now.

    Thank you for writing this. I love you, and value our friendship.

  3. I’ve always been the exact opposite of your dad. Cynical to a fault when it comes to business & money. I hate being sold to in any way. Woe be to the poor cold calling sales person who dials my number! And I have no real idea why, I just absolutely do not trust people in business and I’ve always known that there is no such thing as a free or easy ride. It’s *always* too good to be true in my life :-)

    What floors me is that I am the exact opposite in friendship. I believe in the inherent good in people all the time. I trust. I’m horribly socially insecure and wanting to please in the worst way so I give and give and never pay attention to whether anything comes back in return. I never lie or BS about anything so I’m stunned when I encounter the opposite in return. I’m loyal to a fault.

    I suppose on the surface my combination of cynicism and naivete is OK. But it’s always stumped me and I still haven’t untangled where it comes from or how to balance it.

    Long way of saying – I completely understand. Take care of you.

  4. Sadly, we all come upon this type of friend vs. foe crisis at some point in our lives. We’d hope the pettiness of high school ended when we graduated, but sometimes ‘they’ follow us into adulthood and then we have to deal with this egocentric “I’m in it for me/money” mentality again…hopefully for the last time. These disappointments are how we not only learn our ‘lessons’, but also figure out who’s worth keeping as a friend and who you should keep at arm’s length.
    Brava for expressing how many chose to travel through life leaving only a scar instead of their mark.

  5. My dad is a lot like your dad. I used to be like that too. Being married to an attorney has totally changed the way I think. Getting things in writing ahead of time and thinking 10+ steps ahead before making a decision has worked for me almost 100% of the time. He has the same success ratio. It is easier said than done when friends are involved, I will say.

  6. I’m the type that likes to sit back and watch things unfold a bit before I get involved. It’s not that I’m overly cynical, it’s just that I like to try & figure out where I fit in. And sometimes that takes some observation of the dynamics of things. It has inadvertently served me well many times. That, and my Missouri-born skepticism. Unfortunately, it has probably hurt me, too. How many times did I miss out on a friendship or an opportunity because I was too cautious to get involved? I think there’s a balance there that we all need to find.

  7. I much prefer to believe that most people are good than bad. I don’t think that most people try to screw others, but those that do….

    The hard part is finding balance between trusting people to be good and watching out because you fear being screwed.

  8. Deb, thank you for sharing this. Your dad is true to himself, and that is something many people never achieve. What a gift it was for you to have your father model integrity. I look up to people who have good honest values, and are true to them. And I’m sure those values are coupled with a positive attitude. Maybe his financial ship has not come in, but he has riches of other sorts, and he has shared them with you already. Count them and be grateful! Then put your own spin on them, which might include different business decisions and boundaries.

  9. Sadly, his way of doing business is going out the window as the world gets bigger and people behave with less integrity. I think it’s easier to be a “handshake man” in a small town when the accountability is higher because people know each other.
    I hope you showed your dad your post–what a tribute!

  10. I resonate a bit with Jennifer’s comment. I always wonder why some people behave “that way” when I don’t? Why do they get rewarded for their betrayals? Why haven’t more people caught on? It’s incredibly frustrating. And just like Jennifer, I choose not to have them in my life. Unfortunately, they’re still near enough to cause an ocassional rash.

    I have to look in the mirror every morning and like what I see. They do, too. They probably like what they see. Based on their actions, they value behaviors that fall into the “bad” category in my life. I just don’t choose that to be who I am. Who I am and how I live will be my legacy. Along the way, I may get some cool rewards… or not. But the stories that my grandchildren tell about Crazy Grandma Shoog and all her adventures and how she treated others… that will always be enough.

  11. I had to learn the lesson late in life that ppl cannot always be trusted and I must take care of myself b/c no one else will.

    Your father is an amazing man as you are an amazing daughter, woman and friend.

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