Those Who Throw Dirt, Lose Ground
Written by Scott Cooper
Ten years ago today, I did not know that I was less than one month away from completing my career in the travel industry. Twelve days from Thursday August 30, 2001 an event would take place that would put the nails in the coffin of my career in the travel industry. Of course, the day I am referring to is September 11, 2001.
That was a day that impacted everyone’s life. I am sure that in the next 12 days I will be writing more about my thoughts of that day, and how its impact has changed our lives. There is no doubt, with my concern about Sharia Law being in opposition to Constitutional Law, I will reflect on the terrorism, and the philosophical views of those who flew planes into buildings that day. I am sure, since it is the 10th anniversary of that dreadful day, we will be reading, hearing and viewing a lot about that day, and what has taken place since. Today I am not writing about September 11th, but a lesson I learned from a mentor, a very successful entrepreneur, during my final days in the travel industry.
Prior to September 11th, I had the privilege of working for an entrepreneur who was extremely successful. Today, he is probably in his mid-70’s, which means he was in his mid-60’s when he invested time with me, a young lad, ages 31 and 32 at the time!
He started his professional life as an engineer; however early in his career decided to pursue his desire to be an entrepreneur, in charge of his own destiny. During the course of 35 years, by the time I got to know and work for him, he and his wife had built quite an enterprise. He was in charge of multiple businesses, in more than one industry, in several states. Even though the events of September 11 and declining business took me out of my “mentorship” with him, I remember many things about him.
He was a professional engineer by trade, who had advanced degrees; however he taught me that most of what he learned that had made him successful was dealing with people. Both he and his wife had a tremendous ability to make everyone feel comfortable and cared about. They did little things to ensure each of their employees were appreciated – like the time, out of the blue, he mailed my sons “scooters” just because he thought they each needed one!
Although he was extremely successful, if you met him on the street or in public, you would not know it by his lifestyle. He drove a modest car, and with the exception of when we attended an important meeting – his favorite outfit were jeans and a t-shirt.
I mention him today, because this week I have been thinking about a lesson he taught me.
This week, I have been thinking about the climate where people feel it necessary to tear individuals down, even to the point of telling lies. This is something that unfortunately is commonplace in the world of politics. I am thinking of one conservative political candidates run in with supposed “Conservative Bloggers” who attempted to make her look foolish and derail her campaign, with no validity behind their allegations. They told lies that to date, cannot be substantiated with video or audio, despite our living in a “New Media” digital age. I am not going to mention the campaign or situation, because I know those who read this and are familiar with the situation will know what I am referring to – and posting links to the situation does no one any good. But the situation this week has made me think about my old boss and mentor, and some advice he gave me on more than one occasion.
During my relationship with this employer / mentor, we were engaged in development projects that included many individuals and companies. There were multiple occasions where it was apparent that individuals or companies that were attempting to do business with us were completely crooked, partially dishonest or simply untrustworthy. I remember on more than one occasion after we had already determined we would not be working with said individual or company, I would attempt to bring up a situation where these individuals or companies had a reputation or tendency to be bad, and the response from my mentor was always – “Now Scott – those who throw dirt, lose ground.”
He never indicated to me that he was unaware of the facts, or that he was willing to do business with folks who did not meet his ethical standard. He simply indicated that we weren’t going to talk negatively about anyone. If we knew the facts, we simply moved on to find another individual or company that met his standard. He was a firm believer in, “we will know them by their fruits” and he left it there.
This man is a doer, someone who liked to accomplish things – and did not waste his energy, time or any other resource in speaking negatively against another human being or company, because at the end of the day, he knew their actions would reveal themselves and would ultimately be manifested in the type of fruit they would harvest. Investing his energy in tearing someone down would never help him accomplish his goals, so that is not where he placed his effort.
There are a lot of applications to this lesson he taught me. I thought enough of it, that I remember it to this day. There is a specific reason it clicked in my mind this week, but perhaps it will have another application for you. It is worth remembering.
Those who throw dirt, lose ground.
Perhaps one adaptation – “Those who throw dirt, whether the dirt is true or fabricated, lose ground.”