6 Life Lessons I Have Learned The Hard Way
As an intelligent individual who was sent to Jewish ultra-religious private schools which provided a very crappy education I developed into an autodidact – an autodidact is a self taught person. Given that in general none of the teachers I had through high school actually were teachers (don’t even get me started on the “rabbis”) I generally found that I was more intelligent than they were and more well versed in the subject matter because I would have read about it on my own before class at one point or another. This contributed to some problems with authority figures throughout school. So now let me get off the psychiatrist’s couch and tell you why I am explaining all of this – I have had to learn some lessons in my life the hard way because I was less likely to be saved from learning them by the usual authority figures. Today, I thought I would share some of them with you.
- Always get EVERYTHING in writing. A verbal contract is only as good as the paper it’s written on. I remember back in the mid-90’s was when I got really into computers and tech and my aunt told me about a web design firm which her company had dealt with – no names mentioned – which had had my cousin the summer beforehand working as an intern or summer student and maybe I’d enjoy working with them. Having read HTML For Dummies in my spare time and designed some Angelfire and Geocities websites (this was the 90’s after all) I figured that would be awesome. I went in for an interview and they all seemed like a really cool group of people and after a brief interview said they’d look forward to me working there in the summer. I was ecstatic. A couple of months later school was ending and I gave them a call so I could find out when they wanted me to start…suddenly that job was no longer available. I was confused and devastated. But that leads me to my next point….
- Be a nudge. We are told by society to be polite and not to be overbearing and a nudge and a pest (there’s Yiddish word for that also, it is called a “nudnik”). The truth is, that I very likely may have actually had that job even without that contract if I hadn’t wanted to be so damned polite. I assumed that the gentlemen at the firm had given their word and why would I want to be a bothersome pest over the course of the next few months checking in just to say hi. Maybe had I been continually calling them once every two weeks, I would have either (A) heard from them sooner that the job no longer existed or (B) been welcomed with open arms in at the beginning of the summer.
- Everyone is out for number one – aka themselves – and don’t you ever forget it. It pains me to even write this but let’s be honest. For all the talk of polite society and being a gentleman and acting in a civilized manner – everyone is out there for themselves. I remember being in Hawaii for my friends’ wedding and finding out the “friend” who I asked to go into court for me to explain I was out of town and so couldn’t attend traffic court was out at the cottage because I didn’t tell him which court room he should go to – yes, that is how lazy he was. I frantically started calling my friends in Toronto to show up in court for me and explain why I couldn’t be there. Not one person was willing to do it. If a friend called me from 6 time zones away (it was 3 AM in Hawaii, I was calling them at 9 AM their time) I would have no question done everything in my power to go to court for him. I still remember a buddy who I was sharing a room with in Hawaii saying to me, “Wow, with all the help you give to people and things you do for them you can’t find one person to go in to court for you for 30 minutes?”
- Your time is worth money, don’t allow anyone to believe differently. For a while I was working as a cellular tech support person. Always on call, helping people with their cell phone problems either on the phone or in person. I had a friend who literally would call me every single time something needed to be done with his BlackBerry. I even was on the phone with his cellular service provider’s tech support in a conference call with him on more than one occasion. I eventually said to him, “FriendName, this is the last time I am helping you. My time is worth money. I have spent hours on the phone with you helping you with your phone problems at the most inopportune times for me. I don’t expect you to pay me for tech support because we’re friends but you have to send me at least one paying customer before I will be willing to help you again. If you can’t do that, call your service provider’s tech support team, the manufacturer of your cell phone, or do some research on the Internet like I do when I don’t know the answer.” Of course he called me up less than a month later and when I told him I didn’t have time to help him and he never sent me anyone his response was, “Oh, you don’t think I would send you someone if they asked me?” I responded that no one comes to him for cellular advice because he knows nothing about cell phones! He had to be proactive about getting me customers. The next time someone is complaining about their phone not working he should tell them to give me a call. Can you take a guess as to whether he has (A) ever made the effort enough that it resulted in him sending me even one paying customer or (B) called me for cell phone tech support since. The answer is none and no. Suddenly, when I was asking him to make the tiniest bit of effort my cell phone tech support suddenly wasn’t worth it for him anymore. Only when it was free was he willing to – literally – waste my time to baby step him through cell phone support because he didn’t want to wait on hold for his service provider’s tech support.
- Write everything down. This is sort of like my first lesson but is more of something for yourself and doesn’t have to do with contracts. When you speak to a company’s customer service representatives online or on the phone or in person ALWAYS know who you dealt with, when, and where. If there is a dispute later if you can pull out names and dates and not just say something like, “it was in mid-June, in the afternoon and I spoke to a guy.” You are going to get way further in getting what you want – or what you were promised – out of that company. This comes from experience of not writing things down.
- Always read/listen to the fine print. I was once called on my claim by a company that I should prove what was said to me by one of their representatives – it was for cellular roaming charges. I replied that my calls were recorded for quality assurance so why didn’t they pull out all of my account’s recordings and listen to them? Further, I asked them if this meant that in future I should demand a recording/transcript be sent to me every time I called in to the company because I may be called upon later to prove that something was said to me. They quickly reversed the charges.