Life Lessons

As I sit here with my coffee this morning I contemplate life lessons learned over the last 6 months. Primarily, I'm thinking about trust; but I'm also thinking about the method whereby we self-induce our experiences.

Trust is the principle focus of my thoughts today, though, specifically how perception can alter our awareness of relationships. If you take any two people who have a trust deficit you need to consider the views of both to reach an appreciation of truth. After all, nothing is black or white in this world. The sole exception of this is when trust is broken by intent, of course, since this represents a decision by one participant to use deception as a means to some end. Once that happens, they have abandoned their view as truthful. Any truth they had is washed away because they are choosing to abandon their integrity, and integrity of viewpoint is a key factor in associating it with truth. 

In the Star Wars films there is a line, in The Empire Strikes Back, where Obi-wan Kenobi remarks that his lies are true from a certain point of view. He is commenting upon his view that Anakin Skywalker was killed by Darth Vader. His view is that Anakin's acceptance of the title alone was an expression of choice, and therefore essentially an abandonment of the righteous path, and a form of spiritual death. Unlike Master Yoda, whose convictions about matters are, in Episodes 1 to 3, founded on dogma, Obi-wan is actually striding along a far more subtle path, and his weariness is a recognition of the price of holding a stringent view. When one harkens back to the fight at the end of Episode 3, the issue is further clarified, because there is another critical formative line. Obi-wan says at one point, just before Anakin's choice to finally attack, that he has the high ground. He is not only speaking tactically there, but from a spiritual perspective he is commenting upon the fact, without dismissing Anakin's views categorically, that there is a purity in his path that his brother lacks. This purity is why Obi-wan manages to sustain his view that purity of truth is less important than purity of intent.

In real life, obviously, there is never such a linear proof of the idea of truth being mutable. The "he-said-she-said" syndrome comes about precisely because of this, and it deeply affects all future communications between parties who suffer moments of mistrust. That said, the last 6 months of my life have pivoted around the ideas of trust, trust misplaced, and viewpoints.

About 13 years ago I became attached to a development project that involved 2 parties, neither of who, behaved entirely respectably. When they came to a falling out point, I had to make a choice whose products my effort was producing. I had to decide who owned the idea. Following logic, I decided that IP had to accrue to the people who seeded the idea, even if their original seed was pale by comparison to end results. This decision cost me financially at the time, leaving me holding a massive related debt, and drove me to sustain the development effort when, in lieu of being able to pay necessary rates, I was offered shares. To shorten the path, in retrospect I mistook my options then. I ought to have walked away, taken the loss, and attenuated my pain, because from the point I chose the other path I was essentially doomed to end that journey as a castaway. Again in retrospect, all the signs of manipulation were present, but despite my own con-man tendencies, I decided trust was fundamental to the process, and even when I mistrusted actions I didn't mistrust intent. That was probably the worst single decision I ever made, because I suspect I was used from the outset and thrown away when the risks of exposure of that use outweighed the value. That said, I would wager the principals of the company would hold I was the problem child, though it doesn't explain that they eliminated my share position by way of bankruptcy, before they did some deal with a company that had been courting them for months. In the end actions speak volumes, and the fact they are using the product I built under the guise of a new company is complimentary, I suppose.

The point I'm aiming at, though, is not a sour grapes moment. It is an observation about basic trust contracts, and how they are valueless if either party betrays the terms. Revisionist viewpoints cannot overcome intent, because the intent to gain is inherently selfish. There is no truth in business, because trust is sacrificial. It is the mechanical way of business. Contacts are, as they say, rather cheap. 

Truth cannot exist without trust, because only trust imparts a foundation for truthful exchanges. And trust that is one sided is a suicidal behaviour. I know in my case it has destroyed me financially, and is probably going to land my family on the streets, not because I can't work onward so much as because I'm still faced with having committed fully to a cause for 13 years, and I left with nothing to show for it. I have the pleasure to watch my efforts enrich others, without even a Merry Christmas. And yet I feel less bitter than weary, because the real violation happened so long ago it is not in the forefront of my mind. I caused my current distress by misplacing my trust early, and was repaid in full and then some by folks whose trust was never really founded. 

The life lesson I take from this is not that one should never trust. To the contrary, one has to. The lesson is more that we need to be conscious of the warning bells. My stress led to a mild heart attack (a pair of them 2 weeks apart), and my life is worth more than any creation my work generates. And to dwell upon this sort of thing is less important than to rise up and move on. No matter what happens in life, one can cling to Obi-wan's statement, with the caveat that to sustain truth you need to have a foundation of trust. Faith, I suppose, is an adequate word. Faith in self, if not in some higher power.

Ultimately the choices we make dish us, and we make those same choices today, even in moments of bleak struggle. To allow past mistakes to force one to repeat mistakes is counterproductive. And, really, as I can attest you can only run from your bad choices so long. I expect that is true for everyone.