I was watching an interview the other day with the fraudster behind the failed Fyre Festival. The man in question, Billy McFarland, had recently been released from prison. After serving four years for his misdeeds he wanted to apologize publicly. In the interview, aired on national TV, he took full responsibility for his crime and appeared humbled even managing to maintain his composure when faced with a clearly skeptical interviewer whose questions would have irritated and sparked a reaction from the Buddha himself.
Billy doesn’t mess around. He is less than a year out of prison and has already started publicizing his next venture, an online virtual event with the ominous name, PYRT as in pirate. For that is what most fraudsters are, modern day pirates.
This article isn’t about Billy, although one of his observations in his recent interview provides the catalyst. When the antagonistic interviewer asked if anyone would ever trust him again Billy replied that it would take a long time, but each day he would work on earning people’s trust. His words were spot on.
Whilst we are taught about giving people a second chance the reality is when you f*** up in a big way, and that is what we are talking about here, it is very difficult to earn back trust. It is much easier to start again and acquire a new batch of friends! No one likes to be judged. Whilst we may react by saying “I couldn’t give a s**t what people think, that’s their problem”, the reality is we all care, unless we are sociopaths of course.
I have experienced similar challenges.
I was working for a small company as a part time bookkeeper shortly after my release from incarceration. It was obvious within a few weeks that my skills were far beyond my responsibilities. The astute owner took me for lunch to a local restaurant to talk about my future at his company and more specifically whether I would be willing to take on additional responsibilities and longer hours.
I didn’t realize until my boss parked his X5 BMW that the restaurant he intended to take me to was the same restaurant where I had previously been employed to wash dishes for 7 months. I could foresee a problem. I visualized the waitress or chef noticing me digging into my coconut soup and coming over to talk to me and my new friend.
I made a quick decision to avoid any potential embarrassment on my part. I told my new boss that I had worked in the restaurant we were now dining in. That revelation left him looking surprised. I could see his mind turning, calculating, assessing.
After digesting this new information he inquired about my previous management experience to gauge if I had the potential to be his right hand man. His words not mine. I told him I used to manage twenty stockbrokers in London. I didn’t go into too much detail, the kitchen revelation was already too much information for one day. He immediately offered me a full time position. I would start my new responsibilities as soon as we arrived back at the warehouse after lunch.
The next day as I was set to leave the poorly heated office for the short bike ride home the boss asked me to join him in his office. First things first he handed me my weekly paycheck. Then he started.
“You are overqualified for this job, in fact you are more equipped to run this place than I am. So it got me thinking, what are you doing here. I was curious, so I did some research.”
I knew what was coming next. It always follows a pattern. A few compliments and then the bad news.
The bad news was that he had Googled my name and realized he had an ‘evil financial genius’ working for him.
I explained the background to my current predicament. That I wasn’t the sort of person who would forge a check or steal the money from his wallet. Mine was a good old fashioned Ponzi scheme.
“I would imagine you were earning seven figures back in your heyday?” he asked.
“Yes” I said simply.
‘In a day’ I thought about saying but that was too much information and would have probably confirmed his earlier evil genius observation.
“So I have to think what is your angle?” The boss said.
“So what do you want to do?” I asked, tired of the rerun of that part of my life I would prefer to forget.
“Well that is the problem. Yesterday I was excited I had finally found someone who had a brain and can help me take the business forward. I felt you could teach me. But now I am concerned. I will have to speak to my father and let you know.”
“Listen,” I said, “I would just like to say there will be no hard feelings from my point of view if you decide against keeping me. I thank you for the opportunity, it has been fun.”
“Me neither…” and before he could finish I stood up and offered my hand.
“That was a proper handshake” he uttered.
That was the handshake I gave someone when I didn’t expect to see them again.
That night I was depressed. Will this nightmare ever end? I thought. How will I be able to pay the rent next month? Rather than drown my sorrows in beers I went to a jujitsu class, maybe that would give me clarity.
When I returned home my mood had changed to a positive one. I opened up my laptop to restart the job hunt.
As the title of this article alludes to, turning over a new leaf is not sufficient for someone who has experienced major failure. In our attempt at a comeback we must turn over a new forest.
The big question is whether changing is actually realistic. Are our habits too deeply rooted to make change possible?
This is a debate for another article, possibly. The real question is whether we are able to put certain controls in place to avoid our past bad habits and behaviors. And, what do these controls look like?
A few important controls and steps we must institute to avoid falling into old patterns include;
- Analyzing where we went wrong, why and how.
- Asking ourselves, what can we learn from this experience?
- Avoiding with manic intent the behaviors and actions that caused the failure. If you are a drug dealer for instance that requires a decision not to sell drugs again but that is the easy part. The hard part is…
- Finding an alternative career path. Maybe it doesn’t need to be as drastic as finding a new career in all cases but for the fraudster and the drug dealer it does!
- Mixing with a better class of person including surrounding yourself with good influences. That also requires blanking your old friends and acquaintances who were supportive of your previous life.
- Accepting the opinions of those that reject you because of your past. Not becoming defensive. You don’t need to like these people but you do need to understand where they are coming from.
- Focus on your victims. Genuinely look to compensate them for the damage you caused.
- Don’t be tempted by the easy option. When the going gets tough, which it will, don’t revert back to past habits. It’s easy to do. Remember the hard work will pay off if you stick with the plan. Quick fixes will not pay dividends in the future and will lead to the same failures as before.
- Never lose faith. When the rejections from jobs, girlfriends, wives, family and friends roll in, use that as fodder to drive you forward and prove everyone wrong.
- Remember the anniversary of the key event of your failure, that could be the date of your arrest or the day you declared bankruptcy. Celebrate it for this was the start of your re-birth.
A wise man once said, don’t concern yourself with things you can’t control. That applies here. Focus on what you can do and not what others think. The latter will only sap your energy. In order to regain our place in society and to return to glory built on rock rather than quick sand be persistent, relentless and ask what is good about this? There is something good in all the ‘bad things’ that happen to us. Believe that and you are halfway to redemption my friend.
Banner Image: Prison cell. Image Credit – Ichigo121212