Recently, I was looking at my 14-year-old son’s MySpace profile when I saw something that hit me like a sucker punch. I didn’t go on there to snoop. It was more like ... well, OK, I was snooping.
On Aaron’s home page, bold as can be, was a photo of him and two classmates cheerfully smoking. I stared at the picture with growing anger and sadness, trying to figure out when it had been taken. There was a Ferris wheel in the background, and I remembered he had gone on a school trip to a local fair back in the fall.
A school trip! My anger was immediately augmented by a feeling of intense betrayal. If caught, he could have been suspended, risking his scholarship and perhaps his entire future. And I had trusted him so much. Aaron seemed exceptionally honest and open, but clearly that was an act. How could this have happened? I couldn’t remember ever having been so completely fooled.
Struggling to stay calm, I confronted Aaron, telling him that I had visited his MySpace page and was very disappointed by something I’d seen there. Instead of becoming nervous, he burst out laughing. “I got you. I got you really good,” he said in a voice full of unmitigated pleasure.
The kid’s cigarettes were fakes purchased at the fair, and once I looked at the photo with objective eyes, it was embarrassingly obvious. For starters, though the cigarettes were all creating good-sized puffs of smoke, none of them were actually lit.
“Don’t worry,” Aaron said when I apologized for doubting him. “We fooled Mr. Farnsworth, too. It was hilarious.”
But I did worry, though not about my son. Rather, it was my own reaction that concerned me. I had allowed what I saw with my eyes to have more power than what I knew in my heart. I had lost faith in my boy so easily.
Belief in anything is tricky, and it can be difficult to recognize when to let the evidence hold sway and when to remain stubbornly true to your convictions. However, I’d rather be a person who has too much faith than too little.
To my mind, that concept applies in business as well as in one’s personal life. Though keeping an open mind is important, it’s even more important to set your sights on core principles and hold to them regardless of outside forces. Yes, the pool and spa market is way down, but if you begin compromising quality just to maintain your bottom line, then what are the ideals of your company? What do you stand for?
I’ve had the privilege of spending time with a number of people in this industry who truly live by their own beliefs. Many of them would close their doors before compromising their values. They have my admiration.