How Being an Awful Boyfriend Saved My Career

You look at that title and wonder “what is he talking about?” How can anyone connect their personal life to their business life? I’m here to tell you they are very much connected and how you act in your private life comes alive in your business activities and has sound consequences.

Starting a relationship takes risk, it takes you meeting someone and finding the chemistry. Most times, the chemistry isn’t there and you move on, but at least you took the risk to find out. When it does work out, the partnership functions with both sides prospering, as a deal is only worth it when both sides make out.

There’s also taking the wrong types of risks. Sometimes we encounter deals that get us very excited, which can cause us to act without thought. It’s always good to take a step back and take a look at the details. My old business was in need of a capital infusion, while not dire, it was close. When approached by an investor, we loved the amount of money he was offering and that’s all the partners saw. What they didn’t realize was how crushing a 20% interest on that money would be our ultimate demise. It’s similar with people, we may get worked up over seeing a beautiful person and enjoying what we see, however when the relationship consummates, it turns out they may have a few issues that will have you worse off than before.

Growing up, I was easily the worst boyfriend any girl could have. I was charming and acted like I had not a care in the world. The first couple months were pure bliss, spend a ton of time together doing fun and adventurous things, like mountain biking and expensive dinners. This set up a false image that I was an amazing man and it would last forever. It didn’t, when issues arose, I found what I didn’t like about the person, then all the fun stuff went away and I became a disengaged jerk, thus breaking hearts.

That translated to my earlier career life, I was passionate, had a vision for what I wanted our business to be, and acted cool under pressure. Our first year was excellent, got to enjoy a “business” trip to Vegas, was paid very well, and a light workload. Once the economy crashed in 2008, I was faced with a harsh reality, things were going to crap and all the fun went away. The pressure increased to become more creative to bring customers in, I didn’t like (i.e. wasn’t prepared) that so I became disengaged from my position, basically pulled a temper tantrum like a 5 year old, making a mountain out of a molehill.

Problems happen in all relationships, business or personal. When I wouldn’t get my way, I would shut down and become passive aggressive with what I thought was the best for our business and asking things from my partner. If that didn’t work then I would become non-communicative, which would cause more problems. Problems would mount and all the holding back caused me to explode, leaving my partners asking, “Why didn’t you say anything?” When you become selfish, the relationship is basically over because it’s not about the benefit of the unit, but the individual, which will cause the others to act in their own self-interest instead of the company/relationship.

When I did find some success in a relationship, my mind (and eyes) began to wander and I asked, “What else is out there for me? Is the grass greener someplace else?” I made the mistake of moving on from a relationship that was successful, my reasoning was based on my own inability to enjoy moments with my partner and instead I was too busy looking for something bigger and better. It’s the same thing in business, I spent a long time working as a marketing specialist for a small business that was grossing $5+ million per year, yet I wasn’t satisfied after a few months of my promotion to partner. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the moment of success, instead I was out applying for positions, interviewing like a madman, and getting denied at each company. I felt that I deserved “more”, whatever that entailed.

The mistakes I made, which in hindsight, were the greatest lessons I ever learned. Those failures are what allows growth to try and get it right the next time, to look back and see what situations caused your mistakes, as well as your mindset at the time. A lot of it came from immaturity, since I was in my early to mid-twenties. I caused a lot of hurt for people and you put yourself in their situation to realize “wow that person really was an awful partner.” As we age, we store the experiences in our minds to remember for the next time we encounter a similar situation, leading us to find the right type of person I want to be/work with.

You learn that your business depends on your effort; you can’t afford to take days off when you feel like it, you can’t become mute when there’s a disagreement with you and your partners, or feel like you’re entitled to excess when you find some success. It’s about taking the time to learn your business and partnerships, not jumping into bed (pardon the pun) with just anyone for a quick solution, and it’s about making the right deals with people whom you can grow to trust and thrive with.