Bullshitters, liars, crooks and conmen…

I had an interesting experience recently.

Interesting in the ‘Chinese’ sense, at least.

Trust. It’s such a basic part of a decent society.

Where would we be without it? Imagine if you could never trust anyone at all. Not even those closest to you.

Imagine if life was dog-eat-dog all day, every day. If you couldn’t trust anything that was said to you, by anyone.

Life would be unbearable.

That’s why we surround ourselves with – in my case at least – a very small number of people we know and trust. Finding people you can trust like this is one of the most important – and most rare – parts of life.

Most of us have our ‘inner circle’ we trust. Anyone outside of that is treated with varying degrees of caution.

I can’t go into details here for obvious reasons but you’ll get the point. A woman I know vaguely once lived with a man who turned out to be a fraudster.

Everything she thought she knew about him was false. He stole a lot from her.

But money and possessions can be replaced. I imagine what he stole the most was her ability to trust. I don’t know how you get over that sort of situation.

Another incident that will always stick in my mind was something I saw on Irish TV once. A member of the audience, probably in his 60s or so, talked about being abused as a child by a priest.

He was crying and explaining that not only had the priest stole his childhood, but he’d stolen his ability to believe in God and taken away any chance of ‘redemption’.

How could he believe in God when a priest – who, according to the man’s (ex-)faith, is In persona Christi – could rape him?

It’s unimaginable how that must affect you.

It’s hard to follow that story with anything without feeling crass and insensitive, but I’ve had my share of – very much minor – incidents in life that have damaged my trust in people.

Some years ago me and my ex-wife were conned out of several thousand pounds by a builder called David Flaherty. It was our fault as much as his. We were stupid. He was technically more stupid, but he was clever enough to pocket about seven grand of our money.

Of course, he ended up in jail (although he was never charged or convicted for the theft of our money – the police literally didn’t care).

He had 56 previous convictions and frankly he’s had a shit life so I felt some sympathy for him. It turned out he was on bail for a much larger theft when he robbed us. We met several other people he robbed at the same time as us. He was jailed again in 2014 for stealing £36,000 from a 98-year-old. He’ll be out any month probably and no doubt off to rob someone else.

Recently I’ve had business dealings with someone who I thought was genuinely nice. Most people you meet in business are dodgy, or stupid, or arrogant, or money-grabbing, or … well, you get the idea.

But now and again you come across someone who feels like a kindred-spirit and it’s a great feeling. Similar to finding another chimp amongst the hordes of gorillas on the Planet of the Apes. At last – a decent conversation with no bullshit…

Business shouldn’t be about increasing your wealth by conning other people out of theirs.

Of course, if someone is competing in your market for the same customers, that’s different, compete – fairly and legally – but apart from that any negotiations or deals should benefit all parties involved.

Some will make more than others, but that should be down to what value they add to the deal (speaking very roughly – I’m not writing a business book here…)

Sometimes you do a deal and you know the other person thinks they’re going to screw you, but you want to do it – maybe for reasons they don’t understand – so you let them be happy with what they’ve got. As long as you are happy too, it doesn’t matter – to me at least – if they think they’ve ‘won’.

What’s annoying though is when someone tries to do a deal and you firmly believe you both understand the position and the benefits to each other. And then you find out the other party has been… well… perhaps ‘economical with the truth’ is the best phrase to use here.

There are some people you’d expect to do this.

Naming no names, but – for example – if I was doing a deal with a certain octogenarian global media mogul, I’d go in with my eyes open and expect he was planning to shaft me. It’s still wrong, but you know what those sort of people are like. You’re unlikely to become a billionaire by being a nice guy.

Again, I don’t want to diminish the true horror of the examples I gave earlier – they are clearly in a very different league – but the ultimate effect is the same. The destruction of trust in others.

I like to see the best in people. I also like to think I’m a fairly good judge of character.

But each time you deal with someone who turns out to be less than what they made you believe, it damages that trust again and makes it harder to trust people in the future.

With the billionaire you expect it. But if you’re ‘just’ a low multi-millionaire or below, and you act like this, then you’re no better than a scrote robbing people as poor as you (something many ‘decent’ burglars didn’t do in the past).

I’d love to be able to believe in Karma. I do to a small extent – not in a spiritual sense, but in a ‘what goes around…’ sense – but you only have to look at the world to know it’s really just wishful thinking.

I talk a lot about honesty. For me it’s up there with the ‘Golden Rule’. And actually it’s a fundamental part of it.

I try my best to be an honest person both in my personal and business dealings.

And every time I meet someone like this, it makes that a little bit harder.

But I’d rather be honest and sleep at night, than act like these people do.

You can’t take anything with you when you go, but you can decide what you leave behind.

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