In my experience, friends can be amazingly helpful and usually are. Nonetheless, you sometimes have to take care. One time, I was checking out potential venues for some training events I wanted to run. A friend of mine, Ben, told me about a conference venue he had used from time to time that he thought would be absolutely ideal for my needs. This particular venue was many miles north of London (where I’m based) and a little bit awkward to get to. Nonetheless, Ben thought I ought to check it out. He told me the manager of the venue was called Eric and gave me his contact details.
My attempts to liaise with Eric did not go smoothly. He was difficult to reach and not very good at returning calls or messages. These were hardly promising signs. Even when I did manage to talk to Eric, he seemed rather absent-minded and forgetful. At length, I arranged to go to see the venue one Saturday morning. Given that it was going to be quite a long journey, I told Eric I would call him again on Saturday, before setting off, just to confirm that he would be there to let me in and show me around.
When Saturday arrived, I tried to contact Eric but couldn’t reach him. He neither answered his phone nor replied to my texts. I felt inclined to simply cancel the trip but called Ben first. He told me quite emphatically that I should go up to see Eric’s place. Time and time again, he assured me that Eric would either be there or would have arranged for someone else to meet me and let me in. He promised this, guaranteed it, gave me every assurance under the sun. Swayed by Ben’s assurances, and the lure of a potentially ‘perfect’ training venue, I made the rather long, arduous, and time-consuming trek to Eric’s conference centre. When I got there, it was locked and deserted, silent as the grave. No way in, no way for me to see whether it was suitable for my needs. Still no response from Eric. I went home, rather dejected. The entire day had been wasted.
“There was no-one there,” I told Ben on the phone that evening. “It
was a complete waste of time.”
“Oh,” replied Ben. I could almost hear him shrug as he said it. “Sorry about that. I felt sure he’d be there.” It was all right for him, of course.It wasn’t his day that had been completely wasted. This is when I learned my lesson about people’s assurances.
Point to Ponder
Lesson: It’s easy to give guarantees that don’t affect you. I expect this is a lesson that most people reading this booklet will already have learned. However, I wanted to include it because it means a great deal to me personally. In my younger days, I was far too easily persuaded by effusive promises and guarantees. It took me a while to realize that it’s easy for people to make promises when they personally won’t be affected if they turn out to be wrong.
Learning this lesson, simple as it may be, made a big difference, and stopped me wasting a lot of my time.
If you want a promise or assurance to mean anything, especially in
business, make sure the person offering it pays a price if they’re wrong. Otherwise, there’s a chance their ‘promise’ isn’t worth mud.
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