Morgan (Host): Hey, everyone. Thank you for watching the latest edition of client horror stories. I’m honored to have the one and only Will Rico with me today. I don’t know the story that he’s going to tell me, but what he just told me was that this story was indelible, which makes me doubly excited to hear it. Welcome to our podcast Will!
Will (Interviewee): Oh, thank you, Morgan. It’s such a pleasure to chat with you, and so, I learned so much, and it’s entertaining, so hopefully, I’ll have a good story to share.
Morgan (Host): I try to mix learning and entertainment. There’s actually a quote saying that the best way to learn is through entertainment, but my Latin is fading from my mind. So let’s jump right into your indelible horror story; what happened, Will?
Will (Interviewee): All right, so when you approached me with talking about a client horror story, I just started to get the wheels turning in my mind, and I was trying to think, and the story immediately came to me because it was a big part of my life. I’ve been trying to recollect the story the last few days for myself, so I’d be prepared to share it with you here today, and I think one thing that’s interesting for me is in my mind, this is like three years story. But I actually went back, and I was looking at like my notes and my records, and I was like, “Oh my god, this is actually like nine years’ story.”
This goes all the way back to 2001 if you can believe that, and so I have to even think about well in 2001, “Where was I? What I was doing?” So my agency, you know, common mind, we’re a digital marketing agency, but back in 2001, we actually existed, and we were more of web development and an IT type of company. So our agency’s been around for quite some time and a few different, you know, permutations and just kind of, you know, starts, and fall starts and steps backward, etc.
But in 2001, I was in this period of having a failed project, and I thought of starting a.com company, but then it became a dot-bomb company, and just with the kind of remnants of that business, just trying to do whatever I could to make money, so that would be like building websites for other businesses. We would do anything, though, such as we would build Microsoft Access databases, we would go to people’s offices in Manhattan, we would be running wires and Ethernet cables.
There wasn’t any Wifi back then and networking computers, so I kind of came from this like, this.com experience where we had like a specific, to “Okay, now we need to make some money.” We have like debt, which to me, it was like, a ton of debt. It was like $30,000, but it wasn’t in retrospect, you know, like the end of the world.
But I was just trying to do whatever I could to make money, and my thought or lack of thought was that eventually, we’d kind of slot into a particular service area, and we would just sort of organically grow. But you know, one of the mistakes then was just kind of doing so many different things and not saying NO to anything. So, kind of thinking back to that time frame, just to set up the context of how this client situation came about.
Morgan (Host): By the way, I would like to interrupt for a second. One general comment is that I’m a big fan of niched-focused targeted companies. And what I hadn’t realized until you said it is that if you are a generalist, you’re more likely to have client horror stories. If only because you’re doing a little bit of everything, you won’t really master the art of one, nor the art of managing that particular type of client. I didn’t realize that, and this is a good meta observation about that issue.
Will (Interviewee): It’s 100% true, and I think you know, there’s that technical capability which you know, I feel that we did have, it was more like how do you manage those types of clients? Managing and building a website is different than managing and installing a computer network. It’s kind of almost humorous in retrospect because there would be days where I’d like blocked out time to work on some like website, and I’d get a phone call from someone on the other side of Manhattan who wants to ask for help because their computer wasn’t connecting to the network.
I’d literally have to like get up, go over there, plug the Ethernet wire back in, and come back to my office. So yeah, definitely, knowing how to manage that was something I lacked. Just like again, like for context, in 2001, I think I was like 27 or so years old if I’m doing the math on my age right. So I rented office space from my first boss when I was in high school.
In high school, I used to assemble computers on this kind of really eccentric computer store that was by appointment only, and it didn’t have a storefront. You’d have to know about it and like take the elevator up the building. So the guy who ran the computer store was very eccentric, and you know fiery. We did everything; it wasn’t just building and assembling computers. A lot of it was like cleaning the office, vacuuming, getting like lunch, and all that sort of stuff. All of those were kind of intertwined with lots of yelling and screaming. Like, you know, he was either yelling and screaming at us, meaning like kind of the kids who did everything, or he was like yelling and screaming at the vendors from whom he would like be buying computer parts.
I mean, it was kind of exciting and comical but also stressful. You know we would go and pick up lunch at McDonald’s or something, and it was actually Roy Rogers back then. We had to ask for an empty coffee cup and then were supposed to go over to the ketchup and pump the full coffee cup full of ketchup because he would like to dunk his fries. It wasn’t good enough, like he didn’t like the whole thing.
Then if you didn’t do that, you’d be screamed at and etc. So fast forward, that was still high school, this is like, you know, ten years after high school. I’m renting office space from this guy, and my colleagues at the time all hated him because he was very nosy, very intrusive, and very abrasive. But you know, I knew him, and we had a history or relationship before, so it wasn’t quite so bad. There was also this thing of like every deal with him; he would come up with a great deal where he’d get like 90%, and you’d get 10%. So I’m just kind of setting up some content.
Morgan (Host): I’ve known more than one person who is like that
Will (Interviewee): Exactly. So one day, I’m in my little cubicle working there. He comes back, I forget where he was, and by this time he had like an internet cafe and so I forgot exactly how their connection was made, but he met this gentleman who told him, “Look, I have a relationship with a big computer manufacturer, and I get a lot of leads from this computer manufacturer, but what I do is like enterprise and software engagements. This big computer manufacturer, when their sales reps get something that’s more like, you know, installing some PCs or building a website, I don’t do any of that. So I want to come up with a deal with you where you’re going to do this, you’ll pay me a commission, and I’ll send you these leads from this big computer manufacturer.” So the fiery, eccentric boss invited me to lunch because he can’t do any of this stuff, and he just doesn’t have the wherewithal to do it.
Morgan (Host): So this guy said it to your boss, not to you? I just want to be clear.
Will (Interviewee): Yes, the guy told my boss this work proposal and not to me. I said I was gonna use pseudo names, but maybe I’ll call the sophisticated software guy David. So told this to the fiery and eccentric boss, like give you all these leads. The Eccentric boss says to me, “Look, come with me to lunch. You’ll do the work, and then I’ll get 80%, and then you know, we’ll pay whatever percent to David, it’ll be great.” I’m a little bit skeptical, but this David gentleman, in my view at the time, you know, being a 27-year-old man looking for work, was very sophisticated.
He was an older gentleman, probably at that point like the late ’50s, had gray hair, had a foreign accent, kind of like the traits of success or the characteristics of success. So we had a nice lunch, and he was charming. He explained how this was all was going to work. It was fine, so the fiery, eccentric boss got like one or two leads coming in, but unfortunately, he did his normal thing and got into a big fight with the prospect.
So David called me up, and he said, “Will, I really enjoyed meeting you at lunch, but, you know, these relationships I have with this computer manufacturer are the heart of my business. If we are aggravating the leads that they give us, then they’re not going to give us leads anymore. I don’t have any patience for this, and I told your boss that we’re not going to work together anymore, and I’m really sorry.”
I replied to him, “Well, in that conversation, he wasn’t really my boss. I’m in a separate company, and he just brought me in, you know, because I’m able to do the web work, and he can’t do it.” So he was like, “Oh, I didn’t realize that. Why don’t I just work directly with you?” In my mind, just going all the way back from a nine-year story, this was probably where I made my first critical mistake. Greed bit the apple, and I bit the apple because, in my mind, I was really annoyed at the fiery, eccentric boss and had been for years. Also, I thought, you know, I can get along with anybody, and I can get along with both of them, so I was hoping at some point I’ll be able to reconcile and bring everybody back together.
Morgan (Host): By the way, this is definitely the Adam biting the apple moment. What’s interesting about this is that I was just like you at 27 when I really thought everyone could just get along. It’s just a communication problem, right? And there will always be a win-win situation, but unfortunately, it takes a few horror stories and growing up to realize that sometimes you just can’t win. So you either need to go in knowing it’s going to be destructive or stay out of the battle completely.
Also, second learning or observation based on what you said. I got goosebumps when you said that you bit the apple because, at that moment when you’re 27, it’s not just because you sometimes realize that you are in a no-win situation, but it’s that oh going around someone doing it. But when you are 27, you think, “Whatever he couldn’t do it, I’ll do it. it’s fine, he clearly can’t do it, and he’s gonna lose the business anyway.” But the human heart and emotion are such so that like anyone, no matter how much of an asshole he was and how wrong he was, he will always be angry at you for that. This we will realize now, but it takes a level of sophistication to realize this when you were 27 years old.
Will (Interviewee): Definitely. I meet people all the time who say they don’t have any regrets in life, but I definitely have regrets in life, and this is one of my biggest regrets.
Morgan (Host): Whenever anyone tells me they don’t have any regrets, it’s either they’re lying to me, or they’re lying to themselves.
Will (Interviewee): Right, right, that’s a fair way to put it.
Morgan (Host): So, go on, what happened next?
Will (Interviewee): So David and I, the sophisticated software guy, started to develop this relationship. He would give me these leads coming from the big software manufacturer, and then I would do those projects. But there was always this kind of like quid pro quo type aspect to it. It turns out that David has a website, and he told me, “This guy created my website for me but he screwed me over and he did a really bad job, so can you do the website for me?”
Morgan (Host): So, David asked for a quid pro quo in addition to a commission?
Will (Interviewee): Yeah, in fact, I think over time I can’t remember, we were giving him a commission, but it became kind of secondary. The primary component was a lot of these free services, support, or discounted services. So you know we built websites for him, redesigned a website for him, and that would probably have charged another client like $6,000, but we charged him for $1,500. It kind of went out like this for a long. He was a photographer, by the way.
Morgan (Host): This is actually a super interesting situation, and none of my previous interviews have discussed situations like this. Often I’ve been in similar situations where when the other person wants isn’t really money, but instead, there’s sort of this like, quid pro quo or this unspoken, “Okay, I scratch your back you scratch my back.” This is also another risk factor for an explosion because it’s less clear less documented, and the ambiguity can lead to a lot of problems.
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, and so there was a lot of ambiguity. This was kind of an aspect of it that David was a photographer, and he took some beautiful photography. So he had this business website which was about sophisticated software systems, but then there’s also like, this giant photo gallery on there. Every single week, my small team and I were putting up more photos, and it’s just like, it’s kind of like becomes a bit of a mix between a personal exercise and a business exercise.
So the positive aspect of it is that through David, I got maybe like four really good clients, like really great clients that I got from them, and some big projects. At least for me at the time, these are projects that are probably in like the 30 to $50,000 range, which were big projects for us. And this was over the course of a nine-year period. The way it would work is that one of those did come from the computer manufacturer, and it turns out most of those leads were kind of not that great, or they didn’t really pan out. It was more because he was a very charming networker.
So he’d been networking all the time in New York City, and he’d meet someone, and he’d say, “You know, I want you to meet my young friend Will. He’s so brilliant, and he’s going to help you with this or with that.” So then I’d meet somebody else, and that person would be a good contact and would give me a lead. But that lead was always then going to be the gift from David. Even if the situation is like; I would meet, for example, George and George was a great guy, and we’ve developed a relationship, and after some period of trust, George would introduce me to client x. Well, David would say, “Remember, I introduced you to George. George introduced me to client X, like, you know, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be working for client x.”
Morgan (Host): This is a really good lesson. By the way, I’ve had the same sort of issues with this long ago. Part of the power of formal contracts is when they force you to think through issues like this. Let’s define the commission; does it go one level, two levels, three levels, and their formal structures around it are often the Commissions. Whether it’s only up to the ones that you introduce me to, only for two years, or with a formal introduction, you know, there’s like the commission that’s half the size or right there. There are lots of ways to deal with this, but when it’s an informal quid pro quo, then this issue when the person says, “20 years ago, I introduced you to this person; therefore you owe me one, bro?”
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, so what wound up happening is because again, I don’t think this is like a bygone error, but at that time, when we were developing websites for clients, we would also host the websites. So at one point, I had like six servers at a network, you know, colocation facility, we were hosting a whole bunch of websites, and we hosted, you know, David’s website. Of course, when you host back then, and again, this had changed, but back then, when you hosted websites, you also hosted their emails. So it turns out that David was very high-strung. Okay, so I would get phone calls at any time of the day or night. I’m talking like before 5 am in the morning, the phone rang, and he’d be like, “Will, my emails down, and I can’t be operating this way. You’re putting me out of business.”
Like you know, blah, blah, blah. But of course, the emails weren’t actually down; we were not the most sophisticated hosting operation, but I’ve got 30 companies that are hosting email with us. So if the email was actually down, somebody along the chain, either like at the network operation center, some alert, or like one of the other 29 clients would go through this whole rigmarole of like, you know, “Are you connected to the internet, did you reboot the computer?” You’d also have to think like an outlook where he’d be like, just clicking refresh on the email, like OCD, and it will timeout or something, you know, just like all these things.
Morgan (Host): Unplug the router and replug the router.
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, and there were times too, it didn’t occur, I can’t say at 5 am, but there were times where I was like, “Okay, I’ll just come over to your apartment and fix the computer.” And out of all of those email incidents, which were frequent, if not weekly, like every two or three weeks, there would be an angry phone call saying that the email was down. But there wasn’t actually a time that I recalled that the email was actually down.
We also did the SEO for the website, and we were managing Google ads for the website; if there was a period of time where the leads would slow down and dry up, I would get that angry phone call saying, “I’m not getting leads, and you’re putting me out of business. You’re too busy now because George introduced you to this client, you are working for them, and now you are not working for me.” That whole rigmarole and that whole ball of stress were tiring. And I didn’t realize any of these yet during that time because when I had this relationship with David, my perspective was that he was a warm and charming person.
I thought he was basically a little bit crazy and a little bit nutty, so I would not take his actions personally because I knew he was just on a B.S, and I was like, “Alright, I would just have to talk to through this whole thing.” But the part that was difficult was the time suck like he was just wasting too much of my time. I just remember at one point I lived in Washington Heights, which was in upper Manhattan, 171st street, and on Saturday, I would take the subway. We didn’t do as much remote back then, so I would take the subways downtown to my office because I needed to catch up on invoicing.
I was always behind schedule on invoicing, so I got down there, and then as soon as I got there, inevitably my phone would ring, and it’s either an email problem, we needed to plan out a new section of the website, or there was like some other project that David would want to work on. So I would spend 2 hours on the phone with him, and then also he would tend to go on with his long stories like he was trying to mentor me. He would tell me long stories from the past, and eventually, you would see the theme of his stories. Most of his stories were he would help somebody, and that person wound up becoming ingrateful, and now he hates that person. He would then share what he did to get his revenge on that person, and now he never talks to that person again. It could be a business relationship, or it could be a friendship.
One time he had a niece who was like 20 years old, and she was coming from this other country where they’re from to visit him, and she’s said that she loved him and she wanted to spend time with him, but when she got there, she wound up going out with her friends. She didn’t have dinner with him and his wife, so David got so angry that, like, you know, he cut her off. So all of these stories like this, in my mind, I think he was surprised because his wife was the sweetest woman ever. She was just such an angel, so I think they were kind of surprised that this relationship between David and me lasted so long because these relationships that he would have didn’t tend to last. In my mind, I was just like, “I’m just a really nice person, and I can get along with anybody. I’m able to ride the waves, appreciate the good side, and try not to be in conflict. That’s why we’re able to get along despite this kind of nuttiness that was going on.”
Morgan (Host): By the way, I love the story. It’s really a pain point, and I’ve also suffered from it. By the way, I’ve told myself the same thing, “Oh no, I’m a nice guy, and there are so many assholes there.” That’s how I justified and explained it, but I think good learning that I didn’t realize when I was in my 20s only started realizing in my 30s is that some people are just a massive time sucks, time, and energy sucks. This is also a powerful lesson for business life and for our personal life.
There are some people I know outside of business, like friends and acquaintances, who always share their disaster problems, where they just need me to help console them, figure it out, and talk through it. On a friendship level, I love helping my friends, I support them, and I like that because I think I’m good at that. But when 99% of the entire relationship is you doing that, and 0 else is not doing it back, it reaches a point where you would get enough of it. This is the same as in the business industry. Your’s is a bad situation and is a horror because it was a quid pro quo. You weren’t even making money in any reasonable way for him, but even if you are making money from someone, sometimes it is such an emotional and hourly time suck that you are like, “Dude, just keep the money.”
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, and I think in my mind too at that time, I really saw him as a mentor because he had a successful company, and he had success. He also told me that he was going to help me figure out my business problem, which was, you know, I was so confused by not having a real niche. I was doing a lot of different things, and I was at that point of my age where I was super busy, but I didn’t have enough money to hire somebody, or you don’t perceive that you have enough money to hire somebody, so you’re very unsure what to do.
So we’d go out to dinner; usually, they were long dinners, and the idea would be that he was going to help me solve my problems, but actually, what would wind up happening is he’d tell some unrelated anecdote story, again. The story usually ends with someone “screwing” him over and then the relationship falling apart, and we’d never get to this.
Morgan (Host): By the way, I want to make another good learning; telling stories about people screwing them over could be interpreted as a threat. It’s like he is saying, “Hey, if you ever stop showing your eternal gratitude, remember that you are under my service because I gave you one penny for the rest of your life; you need to be kissing my feet. If you don’t, here’s how I’ll punish you.” Like there’s a subtle subtext there for that, or maybe there’s a reason why he’s telling you the story, and that is maybe because he doesn’t want you to stop being grateful for that one penny he threw at you away.
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, that’s a really good observation, and I didn’t even like to verbalize that in my own mind until you said that, but I think that’s definitely true. Also, one thing that he would say a lot about those people he had fallings out with was that those people were manipulating manipulators. That was like one of his big insults, and I can’t tell you, Morgan. It took me until after my relationship ended with him and after I reflected on it that I realized how manipulative he was and that I was manipulated. I was actually the executor of his will. I was in his will, he had no children, and he had cut off the niece. I was gonna inherit everything.
Morgan (Host): Did he at least leave you money?
Will (Interviewee): He would, well, I mean, not after the falling out, but in the will, I was supposed to inherit the country home and like some other things.
Morgan (Host): Wow, this story is getting really exciting; we are like jumping close towards the end. You know it’s a business relationship when it’s the Hilton or the country house.
Will (Interviewee): Yeah, yeah, and at some point, my brother got involved. My brother was even younger than me, he’s like six years younger, and my brother used to do some craziness. Don’t diversify early because we were still doing that network and PC support, and my brother would work for me doing that.
But in David’s case, he just worked directly for him. So my brother was going to his apartment all the time, fixing things, etc., etc. But, I think what really happened for me is like my business hit rock bottom part point during 2007 when I had lost my full-time developer who had been working for us for like four or five years. He was like a rockstar and awesome as well, and I was actually at this point where I finally hired two great freelance programmers to work with my rockstar, and then I was trying to get that up to like full time and grow the team.
However, I just kind of missed the timing, and my rockstar programmer, called me one day and said, “I’m sorry, I accepted a position at another company, and I’m starting in two weeks.” At this point, we were making some fairly sophisticated web-based applications with custom e-commerce applications, and two weeks was not enough time to transition this brain trust to anybody else. So it was extremely stressful, and I should have closed the business at that time.
Through David, I wound up meeting a company that was like an outsourcing company that has programmers from India. I hired that company, but thank God; this was something that I did that was correct, finally. At that point, I was like, “Oh, I just met them, and they seem very charming, but I have never worked with them before, and I am going to be 100% transparent with my clients about this company.” So the first client that was interested, I was like, “You can pay them directly, I’ll manage the project, and help you manage it, but I haven’t worked with them before.” So dot dot dot, that actually almost became a $100,000 lawsuit between the client and this company that didn’t deliver on what they promised, and the only reason it didn’t become a lawsuit was that lawsuits were so expensive.
It wasn’t worth it for the client, and this is a very short version of that story, like a story within a story. But this is Important to mention because that client and I are still friends to this day. They never held it against me because they were completely invested in the decision to hire this company. But how it impacted me was that it was another wrong turn and this entire period where the business was really struggling. So I introduced another company, which was Minsk, and I outsourced some stuff to them.
They did fantastic work, so I wound up transitioning almost all of my clients to the client and the contractor at Minsk, at one other local like New York friend who is a really great programmer, and he is the author of some open-source modules that we use to program frameworks. I transitioned some of my clients to him, and I like exited the web development space, so that’s how I moved into finally focusing on Google ads and SEO. With that kind of change, my relationship with David also changed. I was still doing work for him, but he got this grant from the computer manufacturer where he was getting all the leads from.
It was one of those marketing co-ops, and he was given 20 or $30,000. They told him that he could use some of that for his website, but they would pay the vendor directly. So the money didn’t go to David, and David didn’t have an actual hold of that cash. But this was the first time that there was real money flowing from him to my company. Prior to that, there were little things like when we would upload photos to his website, I would charge him with my cost, like what my contractor would charge me, I charge the exact price to upload the photos. But this is the first time I was charging him real money to do something, and like I kind of knew it at the time, but I was thinking to myself, you know, I’ve been working for his website for eight years for nothing.
Now there’s this free money from this computer manufacturer to redo the site, and I’m just going to take the money and do it. I’m like; there’s a high probability that he’s going to flip out because now there’s real money involved. It turned out that I was right because that’s pretty much what happened. We redid the website; it was beautiful; in fact, I’ve tried not to look back on this too much, but I went to the website today, and believe it or not, it still pretty much looks like what we had done. I mean, it’s changed a little bit, but you know, structurally, it’s essentially just like iterations beyond what we had done. So we redid the website, and there were like 1000 photos that had to be re-uploaded, re-formatted, and stuff and all these other things.
But at the end of it, I forget what his complaint was, but it was like, “You got all this money from me, I’m not getting leads, or I met like XYZ at a networking event, and they said that the website was crap or something like that.” I wish I could remember the whole big fight that we had about this, but it was the first time that I actually really pushed back on him, and he was very aggressive, like yelling and screaming, very insulting, and I was like, “Well, you know, I just I don’t have the time or patience for this anymore. I’m not going to continue this or continue talking to you.” So I hung upon him, and that was like the end of our relationship. I also remembered that my dog was in the hospital, my dog was elderly, and he was screaming at me while I was waiting for the vet to come back, and I was just like, “That’s it, I’m done.” That was the end of the whole nine years.
Morgan (Host): One of the interesting parts about the ending is that he’s selling to you; the way he sold himself to you for these nine years was that it was all about your relationship with him. Like he’ll tell you stories about dinner, and it’s all about the relationship, but after nine years of a relationship, when a penny was involved, because the pennies were involved, he easily killed your nine years of relationship. This actually means the whole nine years of the relationship weren’t really about the relationship. It was just a strategy for him to save pennies.
Will (Interviewee): Right, and I didn’t realize it too, but now I saw it crystal clear. He’s actually like a narcissist by a clinical definition. I’ve read up on narcissism, and like one day, I was reading an article on the plane in one of those plane magazines that actually had a segment that would check to know if you’re a narcissist or how to know if your loved ones are narcissists.
I was like, if you get like five out of these 10, you’re a narcissist, and he got like 10 out of 10 when I went through the survey. In retrospect, I didn’t even know what that term was, but it is a particular personality type were what he understood of me was more projection of what he wanted me to be exactly, then it was like who I truly was because I didn’t really get to talk that much. I was just kind of like a nice, blank slate. He would assume my problem was x and try to help me solve X, but my problem was never what he assumed it was; it might have been something else. So yeah, the relationship was more like, in his mind, me playing along with it, then there was like a real relationship. Again, my mistake of not recognizing that and getting into this very bizarre situation
Morgan (Host): Let’s discuss the newer thing; I haven’t been in that situation. I have a weaker, like a 5% strong version of that situation, comparable ones, vaguely comparable ones. So few interesting things, on the narcissism there’s definitely a sort of checklist. Oh, if every single person that you surround yourself with has massive problems, and you don’t have any, maybe the problem isn’t from everyone that you ever surrounded yourself with. But, what’s interesting about that is, I’ve always been a sucker for Myers Briggs, that these different personality profiles, there can be truth to it.
Knowing that, okay, someone falls into the narcissist pattern, this pattern, or an INTP pattern, etc. Then that can help you understand okay, this is what type of a person he is, and I can act in this sort of way and manage them in this way. Recognizing these patterns and often like when you’re 27, you just haven’t had enough experience in life to be able to smell the patterns as early as you need to.
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, 100%, but unfortunately, you can’t go back in time.
Morgan (Host): Exactly. This is a powerful story; I especially love that you were going to inherit something, but actually, knowing how it ended, maybe you were never actually going to inherit anything, right?
Will (Interviewee): No, I knew I was going to inherit because I met with the lawyer, and the lawyer was a really nice guy and was a very straight shooter. He wore a bow tie, and he had this persona of like a moral person. I know there are some people who present themselves that way, but behind the scenes aren’t. He was a very trustworthy guy, and yeah, I was there, and I signed the papers for being the executor of the will and everything. But moving forward wasn’t worth it. I can’t continue in that kind of relationship, and money was not that important. If it wasn’t like this, it was going to be something else. It was just too much, and I think I should have realized that after the two months, ten months, or nine months, but sadly I realized that in nine years. But eventually, I did realize it.
Morgan (Host): I want to emphasize the “will” point because that’s also powerful. A unique case that I’ve never heard of, anyone wanting to basically reward someone for work by putting in the willingness of putting the will, and you even met the lawyers and signed the papers. Like, I think if I were telling your story, I would like to build up to that as the climax. If it was a movie, that would be the critical moment. Yeah, but what’s powerful about that is in his narcissist personality, he does want to pay you, reward you, and he knows you are working hard.
He knows you’re putting it all this time, and he knows he calls you at five am to deal with his problem. So he knows he should pay you, but, “Hmm, I’m such a cheap asshole, how can I pay him all the money he deserves, but without actually me having to sacrifice anything? Oh, I know, when I die. It’s the perfect win-win, and I can even pay him a million-dollar house, right? He will actually get a lot of money, but I just don’t really need to give anything until I’m six feet under.”
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, those calculations, right? and sometimes you may not be conscious of them, he may not have been conscious of them, but his brain worked it out that it would wind up that way.
Morgan (Host): And actually, going to the final point, I just want to emphasize what you just said now. We use that as a minor point, but I think it’s important when you said that he might not be conscious of it and that often when people like him are completely taking advantage of you, nine years were like not good at all, but he may not have been conscious of it. That’s because we have this image of the bad guy, right? We think the bad guys are like, “Ha, ha, ha, I can save $1, and I can take advantage of the poor peasant.” But that character just doesn’t exist, the case is a case of a little bit here, a little bit there, and him taking advantage of you. This was boiling over time, but in his mind, because it’s boiling the frog when you boil the frog, it’s just a little degree more of warmth. In his mind, he is thinking, “I’m not being an asshole, and I didn’t steal money from him. It’s just one little degree more. He has time, he likes helping me, and he likes my stories.” So it’s powerful to remember that bad behavior often isn’t conscious behavior.
Will (Interviewee): I think that’s true 100%. People don’t even know that they’re doing it. I just want to mention two other things, because it was a very bad experience and I think like there’s that regret because I was manipulated in this, you know, and taken advantage of, but other than now I feel like I’m dwelling on at the moment, but mostly I don’t think about it. But a couple of things, there were like a couple of people in that time frame that gave some hope for me and for humanity in a sense.
One of the people he introduced me to was a business and sports psychologist. He’s much older than David, and he had a falling out with this guy, a little bit before his falling out with me, and I forget what it was about. But before that, his business in sports psychology was good, and he was such a respected individual. So one day after the falling out with me, he saw that psychologist at a business network, and he said, “I have to tell you what happened with Will. He did this to me, he screwed me over, blah blah blah,” and the business and sports psychologist put up his hand and said, “You know, don’t talk to me about Will. I know who Will is, and he’s my friend. Just stop.” There are just some people who are good-hearted in a way, and I still have that person in my life, not someone I talked to too regularly, just an example.
And I think that was a mistake I made because as bad as my crazy boss was, I wish when I was 27, I should have told him, “Don’t talk to me about my crazy boss that way even though he’s crazy, whatever he’s still my friend.” Even like coming back, every so often, the crazy boss would ask me, “Hey, whatever happened to that guy? Were you still working with him?” I was like, “Yeah, here and there, and he would just give me a project whatever.” I just kept it subtle because, obviously, I didn’t want to rattle that cage. We didn’t talk too much, and I wasn’t so much connected to him, but every so often, we had a couple of little business dealings here and there.
He was a fiery boss like he was screaming at us kids about dunking the ketchup. We couldn’t vacuum; we had to take a tape and pick up lint from the rug; it was crazy. But then, over the years, he really softened, and so he became very sweet, and he would call me every so often. He wound up very sadly getting cancer, and he gave me this website that he had been working on for many years. I gave him a little bit of money for it, and he asked me, “How much money do you want to give me for it?” I told him the amount, and he called me up said, “Look, I’m actually going to the hospice. I’m going to pass away, and the money that you are going to give me, the, the $2,500, I want you to take $2,000 and give it to my brother. Take the remaining $500 and go out to dinner with your wife to the best restaurant that you can find.”
Morgan (Host): Wow, that’s really powerful. A few comments on that, when you started the story, there was like this eccentric boss and his friend. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but it’s interesting that you’ll never know who turned out to be the good guy and which was actually the bad guy. In the beginning, it sounded like the weird boss was trying to take advantage of you. Like the 90/10, and his elegant friend would be the good guy, right? But like a lifetime later, you realize the precise opposite actually. That’s a very powerful lesson that no matter how good you are at sniffing the clues, life is full of surprises. Also, people do change both for the better and for the worse.
Will (Interviewee): Exactly, 100% and sometimes the outward, as a society and I say maybe as a subset of our culture, it’s not just me, I think others are conflict-averse. Like the fiery, eccentric guy was full of conflict, it makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t know how to deal with it, but then there’s the more elegant like you know, David’s character is much more like a passive-aggressive in a way like a drip period drip there, manipulative. I mean, not every situation you could put into bucket a or bucket b, and bucket b is always bad, and a is always good, but sometimes immediate conflict is actually healthier than a simmering. Like, let’s avoid this. Let’s just, you know, hope we can like you know like to paint over ad type of scenarios. So that’s another, you know, another lesson in the whole.
Morgan (Host): By the way, that last lesson, I strongly agree with it. I used to tell people that I was not passive-aggressive. I’m just aggressive. Either I’m really nice, or I’m really aggressive, and I think there’s a time and a place for both. I just can’t stand that simmering passive, that little comment that is building anger. Either be happy or get the anger out and leave or finish up. So any other concluding lessons or observations?
Will (Interviewee): I think the last thing I’d say is to choose your mentors wisely. You have to step back and evaluate who’s giving you advice and what the dynamics of the relationship are. Mentoring type of relationship can be much more sensitive than you assume it’s going to be, especially if there’s some kind of power dynamic, whether it’s like an older person and a younger person or, you know, someone with lots of money and someone with less money, or someone who’s dependent on somebody else. In retrospect, this person didn’t really achieve what I thought he had achieved, and I evaluated it carefully, like where the money really came from.
Morgan (Host): Did you ever find out where the money came from?
Will (Interviewee): I mean, basically, he always had this very small agency. It was just like him, and he had one programmer working with him; most of his money was just sales commissions. Another big part was that he had made a big investment in some stock portfolio that did fabulous made a couple of million dollars for him. So there wasn’t like his success was coming from an agency from one or two people to five or ten or, you know, it just sort of was a different path to success, but the path that I was going down was not the path of making a good stock investment and being paid on sales commissions. So he wasn’t the best mentor for me, even from a completely non-crazy relationship perspective, but just on the surface.
Morgan (Host): Yes, this is another subtle and good lesson that for your mentors, if your mentor has been successful at the sorts of things you want to do, it will set us apart. Everything else is equal; I will always be a better mentor than someone who’s successful in some stock market or whatever at random other things. Those were fantastic lessons. After the story, my final question, after that fight, and it ended since then, have you heard about him, or did you know how it turned out?
Will (Interviewee): No, I mean, he was older at the time, so I actually thought like, maybe he would have passed away by now. But I assumed he’s alive because his website is still up. I’ve avoided going back and looking at it, and I just went to look at it today, once in a blue moon. Funny enough, his brother continued and even increased in how much work he would give us. It was always very small, like, can you update a dozen pages on my WordPress site or something, but his brother continued to get work after that, and I don’t know if there was some kind of disagreement between them.
I didn’t want to cut him off after this thing, but yeah, other than that; I don’t know how things turned out for him. Hopefully, especially for his wife, who was such a sweet and nice lady. I was sad because she had a more functional relationship with me and my wife and them not having kids; they kind of treated us like we were the kids, you know, in a way, and we would have dinner with more and visit them. I felt bad because it meant ending the relationship with her as well, but he was so controlling, and there was no way to continue being friends with her and had a relationship, so yeah, that’s kind of what my hope is. I hope she’s well, and hopefully, he’s also calmed down in the years. Maybe things are better for him now.
Morgan (Host): People change, as you were saying with your eccentric boss. This was a great story. To wrap up, I just want to say, in addition to the unique aspects of the story, my favorite part of this podcast episode is your dog at the couch in the background is stretching the whole time; it makes me want to take a nap.
Will (Interviewee): Yes, she has the right approach to life.
Morgan (Host): That’s is the big lesson; I love to go stretch on the couch now and take a nap just like your dog. Thank you for the great story and everyone watching; thank you for being with us till the end, and I hope you enjoyed watching and listening as much as we enjoyed discussing it.
This transcription belongs to Episode #14, please watch the complete episode here!