I am getting you this a little later than expected because I wasn’t in a super good mood today and didn’t feel like writing so now I am writing after work.
Tonight at work I cleaned for two hours outside on the streets and in the back of the store. During this time, I listened to a podcast about Berni Madoff. Madoff was the genius conman who created the largest Ponzi Scheme in history, defrauding thousands of artists, inventors, hollocaust survivors and more great people out of fortunes. Throughout the podcast, Madoff has the opportunity to do the right thing and come clean about his lies. Instead, he doubles down, making his scheme even more untraceable, in order to boost his pride. His need to be healthy and successful was started when he was a boy and his family lost everything when they closed down the family store. After marrying his high school sweetheart, he promised to keep his family financially safe forever.
Throughout this podcast, I began to ask myself what I would have done in his shoes. Would I have started defrauding friends and family in the first place? No. Family is very important to me and I would rather fail than risk my family’s livelihood for possible personal success, and I assume many of you would agree. But what becomes harder is trying to convince yourself that the lie that you already started should end instead of trying to prevent people from finding out the lie by increasing its size and doubling down on it. I worry that I would tend to double down on the lie to avoid being caught.
Whenever I think about this, I am brought back to middle school. I used to cheat in middle school. I have helped people out and they have done the same for me on difficult exams. The only difference is that in middle school, there were vigilant teachers who were watching me constantly, so I was getting caught. I was caught so many times my school almost suspended me and prevented me from going on a trip to Taiwan with my friends.
My parents were devastated. They would regularly yell at me about my conduct, take away my phone, friends, and other things I enjoyed. Then, my dad sat me down and we created a moral code that I was supposed to live by. I was also forced to join him for swims in the morning.
And let me tell you, this didn’t help at all. It didn’t help because the code wasn’t mine. I wasn’t able to be the person that I or other people wanted me to be. Yes, as I matured I stopped bullying people and I learned not to cheat on tests because I did better when I didn’t have to. The times in high school when I looked at others papers came when the teachers welcomed group test taking due to the fact that the tests were far more difficult than what we had seen in class and students rarely performed well. Additionally, cheating was all around me in high school. Kids going to the best colleges are the ones who know how to cheat the best. Students circulating pictures of the tests, talking about the tests, and doing everything in their power to cheat was accepted.
So why do I say all of this? Over the past few years, my views of people have changed. People who I grew up with from best friends, first loves, parents, and family members used to seem pure and constantly good. But part of growing up is realizing that we all have flaws. Every successful person has flaws even. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and many more are all full of flaws. But the difference between successful people and Bernie Madoff is that one keeps their flaws under control and the other allows them to get out of hand.
No one is going to be perfect. The reason why my moral code couldn’t be followed is that it strove for perfection, an unattainable goal. The only way to be successful is to know your faults and do two things to compensate for them. The first is to be honest. The cover-up is the worst part and if you are honest with your friends, partner, and family, you can reduce the impact of the flaw you have. The second is to be kind. I struggle with this one because it is so damn hard. I told my former friend all the time when they needed help to just be kind to people. And yet, I can rarely follow it myself.
I wrote this because I want you all to look inside yourself and say “what is my flaw?” I have discovered mine and as worried as I am about them and have seen how the impact the people I love around me, I am working hard about being honest and kind to fix them. No one is perfect. That’s the late-night thought I have for you.
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