the art of making and keeping promises

My word means something to me.

When I make a promise, I do everything in my power to see that I keep it.

That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, far from it. But I do know how breaking a promise and letting someone else down can hurt.

Why? Because I’ve been on the receiving end far too many times.

A friend shows up late for a meeting that I woke up early for, gee thanks.

A partner offers me a deal, then reneges on it a few weeks later.

An acquaintance said they’d pay me back and never did.

The thing is, to the other party, it’s often no big deal.

Each of us looks at life through our own eyes. As such, what is important to one person is insignificant to another.

Just because not keeping your promise doesn’t make you lose any sleep doesn’t mean it didn’t have a negative affect on the person whose promise you broke.

Sometimes people are counting on you, and it breaks my heart when I let them down.

I take it personally whether it’s done to me or I am at fault.

I live by the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

I don’t want people to break their promises on me, so do my best not to break mine to them.

But I’ve made mistakes.

There were times when I got myself into trouble for making promises I had no business making. There have been times when I’m surprised just what I agreed to.

That’s why these days I am careful not to make promises too quickly.

I don’t say no to people’s requests straight out, but I am careful to inquire just what each task requires before committing myself to anything.

Time, money and effort are all things I take into consideration, but as a general rule of thumb I like to think that if anyone really needs my help, I’ll be there. Why? I try and put myself in their shoes and realize that one day I might very well be in their situation one day.

But once I have given my word, there’s no going back. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances that anyone will understand, but baring such an event I will keep my promise assuming I can.

The problem is that so many of us don’t think long-term, instead focusing on the immediate future.

Point in case, someone I knew made a verbal agreement with his partner to split the profits of 2 sets of materials they were going to create 50/50.

But as the project grew the partner decided to add a third person to the mix without consulting my friend.

No big deal as he gave him a percent of his 50%, but when he wanted to add a 4th person he told my friend that he should give up 30% to get the other guy on board.

My friend wasn’t interested in doing that and wanted to stick with his original deal.

Under pressure, my friend relented and made a counteroffer in which he would give up a large chunk of his profits early on in return for profits long term. He suggested 18% on all materials being made forthwith.

The partner, upset that he felt my friend was being greedy, decided that his friend hadn’t done enough of the work and didn’t deserve 50% and told him that he wanted to renegotiate.

Now I would like to state for a fact here that my friend actually didn’t suggest the 50/50 deal, he would have been happy taking 30% but the partner had offered as much so my friend had accepted.

The partner told him that he would like to simply give him a cash settlement and be done with it. No cut of the profits. No partnership.

My friend was hurt. From 50% to 30% to a buy out deal…he realized that it just wasn’t worth it and walked away from the deal.

As his partner wasn’t willing to honor his original commitment, what would stop him from breaking others?

He chalked it up to a learning experience and moved on with his life.

I’m not sure what happened to the partner after that and whether he went on to becoming successful with his products. What I do know is he lost a friend and any chance at a future partnership with my friend and his associates.

Sadly, one’s word today just doesn’t mean what it used to.

For me, it still does.

I don’t make commitments lightly, but when I do, I do everything in my power to keep them.

I suggest you do, too.

Remember, people do keep track, even if you don’t think they do.

Adrian Shepherd

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