The first thing everyone should learn is that Life is Not Fair.
Next we should realize that Life is What WE make of it. Each of us gets up every day and makes the choice to act, react and conduct ourselves in a positive or negative way.
Americans grow up watching movies about the ‘underdog’ who fights for what they believe is right and usually wins. In school we are all taught to be ‘individuals’, ‘do what we believe is right’ and to ‘think for ourselves’ yet in the real world that type of behavior tends to cause misunderstandings and other issues. People who do things differently than the rest are typically very successful or scorned in the public eye for being out of control or wreckless or even crazy. Brittany Spears became famous because she was an individual with talent yet when she had relationship problems, stress from life and reacted in her own individual way she was crucified by the press. Another individual who won fame and failure is Frank Lloyd Wright who designed 532 homes, museums and buildings in his lifetime.
Frank Lloyd Wright is recognized as one of the most innovative and talented architects in the world yet in his day he went bankrupt, was arrested multiple times spending various lengths of time in jail and only later in life, near retirement, was he able to find peace with his individuality. Lindsay Lohan, an actress who decided to ignore a court order, was sent to jail for her belief that she was an individual that did not have to comply with what the judge ordered. People who succeed from their individuality tend to have problems because of their individuality. Some overcome those challenges and succeed while others are willing to sacrifice everything for what they believe. Joan of Arc was so convinced of her beliefs that she preferred to die rather than renounce them. Nikola Tesla was a famous inventor who was so eccentric and convinced that his ideas were right, leading to conflicts with investors, partners and competitors, that he was shunned as a ‘mad scientist’ for years until he was later recognized as a genius.
We live in a world where TMZ (a show about what other people are doing and what kind of trouble they are in), Big Brother, the Bachelor & countless other shows about OTHER PEOPLE are watched by millions of people every week. Human nature is to be inquisitive and people tend to be envious, jealous, amazed, motivated or thrilled by watching the success or failure of others. Too much emphasis about what others are doing instead of focusing on how each of us can individually improve our lives or the lives of those around us helped lead to economic and social failure. I contributed to this by purchasing several $500,000+ homes, cars, boats and other toys when I first became a millionaire. I grew up watching MTV Cribs and felt that since I had earned the money I should spend the money and live just like the people on TV while sharing the wealth with everyone around me.
I decided it was time for a change after years of friends and family borrowing cars that never returned (usually wrecked), having neighbors upset about one of my 5 younger brothers and sisters throwing a party while I was out of town, having the police show up at my door at 6AM because my younger brother ‘borrowed’ my Hummer to go ‘off roading’ in suburban neighborhoods around my home eventually finding myself in court defending my ‘lifestyle’. During this time I made an effort to help others by helping charities, donating computer equipment, websites, cars, volunteered time, bought my employees cars, expanded the company to one of the top 10 in Kansas City and generally tried to do what I believed was right in life and business.
One morning I awoke to a call from a woman I had dated 13 years prior demanding $50,000 because she ‘knew I was rich’ after reading an article about my success and business in the paper. She told me that her husband found out that I was legally responsible for their son because I had taken her to court 13 years earlier to declare paternity and never filed to have it overturned after finding out it was not my child and dropping my case. The first thing I did was contact a lawyer who confirmed that the State of Missouri has a two year limitation to overturn paternity or adoption claims before it become permanent (regardless of biological determination). I believed that if I took her back to court there would surely be a judge that would see this as the scam it was so we filed another case and went back to court.
Court went VERY poorly for me, she had hired a lawyer who came to court with photos of the homes I had lived in, cars, business information and basically anything with the name Robert Jackson on it that linked to money. I came to court dressed in a business suit expecting a fair hearing only to have the female ‘assistant’ judge handling the case pass down what I believed was a completely ridiculous court order. After the short hearing it was determined that, based on my ‘lifestyle’ I was to pay $135,000 and $1000 a month going forward for a child the court recognized was not mine. This sounds amazing and insane because it is. The female assistant judge handling the case continued by sharing her opinion that I was a terrible person since I was the President of a successful company and had not given the woman I dated 13 years ago any of the money I earned. I thought this was ridiculous, I felt I had to stand up for myself so I stood and voiced my belief that this was ridiculous as the assistant judge instructed me to ‘sit down and shut up’ (which I ignored because I felt I was right) until I was held in ‘contempt of court’ and arrested right there.
I never expected this, my plans were to head back to the office after court knowing justice had prevailed yet now I was sitting at the court house waiting for the sheriff to take me away. Jail was not what I expected, since I had no criminal charges and no record I was placed in the Trustee area with bunk beds, two large LCD TV’s, fridge, microwave, snack shop and a bit of freedom (basically an adult daycare you were stuck at). I felt I was right and I felt that fighting for what was right was worth it until one of the guards suggested I move to Mexico as he informed me that a contempt charge has no bail and no release date…meaning I was there until the judge decided she wanted to let me go. The worst part was that nobody knew where I was and there was no way to contact anyone because all of the phones are pre-paid collect call only.
While I was there I saw that all businesses or operations have the same challenges and many of us take our lives for granted. I met people who could not read or write and spent time helping them write letters to family, court or their lawyer. There were people there without hope, that had been in the system for years only to be released with no home, no job and no way to support themselves so they always ended up back in jail from turning back to what they knew best, crime. All of the Trustee’s were assigned to various jobs starting out in the kitchen where they prepared 900+ meals three times a day. Each person had a specific specialized role to perform starting with cooks, then line prep, one person fed trays to the line while one person placed silverware, another added side dish 1 followed by side dish 2 then as the line was ‘pushed’ the main course would be added followed by dessert, etc. until it was complete when the ‘catcher’ would stack and load the trays.
I hated working in the kitchen, there was no leadership, things fell apart immediatally whenever a single person did not perform their job function properly and when anyone failed it caused everyone to fail. First the people in charge would constantly argue over how things should be done as they screamed at the poor Trustee’s who made any mistakes. There was always someone who either could not or would not do the job forcing all 12 people to stop while staff yelled again causing constant turmoil, disorganization and problems. Any business or operation without strong leadership is destined to fail. People need direction, authority and motivation from a leader they respect and trust otherwise things fall apart. The other universal lesson I saw was that a business is only as strong as it’s weakest link. No matter how good 11 of the 12 people on the kitchen line were at their task they were unable to accomplish anything when a single person they relied on did not perform.
In the website business it does not matter how pretty or nice looking a website is if nobody can find it on Search Engines. A nice looking properly search engine optimized website without reliable hosting is a failure because if the hosting company or servers are unreliable then the website goes down. If the website is pretty, found on search engines and hosted by a reliable company but the content is out of date or not easy to update then it is a failure because inaccurate information will upset customers. The people who build, update and market the websites must work together in the same fashion to build a better website through expert contribution at each step of the process.
Being forced to ‘take a vacation’ to the ‘adult daycare’ was a wake up call, a change in paradigm where I accepted that life is not fair and it is not my role to prove that it is. I realized that the situation I was in was worse because I felt I had to make a statement and stand up for what I believed in. The short time I was gone seemed like a lifetime but it helped give me perspective I doubt many other successful business owners will ever have. A few other things came to light during this time ranging from other website companies jumping on the situation to try and profit by sending false information claiming my company going out of business intended to scare our customers into hiring them. I found out who the valuable, loyal staff were and who was capable of performing under pressure and I am happy to say our best people stepped up to the plate and made things happen even with a few mistakes.
My heart goes out to Lindsay Lohan as she finishes her first night in jail hopefully realizing that, even though she may have disagreed with the court order, it would have been better to swallow her pride and accept it. It took me sitting in jail for contempt of court to finally realize that success is something you know individually based on what you have done to make your life and the lives of those around you better. Appreciate the good in life and the people around who love and support you at home or work. Make the decision every day to be positive, help others and help improve life because any time wasted on negativity or things you cannot control is time that can never be recovered.
Success is not how much you have, where you live or what others think of you. It IS nice to have a few toys or comfortable place to live but never let those material things or stubborn beliefs in right and wrong get in the way of simply making the world a better place to be.
Business is good, life is good and I appreciate all of the customers, staff and friends.
Robert ‘Dot Com’ Jackson
Internet & Technology Expert (and former Trustee)
http://www.builderconsulting.com/ – Building BETTER websites and online solutions since 1995