“When your business manager marries a stripper, that’s a tell.”
I read that line in an article the other day about someone who had run a Ponzi scheme in New York. Though the money he stole paled in comparison to Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion, what was remarkable was the number of celebrities and newscasters who fell for it.
Looking back on the whole situation, one former client said, “When your business manager marries a stripper, that’s a tell.” And it was.
A tell is one of those moments in poker where you unintentionally reveal your cards. Some form of body language or nervous tick or casual sentence gives you away, and everyone at the table knows exactly where you’re going with what you’re holding in your hand. In the case of the business manager in question, marrying a stripper was a tell.
He was 66. She was 34 and his fourth wife. He bought her $400,000 worth of jewelry and a $7.5 million triplex. As one of his clients, as someone who was trusting this business to make wise financial decisions, those kind of actions would have made me nervous.
But they didn’t. Barely anyone noticed. For years, he got away with stealing millions and millions of dollars. Why?
Because most of us don’t have strong relationships.
Surface, we are great at. Shallow, we excel at. Our Facebook friends number in the thousands, our networks expand larger than we could have ever imagined, but does anyone really know us?
I was forced to wrestle with that question when we moved from Atlanta to Nashville. I spoke briefly about this in my book Quitter, but, one day, a week before we left, my wife said, “Who are you going to miss in Atlanta? Which of your heart friends will you miss?” She had a laundry list. She could rattle off all of her close friends. I had a hard time thinking of any.
There were people I knew. My friends Jeff, Matt, Mark and Chris were all guys I hung out with and really liked. But the truth is that when Stuff Christians Like took off, I put any energy that wasn’t going into my family and my day job into my blog. And my “brand” and my book and my etc.
And then on the edge of leaving Atlanta, I realized I really wouldn’t be missed. I cared about people there and people cared about me, but because I had never really invested in friendships and relationships I didn’t really have many.
Which is just about the opposite of what Jesus did. Do you ever think about what an ineffective communicator Jesus was? Think about it. He could have been speaking to 5,000 people every night. He could have been filling hills and shores and city squares constantly. Instead, he wasted his time at dinner with 12 people. Instead, he called individuals out of trees or chatted up one person at the well. And these weren’t powerful, influential people who could have dramatically helped his cause with their networks. He wasn’t connecting with “connectors.” These were sinners, tax collectors and fishermen. That seems counterintuitive to really building a platform. Why did he do it?
Because I think he knew how important relationships are. I think he knew that if you build a platform and when you stand on it no one really knows you, you’re alone. There might be a crowd of people around you, but if nobody knows you, that’s the worst kind of loneliness there is. I think he knew the value of a friendship.
Friendships are ineffective. The ROI on relationship is pretty horrible. They can take years to develop. They might lead nowhere. They will definitely hurt you at some point. And you couldn’t quantify them if you tried. But Christ sought them out. Christ knew what it meant to be known.
And in Nashville I’m learning that too.
I’ve only been here a year. But if I left tomorrow, I’d have a list of people who are my heart friends.
Because I know how important relationships are now.
If you moved tomorrow, which of your heart friends would you miss?