I was recently scammed out of several thousands of dollars.
A man named Jay promised an online funnel, advertising, and emails to drive book sales.
The original connection to Jay was made through a mutual friend, Dawn. Because of this personal connection, I had an elevated level of trust with Jay. But it was my love of my book and my vision that it would serve the masses, which ultimately dampened my intuition and kept me blind to numerous warning signs.
They were there from the beginning: the red flags.
No formal website, no real proof of experience, a dodgy contract, but I gave the benefit of the doubt—it all sounded so good. He had me with my love of the book and the promise to get it into the hands of thousands of people. Jay knew my passion for the book, and he knew I was frustrated that it wasn’t in more hands. “The book isn’t doing any good if no one is reading it,” I had said to him on one of our calls.
I sent the last of the money on a Thursday. By Sunday, it was obvious the money was gone.
There would be no marketing blitz; there would be no viral book sales. I swore, I yelled, and I vented to close friends, then I took a deep breath, and another, then started the painful process of reflecting on where I went wrong and what lessons I could learn. But also, forgiveness.
I knew, the quicker I could get to forgiveness, the quicker I would be free. I’ve been betrayed before; I know how this works.
I had endured a rapid (and expensive) immersive education. I was determined to at least salvage some wisdom from what had transpired. I landed on three teachings.
Firstly, I didn’t trust my intuition.
I knew from the beginning that something was off. I even told friends that something didn’t feel right. But also, I’d lost more money in the past, so somehow it was worth the risk.
I was blinded by the prospect of accelerating book sales and compressing time to reach my goals. I also had a personal introduction from Dawn. My enthusiasm and elevated emotions clouded my sense of reasoning. What I should have done was to separate the emotion and look at things in a logical manner: get a better contract, see some actual past results, insist on seeing progress before issuing subsequent payments. Always trust your gut.
Secondly, something I did do well, was not dwelling on the betrayal.
From experience, I knew there was little value in festering in the deceit. Three years ago, after the promise of marriage and a lifetime together was ended by my then-wife, I was also pissed. At the time, I did a similar yelling-screaming-swearing dance to help release the anger. A few days later, after she moved out, I still felt like I had some rage to work through—so I smashed some art.
The piece was horrendous. A gift from her sister-in-law. A photograph of a New Orleans jazz player. Expensive frame, glass covering, the works. To be fair, it wasn’t that bad. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it never went with the West Coast First Nation’s art that lined our condo. The piece spent years taking up valuable (we’re talking Vancouver here) real estate in the closet.
The marriage was over, and I had become the sole decision-maker in the home gallery. I remembered the ghastly art that lived in the closet. To release those final morsels of rage, I put on my boots, grabbed the framed photograph, went downstairs to the back alley, unlocked the gate to the dumpster, and I smashed this crap out of it.
It was a beautiful release of negative energy. No one was injured, not too many feelings were hurt (I eventually told my ex-sister-in-law), and I didn’t have to linger any longer in that portion of pain. Don’t dwell on the betrayal.
Back in the present, the last lesson I reflected on was forgiveness.
After I vented to my inner circle, and after I made the decision not to dwell on the betrayal, I made a plan to move through to forgiveness. I hopped in a car share, drove to the furthest edge of the rental boundary, ditched the car, then started a long three-hour walk home in the pouring rain. My plan was to walk until I could find forgiveness for my betrayer.
For me, walking is pure bliss. I walk everywhere. The fresh air, the movement, the space to think, it all compounds to help shift my emotions to more elevated states. I’m not alone in seeking sanctuary by walking. In Ryan Holiday’s Stillness Speaks, he devotes a whole chapter to the benefits of walking. Holiday shares how the likes of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Tesla, Hemingway, Darwin, Jobs, MLK, Whitman, Grant, Freud, Mahler, Beethoven, Day, Wordsworth, and Churchill were all avid walkers, and many had history-altering breakthroughs on their walks.
On my walk, I reflected on how important it was to forgive this latest betrayal.
Truth be told, I had no idea what he was going through. Maybe he needed the money more than I did. For a moment, I became grateful that I had the means to lose the money and not have to worry about tomorrow. I didn’t know his situation; all I could do was make up stories in my head. What I did know was that hurt people hurt people. If he could knowingly hurt me through deceit, then he too must be hurting.
You don’t forgive the person who betrayed you; you forgive for yourself. Set them free so you can set yourself free. An event had to occur, and energy had to pass for you to grow and transform. You won’t be able to experience this transformation until you forgive and move on.
As hard as my separation was, I look at it (as does my ex) as the greatest period of growth in my life. That growth could not have been experienced if I was clinging to anger. As my mother says, “You can forgive, but never forget.” But you must forgive, to set yourself free.
By the end of my walk, I was soaked, but I felt infinitely better than when I started. I took myself out for a nice meal to celebrate the expensive education I had unintentionally experienced. I wrote these words in the notebook that I carried as I enjoyed my meal. I had learned my lessons.
Next time, I would trust my gut, not dwell on the betrayal, and forgive to set myself free.
I felt at peace; I was ready to move on. It had been an exhausting Sunday, but I was ready to move forward.
That was Sunday, then Monday happened.
“Something bad has happened,” texted my friend, Dawn. She was talking about Jay.
“What does that mean? What the hell is going on? Where is the money?” I replied.
She didn’t have any details but promised to keep me posted. I didn’t know what to believe. Was he alive? Was he dead? Was she in on it? Had he ripped off one too many people and been killed? Can I even trust Dawn?
All-day long, my mind raced, trying to figure out what was going on. I had spent the previous day working through a whole wave of emotions to get my head to a place where I could move forward. Now I didn’t know what to think.
Late in the afternoon, she sent another text. It was a copy and a paste from a text she had received from someone else: “He passed on Friday morning.”
My heart sank. He was dead. Or, was he? The text was a cryptic copy and pasted from another source. “What the f*ck is going on?” I cried into the couch cushion. This was not my regular world. I exist in a bubble of love and light; how had death and betrayal entered my fragile sphere? I had sent him the last of the money on Thursday—then he died the next day.
Was the scam all in my head? Was I the dick thinking so poorly of a dead man?
“I’ll keep you posted,” texted Dawn. I still didn’t know what to believe. I didn’t know who to trust. I felt bad for him wherever he was, and whatever happened. I knew whatever had transpired, that I was still here—I was still alive.
A few days later, it was confirmed that he did, in fact, suddenly die on that Friday. He left behind a wife and kids. I had more questions than answers. I also had a whole new process to go through to reflect on my thoughts and behavior, considering the tragic plot twist.
After some thinking, I remained at peace with my original thoughts. I still didn’t know what his intentions were, but it no longer mattered. I felt for him and his family. The money was gone, but could potentially be recovered. It didn’t matter. I still had life, something he did not.
In the end, the lessons still applied: trust your gut, don’t dwell on the betrayal, forgive, and set yourself free. But perhaps a fourth lesson was learned: you never really know what others are going through.
My original problem with selling more books was never solved, but I gained further knowledge and wisdom through the experience. I also became more aware of the fragility of life.
Death isn’t something I’ve had much experience with. Death isn’t something I’m looking forward to dealing with. But death is real and could come at any time.
Ultimately, I don’t know what his intentions were or what his fate was—it’s not my business. But I will move forward believing that I was not betrayed, that the promise was going to be delivered.
I will take the lessons, wish his soul safe passage, and be grateful that I am still here to share the life lessons.
Wishing you well, my friend.