Don’t Burn Bridges

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As we travel through life, our social sphere is ever changing. Both the people in your life, and the strength of the relationship you have with each of these individuals, are in a constant state of flux. An important thing to keep in mind as you watch this revolving door of relationships is that just because someone may have left your social circle, that does not mean that they will not return. Our world is not nearly as big as we think it is, and we all have had occasions where we reconnect with someone we used to know several years before. It is for this reason, and I have my mother to thank for this one, that it is imperative to treat people well and to part ways with people on good terms. As my mom would say, “Don’t burn bridges.” You never know when someone you used to be familiar with could come back within your social circle and have the ability to improve your life. While this is something that I am always conscious of, thanks to the success of Roll Models, I have been reminded of just how rewarding it can be to make sure you treat people with respect and end relationships amicably.

Scott Drotar Tuxedo
My first tuxedo fitting before going on to emcee the Telethon.

As you know from my earlier posts, as I was growing up I did a lot of fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The biggest MDA event of the year is the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. This is a roughly 36 hour marathon of non-stop broadcasting, where we ask people at home to call in and donate. While I have made at least an appearance on the Telethon almost every year that I have been alive, when I was goodwill ambassador I was on the air for the majority of the telecast. You get to know people pretty well when you spend that many straight hours together without sleep and hopped up on Mountain Dew, and one of the people who I had the privilege of getting to know is my friend, Dean. He was (and still is) one of the emcees for our local Telethon broadcast, as well as being the head sportscaster for our regional Fox station. We would see each other a few times a year at various MDA functions while I lived in the area, and we got to be fairly good friends over the years. Once I moved to Kansas for graduate school though, like too often happens, we fell out of touch.

Imagine my surprise when five years after last speaking to him, I get an email on my Roll Models email account from Dean. I had not told him about my new endeavor as a professional speaker, and we were not even in the same state, but somehow he had found my website. Since this initial email, we have gotten to catch up on each other’s lives, and even more importantly we made our friendship “official” on Facebook. As a result of our rekindled relationship, we are now working together to arrange a television interview with Fox to discuss Roll Models and possibly filming one of my Roll Models talks. This would be a great way to spread my message and advertise Roll Models, and it would have never been possible without the solid relationship between Dean and I that was created many years ago. By laying this solid foundation and slowly developing it over years of MDA events, I now may have an incredible opportunity to publicize Roll Models and pursue my mission to help others. Had I not put in the time and effort to forge this bond between us one conversation at time over several years, this amazing opportunity would never have been possible.

Scott Drotar Telethon Interview
My entire family would be interviewed on the Telethon to help show people that my disability creates obstacles for people beyond myself.

Another example of how people from your past can randomly and fortuitously come back into your life occurred to me just last week. When I moved out to Kansas after graduating from Notre Dame, with everything that I had going on trying to get my life established here, I did a terrible job of keeping in touch with most of my friends from college. I know that is an excuse, and a bad one, so I am not saying it was right, just that it happened. Last week I “liked” a Facebook status of one of my old, college roommates that I had pretty much completely fallen out of touch with. A couple days later I had a message from that roommate in my inbox. He said that while the content and such on is good, my design and layout need some work, especially my mobile site. Being a very talented, professional programmer and wanting to start freelancing, he said that he would be happy to help me, free of charge, to improve my website. I am really excited not only to have the opportunity to have someone as gifted as my old roommate giving me help (he is an amazing programmer), but also to get to reconnect with one of my best friends from college. Once again, I owe all of this good fortune on the strength of the relationship between my roommate and I. Had I not cultivated this bond so many years ago, I would never have been presented with this awesome chance to improve my business and spread my message.

These two scenarios are terrific examples of how people can, and will, find their way in and out of your lives in ways you would never expect. That is why it is so critical to build, maintain, and even end relationships in the most agreeable way possible, because you never know when someone will come back into your social sphere with the ability to change your life. I am not saying you should build connections with anyone and everyone who may be able to help you get ahead in life, regardless of whether you really enjoy their company. Insincerity like this will be sniffed out quickly, and it will make it very difficult to form any real relationships in the future. What I am proposing is mostly common sense. Be sincere and kind as often as possible, and treat people the way you would want to be treated. By following these two simple rules that you have been hearing since kindergarten, you will have no problem developing relationships with others that you will have no problem rekindling in the future. This will bring you stronger friendships, a larger social circle, and more happiness, and as you have seen in my two anecdotes, this can even present you with incredible opportunities in other areas of your life.

We all know the saying, “to get ahead in life, sometimes it is who you know, not what you know,” but this is incomplete. It is not just who you know, but also the way you know each other. If they remember you as this selfish, ex-roommate that would steal food from the fridge and never clean up, chances are they are not going to give you much of their time. However, if they remember you as someone who was considerate, hard working, and a good friend, even if you have not spoken in years, they will be much more likely to want to reconnect. As you have seen above, you never know what opportunities these new relationships with old friends can bring. Always treat people with kindness, even if you think you will never see them again. This is not just the right way to treat people, but your respect and appreciation towards others could be repaid to you in ways you would never expect down the road.

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