Feb

28

DrinkIn most pursuits it's a bad idea to burn bridges. Trading is an obvious example, if one keeps making all or nothing bets then sooner or later it's going to be nothing. Chess is like this too, the professional way of playing being to avoid leaving one's position so brittle that a failed attack means you are lost. This is why Bent Larsen liked to push his rook's pawns; an advance of this pawn rarely compromises one's position beyond hope.

There are also times that bridge burning can be good, when the bridge leads somewhere to which you never want to return. A good example is in throwing out old clothes after losing weight when retreat is no longer an option. Another is to announce to acquaintances that one is giving up the thing that lies on the other side of the bridge. Take your pick between booze, cigarettes and blondes, the statement makes it harder to go back because of the loss of face. One must, of course, mind losing face for this to work.

And this brings me nicely to the point of this email, I'm about to burn one of my own bridges with an announcement: A wonderful 30 year relationship I've had with (moderate amounts of) alcohol has recently come to an end. And I'm now left wondering why I didn't do this earlier.

Scott Brooks replies:

I've had a similiar experience.
 
When I first got into this business it was recommended that I read Tom Hopkins book "How to Master the Art of Selling". It was a very old-school book on selling (but hey, 20 years ago everything was old-school), but it did have some pretty profound advice that I decided to follow.
 
I'm going from memory here, but what Hopkins basically said was, "Remove all people and all things from your life that don't add value."

Then I made several decisions that I believe had an important impact on my life.

1. I stopped hanging around with a group of friends that were hoodoos
2. I gave up drinking altogether. I was never a heavy drinker, but not giving it up was symbolic to me in that it I believed it seperated me from the vast majority of people
3. I reaffirmed my commitment to not use four-letter words.
 
By far and away, giving up the hoodoo's was the best thing I ever did. But quiting drink and not using four-letter words is a constant reminder to myself (since most around me cuss or drink) that I hold myself to different standards, that are solely my own.
 
Now, I'm certainly not proselytizing my way of life to anyone reading this, nor do I look down on others that make choices that are different than mine.

Steve Leslie writes: 

To Nigel, I say, congratulations on your decision and I hope it has meaning for you beyond the physical benefits you will likely experiences.

The Outlaw Josey Wales said it best, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

I applaud Nigel for making a public and personal decision. I emphasize the word personal.

I agree that moderate drinking, consumption of fine food, recreational gambling, enjoying a fine cigar, or trading futures, in most cases is probably not very destructive. When it is a chronic condition when it might become a problem.

Even helping out those in need and advising others can be a noble pursuit.

Many of us are aware when this crosses the line and becomes destructive to our own lives.

For those who might not have the gift of discernment or may be too soft-hearted or gullible, it can be very helpful to have at your disposal an inner circle of advisors. It also is important to distinguish as to whom one includes in this circle. Napoleon Hill in his excellent book “Think and Grow Rich” discusses this in great detail. Others such as Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn have also expounded the validity of such a strategy. It would serve us all well to visit Hill’s book and review his profound wisdom.

Nigel Davies replies:

Steve makes a good point that such decisions are personal. It wasn’t meant as a criticism of other peoples’ choice to drink either moderately or immoderately. In fact one of my all time favourite quotes is by former World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal, who on learning that the Soviet authorities were going to clamp down on vodka drinking exclaimed: “The State against vodka? I’m on the side of vodka!” It was vodka that killed him, by the way, though without the vodka he might not have been able to tolerate life in the USSR.

My purpose in going public was really just to keep myself in line; making a public declaration like this really binds you to the decision. And I made the choice to quit after starting not to feel too good the morning after even moderate consumption. This sudden intolerance could be a result of having taken up Zhan Zhuang (’standing like a tree’) some months back — I’ve been advised by that such practices can produce this kind of effect. Whatever the reason I can say that I now feel better than I have done in years. And it will be a sad day if I ever build a bridge to go back. 

Jeff Watson recounts:

I used to be guilty of not burning bridges, and it cost me dearly.  I got a reputation for being a shoulder to cry on, and found myself inserted into the problems and drama of others.  This took a physical and emotional toll on myself and my family, and I finally had to cry, "No Mas!"  About 15 years ago, I made a concerted effort to to free my life of all of this flotsam and jetsam, and the result of doing so has simplified everything in my life. I got away from negative people, the ones who suck the very lifeblood from your soul.  However, I do like to listen to hoodoos, encouraging them to give their views in great detail.  Hoodoos are great fade indicators, and I look forward to their views  like the Israelites devoured the manna from heaven.  I listen to them with a jaundiced ear, and never allow them to convince me that their views are right.  I learn a lot from them, and consider them a great source of what not to do and what to fade.  I've burned a few bridges in the past by not doing business with friends, not co-signing on loans, and not financing ill prepared business ventures.  Although I've disappointed a few people with my "Scrooge" like approach, life has been better for myself and my family, and that's what really counts.  The only bridge I never burned was that of my favorite charity.  Although it sucks up a lot of time and money, and I would personally be better off distancing myself, whenever they need something, I always answer their siren's call.

Chris James adds:

I used to have a lot of married friends who would often try to drag me into their fights to be on the man’s side or the women’s side. When I was younger I use to bite and take one side or the other only to deeply regret it later after they made up. The one I had sided against was not to pleasant to me for a long time.

This is probably a common experience for a lot of people…

Solved it with a one liner. No couple who hears it has ever bothered me again. “Listen, You guys don’t invite me when you make love so consider me dis-invited when you make trouble!”

Eric Falkenstein cautions:

I think in ridding oneself of people who don’t add value, it is important to take the long view. If you are the kind of person who only deigns to return calls or hang out with people in a position to do you favors, right now, you are all too common. You would be an unreliable friend or colleague, because when adversity hits, you can’t be counted on. Further, there are many behind you that engage in mercenary friendships, so you aren’t needed–a fun replacement who values my friendship for the favors I can bestow him is simple. Such a person would be constantly trying to get into asymmetric relationships, always the lower-status guy trying to get the better of his ‘friend’.

No one likes these people, for obvious reasons. Thus, relationships should be addressed with a long view, in terms of intellectual, business, or social growth. To the extent their interests are base, unenlightened, or self-destructive, you need to avoid them.


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