Very many years ago, in the early days of the internet, I got semi-catfished. The guy was real (truly, some friends met him at a later point) but was not at all what he claimed to be. I, fresh off a painful but necessary breakup, and enjoying the energy and flattery of a new situation, was ripe for exploitation.
The guy lived in Alaska. He rode mountain bikes. He claimed to be good-looking, but this was before the days of easy photo uploads, so I had to take his word for it.
He was charming, and, I realized later, was very skilled at a game that I didn’t even know we were playing.
But, don’t worry! It turned out OK! How, you might ask? I’m about to tell you.
I was in my early thirties at the time. When I was in my late twenties I had worked in the Alaskan fishing industry had wound up on a boat where I might well have died or been seriously injured, all while being exploited for my labor. I had gone up to the boat without a contract and might have been stuck until I had enough for airfare, had I not done some fast talking to get out of the situation and get my airfare home paid.
This experience caused me to make a rule for myself – don’t take a job without having a clearly spelled out contract.
So, when catfish guy asked me to move up to Alaska (What is it about Alaska and scammers?) to work for him in his bike shop, I was intrigued, but I was cautious. I love bikes and I love working on bikes. I assumed I would love the small seaside Alaska town where he lived. I thought he was cool and was thrilled at the idea of being in closer proximity to him (ugh, yes, really).
But then we talked, and the details were … skimpy. Hazy. I asked who would pay for housing and he assured that he would, but offered few details. I asked about pay and never got a straight answer about whether it would be a flat rate for the summer or hourly, or a salary.
Because I had already made a rule to never take a job without a contract, and certainly to never leave home for a job where there was no contract, I insisted that he send me one. He hedged. I asked again. He dissembled. I asked again and he responded by questioning my attractiveness and ability to get along with people. This guy was all class.
And, that was that. I said no thanks, and while I regretted letting the opportunity go by, I was confident I had made the right decision.
Years later, I learned through mutual friends that he had run scams on several people in the mountain bike community we all belonged to; renting out apartments he didn’t have the rights to, stealing bikes, failing to pay people who had worked for him. Oh, and eventually he faked his own death on the internet.
Imagine my feelings of vindication and relief when all this came to light.
I think the concept applies in personal situations as well. If you have a rule against dating people who are mean to animals, and you cut a lot of the world’s crappy people out of the running; have a rule about not dating married people and you have automatically eliminated a large swath of those who bend the rules of ethics to suit them.
In other realms, if you maintain processes and standards when hiking, backpacking or backcountry cycling you won’t find yourself injured, miles from a road without the means to safely spend the night outdoors because you will always have your ten essentials along for the ride.
If you have a rule about exercising every day and getting your 5 to 9 fruit and vegetable servings, you will keep up your health, even if there are days when exercising is the last thing you feel like doing.
Years ago I had a boss whose favorite motto was, “control the things you can control.” Indeed. Control what you can, including your own standards, and you will be in the best position to deal with those things that are out of your control.