“Information is not knowledge.” — Albert Einstein
Tyler’s a really great guy. He’s been talking about making some serious changes in his life and plans to start his own business. So when he called me the other day I was really happy to hear that he’s found an accomplished mentor, Lea, and is taking steps toward realizing his dreams.
During our conversation he raises a few concerns. He finds Lea to be slightly, shall we say, “out there” and full of herself.
Tyler also mentions that he’s been asked to sign a contract which included a non-compete clause and a non-disparagement clause, which he did.
This worries me and we discuss the more worrisome aspects of the contract. Should Tyler now start a business, he’ll need to have a lawyer look over the contract so that he makes sure he doesn’t get into trouble with Lea.
After our conversation I take it upon myself to message two friends, Muffy and Preston, who might have some further information about this Lea character.
I want to know if there’s anything Tyler, or I, should be worried about.
Preston doesn’t have a clue at first but asks for more info. He comes back with a message and says that a former colleague, Wade, has started working for Lea.
I know Wade but hesitate to call or message him because, well, we have our differences. Also, he’s just started working for Lea so I didn’t think it would be appropriate.
Later I get a message from Muffy, who’s in the same field as Lea, that says: “That’s a long story. Let’s talk tomorrow, around lunch.”
Here’s where I realized that I might’ve crossed a line.
I ask Tyler to give me a call when he has a moment. I tell him I might’ve done something I shouldn’t have and ask him if I should stop, or if should proceed and hear what Muffy has to say. Fortunately, Tyler understands why I did it and says it’s OK.
Since Muffy knows about Wade I ask her not to contact him. I do this because it could stir up trouble if Wade goes to Lea, and Lea finds out that I’m consulting Tyler on the matter.
Muffy comes back and tells me she knows. I’m relieved.
Now, in the interest of transparency, the names in this story were changed to protect the innocent.
How this story unfolds for Tyler remains to be seen, and I’ll follow up on it in a later post.
What I want to focus on today is firsthand, secondhand, and thirdhand information.
First off, let’s define them.
If I see a little person dancing, with an ashtray on his head, on a table, at a bar, that’s firsthand knowledge.
If I tell you about it you gain secondhand information. However, without access to footage, you might not be able to verify it.
If you in turn tell someone else about it they gain thirdhand information and so on.
Now, what’s going to happen is that I’m going to talk to Muffy. She might have firsthand experience dealing with Lea. She might also share secondhand, thirdhand, or twenty-secondhand information. Then I’m going to tell Tyler about whatever Muffy tells me.
Even if Muffy has firsthand knowledge about Lea, it’s going to pass through me into secondhand information. Should Tyler choose to share it, it’d turn into thirdhand information.
Given the people involved I don’t think it’ll just be a bunch of hearsay and rumors.
It could turn out that Muffy has nothing but good to say about Lea and that her non-compete and non-disparagement clauses haven’t impacted others negatively.
If that’s the case? Fantastic. Good news for Tyler!
However, I rarely find the term “It’s a long story” ending with sunshine and rainbows.
I’m also a bit concerned about how this kind of information tends to leak out. In Tyler’s case I’m pretty certain that it’ll be fine however it unfolds. He told me that he’s going to focus on getting as much good stuff out of the experience as possible whatever he learns about Lea.
Potentially negative information about Lea will only inform him about what to be cautious of going forward.
My biggest worry for most people would be that they try to use the information to “have something on” the other person. Fortunately, Tyler doesn’t have that problem.
I’ve seen so many people go back in armed with secondhand or thirdhand information who think they can use it to their advantage, but it ends up backfiring so bad. We don’t always know how people are going to react when they feel they’re being threatened, or worse, being backed into a corner.
My other concern going forward is that maybe this information will negatively impact Tyler’s experience of something that should be otherwise be tremendously rewarding.
People shouldn’t have to through bullshit like that. Least of all Tyler who wants to use those lessons and experiences to help build a better life for himself and others.
A thought just hit me.
Maybe Tyler’s the right person to go through this? Given how he’s likely to turn it into a learning experience, not make the same mistakes again, and help others avoid them in the future.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
Besides idle gossip, how has secondhand information, and beyond, impacted your life? What’s your view on it today?
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