Every so often, I’ll meet someone and the conversation drifts to what I do for a living. When I explain The Old Money Book and what it’s about, The Question arises in one form or another: “So what can I do to be more like Old Money?”
In response, I generally run through the Greatest Hits: living below your means, modesty, discretion, politeness, hard work, education, family, button-downs, blue blazers, penny loafers. Sometimes, Bad Byron pops up on my shoulder and whispers, ‘Tell them they need a nickname, too, like Skip, Chip, Muffy, or Tipsy.’
But I resist that impulse. One thing I’ve recently thought about adding is: ‘Do what you say you’re going to do, every time, and in all things, big and small.’
In the past, this was a Pet Peeve of mine: people not doing what they say they’ll do. (It still is, but I’m less exposed to it now.) I would sometimes search for some rationale or logic behind the apparent disregard or try to make excuses for the behavior. Was it negligence or deception? Was it malicious? Forgetful? My wife, often the one to cut to the heart of the matter with typical Boston candor, would reply, “They didn’t do what they said they were going to do. What does that tell you about them?”
After digesting that in silence, I’d make peace with the situation. Now, I simply cut to the chase rather quickly, assess the what did or didn’t happen and the person, and move on. It’s one of the things I watch for when I meet new people now, like a sign post on Relationship Road.
Presently, I have no idea why this concept is now popping up in my mind on a regular basis. I’ve had no one flake-out on me recently or let me down in some big way. I’ve got my ‘process’ down and my ‘radar’ up. All systems are go.
I think I’ve simply had a revelation that ‘giving your word’ to another person that you’ll do something–or won’t do something–is a type of currency in the Old Money relationship economy. You trade on it. You store value in it. You rely upon it to be worth what the other person says it’s worth. Your value is not just your expertise, skill set, or balance sheet. It’s your reliability, the solid nature of the space between your word and your deed.
This currency floats above what is legal, and may hover just above what is ethical: it’s simply what is right, what is fair, and what is kind. It’s subtle, but it’s solid. If someone’s word has value, it’s not given lightly, any more than a crusty Boston brahmin would give a $20 bill to…well, anybody who wasn’t family…and then, well, maybe not even somebody who was.
Anyway, I digress. As we approach this holiday season, I want to give everyone the chance to unload your Personal Pet Peeve. Feel free. Don’t name names, and don’t go off the rails, but do get it off your chest.
We’ll enter the new year with a lighter load. Alright, let’s hear it…