“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”
–Augustine of Hippo
When I was a kid, around 10 years of age, I remember going to the local market in Mexico with a friend to work. We used to bring clean buckets of water to the local sellers from the cistern. They paid us well for each bucket, and it was enough for us to play arcades. It was a routine. One day as we were dealing with a local owner, my friend noticed many bills on the ground. After my friend pointed them out, I picked every single one. It was more money than someone could make in a month.
I did not turn to look around as I walked out of the market. My friend followed me, and so did another guy. I have no idea how the guy who followed us ended up in front of us, but blocking our path he demanded I give him the money I picked up. I played dumb and told him I did not know what money he was talking about. He told me that if I didn’t give him the bill, he would tell the owner I have it. Since I knew I had a lot of money, I asked him how much he was talking about. He was asking for only one bill. I carefully pulled one bill and gave it to him knowing that I had plenty more. The guy walked away.
With the threat gone, we walked away as well, and I gave my friend his part of the money. When I picked up the money, I honestly knew who the money belonged to. It was a guy who used to sell chickens in the market. He was sitting in a food stall with his wallet half way out of his pants. I did not care about him; all I cared about was what the money could bring me. So I took it.
This is not the only dishonest act I ever committed. I committed many more. I am about to publish my book in which I talk about my life and all my mistakes. It took me many years until I turned 28 years old to understand that I was very selfish. It was not the age and the experiences that made me change. While these factors do contribute, what really made me change was pain — the feeling of being human and standing in someone else’s shoes.
All the money I stole in the local market (because I did not find that money, I stole it) I spent on useless things, and it disappeared in just a couple of days without bringing me any fulfillment. This money could have been the person’s next mortgage that he worked so hard for, his next inventory, his grocery money for the whole month or payment for the next needed surgery. The only thing I know now is that the money did not belong to me. Many times I rationalize that everyone was dishonest; therefore, I could be as well. The fact is that I always knew what was right and wrong and what was convenient for me or everyone.
Once I changed, I decided to ask for forgiveness from all the people I hurt that I could reach: return items that did not belong to me, pay money I owed, ask for forgiveness and start over by helping others.
From the bottom of my heart I know to do the right thing even when it is difficult and seems to affect my life negatively in the short run. Of course, by no means am I perfect, and I still make mistakes. However, asking for forgiveness and compensating is the best follow-up.
When we were remodeling our new location in Glenwood Springs, we spent most of our savings, leaving us living almost paycheck to paycheck. I was in need of income, and the place needed more investment. We went to Lowes to buy another $500 of products. When we came back and checked our bill, we noticed that we got charged only $66. Even though the business needed money, I was willing to do the right thing, so we went back with pictures of all the products that were not scanned, and we paid it all back.
When I was in college, I took many psychology classes, and there are contradictions among theories. Therefore I learned that not everything that people write is legitimate. As I continue my journey in my education, I remain a student. I never accept an idea without questioning it. I meditate the information, and it has to make complete sense to me to make it part of my teaching. Otherwise, I toss it.
For example, I found out that supplements comprise a million-dollar industry, and we as personal trainers have the opportunity to push these products to our clients, adding a couple thousand dollars a month to our income. I used to take many supplements, but through research I found out that they provide no benefit and can even put our health at risk, so I stopped taking them. Therefore, I don’t sell or promote any supplement.
Jim Rohn recommends to read a book on Gandhi and a book on Hitler. As a matter of fact I am reading a very interesting book that recommends lying, manipulating and taking advantage of people to get power over them. I focus my learning on human development, environment and psychology. But I decided to read this book for a specific reason: I like to study how people think and find out what to expect from someone who has no desire to improve this world and who thinks only about himself. I have no right to judge anyone. I used to be selfish, but it is good to understand.
I believe when we do the right thing and we speak the truth, we are peaceful and have less stress. We don’t have to worry about other people catching us doing wrong or having a guilty conscience about how our negative decision affected another person.
It is a sacrifice, but I think it’s worth it when we think about others. How would I feel if I was the one working at Lowes and I made that big mistake? I would probably lose my job when I have a family to sustain. What about the chicken seller I took the money from? How about if I were him?
When I started my transformation, I read many times the importance of honesty. Not only is it a natural law that we can’t be dishonest, but our self-confidence increases and our life improves. There is a thing that many people call karma in which the world works on turning things around, making us pay what we owe to life.
Once again, I am by no means perfect — I am still a human being — but fighting my desires and continuing to do what is right helps me be happy and ultimately make a change in this world, which is my goal.