He slapped me on the back of my neck. The pain ran through my body. I bit my lip to keep from crying. It didn’t work. My front lip trembled. I guess I wasn’t going to be a drug dealer after all. I was 15 and weak as fuck.
I didn’t grow up to be a drug dealer, but my friend did. Maybe he didn’t get slapped on the back of his neck as hard as I did or maybe his life was just that crazy and he was begging for death. I don’t know. I never asked him why he did it.
But he was a good friend. I wish I saved him.
He passed away two years ago. Today is his birthday. In honor of his memory, I share with you the three lessons he taught me that I will never forget. The first lesson is about business, the second lesson is about character, and the third lesson is about life.
1. Make em talk…if you want to count cash
“Watch this” he said.
“Alright.” I replied.
He walked up to a junkie and handed him a tiny bag of something. I don’t know what was in the bag. Actually I do, but I can’t tell you. The junkie smiled. He took it and left.
“What the fuck was so special about that?” I asked.
“I gave him a new product to try” he said.
“Cool. How much he pay you?”
“Nothing. I gave it for free.”
Free? I was stunned. I laughed. “Are you stupid? You got to be the worst drug dealer ever.”
He laughed and said, “You’ll see.”
We went to the park and proceeded to shoot hoops. Ten minutes into our hoop session, his phone started blowing up. One call after another.
He left. I continued shooting hoops.
Thirty minutes later he was back. Smiling from ear to ear.
“What the hell are you so happy about? Don’t you know we got an algebra test tomorrow?” …I said, trying to be funny.
He reached into his pockets and pulled out more money than I had ever seen in my life. He clearly wasn’t worried about the algebra test.
And then it all clicked. As I looked at the money in his hand, I realized he had just taught me the greatest marketing tactic of all time.
A tactic I would go on to apply to every business I ever started.
What was the tactic?
Give away a small dose of your best stuff for free. Get em hooked.
He gave a small dose to the junkie with the biggest mouth. The junkie took it, tried it, and loved it. The junkie then told all his other junkie friends. Lone and behold, the word was out. Now my friend’s phone was ringing off the chain because the junkie had sold the new product for him.
This tactic works. I personally used it to grow this blog from zero readers to an audience all over the world.
Use the tactic yourself and see how it goes. You may just mess around and make a million in cold hard cash.
2. Death before dishonor
They put the paper in front of him and tossed him the pen. All he had to do was sign the dotted line and he would be OK. He would be free. Life would get better. But he didn’t. He ripped the paper and flipped off the police officers. He took his time like a man. He didn’t accept the plea bargain. He refused to snitch on his friends.
When I heard the story, I wasn’t surprised. He was loyal to a fault. Always had been. He was the kid you could count on when everyone else ran and it was time to throw down.
But the story changed me. His loyalty reminded me of my lack of loyalty.
Unlike my friend, I wasn’t very loyal. I betrayed people. I lead girls on. I made my mother cry.
I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s the truth.
Maybe that was the old me. But maybe that’s a lie, maybe that person still exists inside me. I don’t know.
But my friend taught me about loyalty, respect, and honor. He was older than me and he had a lot of wisdom to share.
“If that’s your girl, love your girl. Fuck what everybody else says.”
“Even when your money low, never keep your head low.”
“Don’t call them your friends until you know where their heart lies.”
“Everybody jumps in when it’s time to ball, but they ain’t the same people that show up when it’s time for war.” I think this last line was a rap lyric he quoted, but whatever.
These were just some of the things he told me. But his actions spoke louder than his words.
He would always give me his last. When I was broke and hungry and had no money to eat lunch, he shared his food with me. Society called him a drug dealer and thug, but he was my brother.
I try to live with the above principles in mind, each and every day I try to make my friend proud.
But I have a confession to make. Three weeks ago, I was giving a talk, and someone asked, “Who inspires you?”
I bit my tongue and I lied. I said, “I inspire me.”
Truth be told, it was my friend who I always aspired to be.
3. Get out while the getting’s good
This is the hardest lesson you taught me because we used to ride around looking at dream homes. Do you remember?
Of course you don’t. You’re no longer here. Maybe in the spiritual, but not in the physical world. I went to college, you went the other way. But now I live in the same house we used to fantasize about. I wish you could see me now, but I don’t know where you live. Somewhere in the sky, maybe. I hope it’s better up there. I hope you found peace and joy and happiness at last. But I must admit the dream homes don’t make me smile like they once did because now I sit alone.
I wish he got out while the getting was good. But he didn’t. I’ve been pinching myself for two years now. But it’s not a dream. It’s a nightmare.
It all went horribly wrong one cold day in January.
He got shot, ten times. I saw his lifeless body stretched out on his doorstep. I couldn’t recognize him. His face was gone. I can’t forget the visual. It fucked me up. Still does. I shake in my sleep and my hands tremble to this day.
He helped me my entire life, I wish I could have helped him. I wish I could have saved him. I wish I could have inspired him to stop selling and robbing and stealing from people like us. But I didn’t. I know I can’t blame myself, but I still ain’t forgave myself.
His death changed me. It taught me a lot. A lot about the way we live our lives.
You got to get out while the getting’s good. Lesson number three. The last lesson he taught me.
Not just with drug dealing, but with everything.
There have been far too many times in my life when I should have got up and left, but I didn’t. I stayed. I ignored the signs. Whether it was with businesses, relationships, jobs, or dates, I stayed longer than I should have.
I wish I hadn’t because it cost me time, money, happiness, and laughter. I could have spent that time reading a book, flying a plane, or chilling with my nephew on the swing set. But I didn’t. I stayed.
Don’t be like me.
Read the signs. If something isn’t working, end it. Quick and fast.
It’s OK to end relationships. It’s OK to give up on a business idea. It’s OK to walk out on a date.
People always say never give up, but I don’t believe that.
I try to give up every single day. After I give up, I grow lighter. The dead weight is gone. I feel better. I find my wings.
I then use my wings to fly to bigger and better places.
Today I flew to paradise so I could wish my friend a happy birthday.