Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too Close to Home

I opened the paper earlier this week and learned that there was another mass killing involving Hills Bank in eastern Iowa (There was one about 20 years ago when a farmer shot his wife, a bank officer and then himself.). This time a bank officer killed wife and four kids before killing himself. He'd been indicted for embezzlement and was scheduled to go to trial in federal court next month.

I titled this entry "Too Close to Home" because my parents bank there, as did my grandparents. We know everybody there. And I have to say this is another, albeit extreme, example of the Great American Tragedy. He got wrapped up in maintaining a lifestyle at whatever price, and he lost sight of everything else.

I've seen this play out a lot of times in my career. People get on a track, and before they know it, they're a million miles away from whom they thought they were. Some have managed to switch back on their own. Some have gone through bankruptcy. A few ended up in prison. But a disturbing number ended the problem, or at least their concern for it, permanently and violently.

Let's face it folks: Lifestyle is an ephemeral thing. Even under the best of circumstances, cancer or a car crash can blow it all away. Consequently, when you start your career, it's a good idea to sit down and write down what you hope to achieve, and then review and revise periodically. If you're self-employed, it's even more important to do that, first because you're calling the course for both your life and your business, and second because you don't have an employer to set any agendas for you.

When I help clients set up businesses, I like to sit with them and help them make those lists of goals and priorities. First, if I don't, I can't give them the best legal advice. Second, I've seen too many examples of what happens to people who don't lay that kind of foundation. Usually I've seen it as a lawyer, but there were too many times I saw extreme examples when I was a coroner. Believe me, such results are worth a little planning to avoid.


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