When I was in high school, a common threat from bullies was, "I'll meet you behind the gym." In most cases, though, a fight never actually took place. Instead, verbal threats were hurled, rude gestures were displayed and both parties walked away calling each other a coward.
But as adults, rather than threatening to meet someone behind the gym, people will more often say, "I'm going to sue you." That threat usually leads to more hostile words and then some kind of settlement rather than an actual lawsuit. The threat of a lawsuit frightens most people into becoming reasonable--even pacifistic.
I was recently sued for the first time. When the threat was initially made, most of my friends recommended that I settle and "just pay the person to go away." But the more they tried to convince me how horrible a lawsuit is, the more curious I became. Listening to the endless horror stories, my mind drifted back to my sophomore year in high school and the day a senior invited me to meet him behind the gym. Because my challenger was older and bigger, my friends recommended that I back down . . . and I did. For three days, the bully and his friends heckled me, calling me a coward. Finally, I publicly invited him to meet me behind the gym. The fight was a short one; he won. I was beaten and bloodied, but I walked home feeling pretty good, realizing that the fear of fighting was much worse than the actual fight.
Choosing to fight has again proven to be a very valuable experience, especially for my development as an entrepreneur. And although I don't recommend getting into a lawsuit, I am learning valuable lessons from it. My business became stronger, because preparing to be an open book for the suit helped me put the business in good order. And although I've never broken any laws, I learned that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Today, I'm focused on being a smarter entrepreneur.
I've always tried to look at adversity as an opportunity to learn. In this legal battle, I revisited an important lesson that I'd first learned long ago: The fear of fighting is much worse than the actual fight.
Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad series of books, is an investor, entrepreneur and educator whose perspectives have changed the way people think about money and investing.
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