On the Ides of March: Do you know who your frenemies are?

I had an experience last week that reminded me of a lesson I’ve learned the hard way before. Be careful who you share your dreams, goals and aspirations and apparently — business model — with.

Last week, a longtime friend started what is essentially a replica of my business. I’m not very surprised by that. It’s a natural progression for her. We were in journalism together and both had public-relations jobs.

The surprising part is that she never mentioned it to me, and I’m wondering why. This is a woman I’ve known more than 20 years. She took me to lunch just last week (on her dime) to catch up and ask for career advice. She asked, “Should I just get a job to help hubby to support our children or go back to school to get such-and-such certificate or this-and-that degree so I’m qualified to do what I love — cooking?” My answer is not important. Suffice it to say, she didn’t follow it. At the lunch, I excitedly showed her my new website and gave her the short version of my business-plan model.

Then eight days later, she’s going in a brand new direction launching a social media marketing business. Hmmm. Maybe it never crossed her mind to tell me. Or maybe, as I suspect, she was nervous about telling me and this was her way of doing it. I’ve been known for profane tirades on everything from the weather to national politics. I blow steam, I own that and I’m “working on it,” because even for friends who know me well, my outbursts make them nervous. She might have expected that reaction and took the alternate “announcement” route. Maybe I’m growing up because my reaction to this was pretty subdued. I didn’t blow up. But I’m very disappointed in her. Not hurt or angry. Just a little weary. What’s one more knife?

In our younger days, we took turns talking each other off the ledge. Once, I aggressively encouraged her to audition for a women’s choir. She did, was accepted and her singing career blossomed into bring-the-house-down solos that forever elevated her confidence level. I was proud to play a small part in that. I gave her my apartment for four months while I was on assignment. I attended her wedding, comforted her when she miscarried, watched her child christened. When she was hospitalized recently, I spent all day with her because her husband couldn’t be there. She’s been unemployed since last summer, and we have prayed together and walked though job applications on the phone. I’ve sent her employment leads and encouraging prayers, and she has done the same.  Just this week, I emailed her suggesting she create a food blog, so she could stay home with the kids. Her response was cryptic at the time; now I know why. I even set up an email account on my website for her, anticipating that one day she might freelance for me or need a “professional” appearance quickly. In other words, I’ve been a good friend.

My business partner has a saying (from his dad), “it ain’t always about you.” One interpretation of that is that people operate from their own ego and needs. But I can’t quite convince myself that this is just an oversight on her part. But the truth is – so what — she wasn’t obligated to mention it. That’s her business, not mine; so maybe I’m not entitled to any information. But I thought that’s what friends did, especially on the big stuff. I wish she had handled things differently because my gut (which I now always listen to) tells me that it was intentional. That casts her in a different light now, and that’s the source of the disappointment. You can’t un-ring a bell.

I’m not mad, actually I’m thankful. There’s enough money on the table and in the world for both of us. But it is a reminder to me early in the game to pay attention to whom I am sharing my business – and my life.

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