Burning Bridges

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I learned the hard way. 


Burning bridges migh


 work for “isolationists,”


but . . .



But even if you’re the owner of the most microscopically small home business being run out of an empty closet, you cannot afford to be caught with a “smoking match.”

When you cut off communications with people or organizations –whether intentionally or inadvertently makes no difference–  you cut off future options and opportunities that you may never imagine being possible right now. And when you least expect it, it will surely come back to bite you in the butt. 

It should go without saying that this bridge-burning dynamic applies equally to all of us as individuals as well.

How did I learn the hard way?


At many levels, I had to fight my way through childhood poverty and abuse, through high school insensitivities, college insecurities, impersonal graduate school, and the disillusioning beginning-a-career years. I beat my way through the bushes and put on a happy face, but I used my struggling existence as an excuse for aloofness.

Former (far wealthier) classmates disbursed to all corners of the globe with pocketsful of parent’s money? What did I care? I’d never see them again anyway. They served me no immediate survival purpose. Screw ’em. I was preoccupied with affording clothes, a car, and often, a next meal. How could I relate to summers in Europe?

I chose to feel bitter. For awhile I held grudges. But those feelings never lasted because they left no room for me to earn my keep and work my way up the corporate ladders that I saw as my only escape route. It was something like a forced retreat from upset feelings because upsets didn’t pay bills. I had no room left for anger.

The end result was the same.

Burned bridges.

I never intended to sever relations with those in my various graduating classes, and in steppingstone jobs.

It just happened.

Yet the consequences of often having no place to turn when a turn was necessary were no less difficult to bear than had I actually set the connecting spans on fire.


Ill feelings can obviously (now, in retrospect) trigger a conscious or unconscious desire to disconnect from the circumstances or people responsible for igniting various upsets, but what I’ve learned the hard way (after losing many close contacts over time) is that effort invested in long-term relationships can often produce great returns.  

It’s water over the proverbial dam at this point, and my life has been graced so many times over with strong business and personal relationships (that I finally did learn how to hold on to and nurture and enjoy), that I can only be grateful for them and for what they have made possible. Yet, there’s still this twinge of regret.

Perhaps you or someone you know will be prompted to think twice before cutting ties or burning bridges after hearing this (true) short story from someone (me) who almost learned too late the deep values of long-term relationships — in life and in work. When did you last give someone the benefit of doubt? Forgiveness works!


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