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The Lunch Experiment Coverup

This post originally appeared in our Startup Growth Newsletter.

When I was in middle school, I had a teacher named Mr. Cobb. I do not remember much about him. I don’t remember what class he taught or even what grade. But I do remember he taught me one of the most important lessons of my life — and it was not on the course curriculum.

Mr. Cobb told everyone to take out their science projects. (Maybe he taught science!) I did not have one. A wave of panic rushed over my body. I must have completely forgotten this assignment. In desperation, I tried to improvise. I threw part of my lunch away and tried to say that what remained in the plastic container was an experiment.

I tried to pass all of this by Mr. Cobb. He let me dig myself deeper into a hole until he finally yelled at me. At the time, I thought the reaction was extreme for the situation. I thought he was being mean. It was only years later that I realized why he was so upset. He wasn’t mad that I had forgotten to do my homework. He was mad that I didn’t respect myself, or him, enough to tell the truth.

The coverup is always worse than the crime.

Mr. Cobb taught me that, and it is a lesson that has served me well both personally and professionally. We all make mistakes. The sooner we own them, the sooner we put them behind us.

A few years ago Mr. Cobb passed away. I never had the opportunity to thank him for the impact he had on me. He probably never knew that he planted a seed that would take years to grow. But when it did, it was incredibly important.

We all have Mr. Cobbs in our lives. Oftentimes the best lessons come from unlikely places. Keep your eyes and ears open for them and, if you get the chance, thank the person who helped guide you.

Thank you, Mr. Cobb. I am a better man today because of you.

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