In 1984 I was arrested…

for possession with the intent to distribute an illegal substance, to wit, marijuana.

Ignoring how anyone could know what my intent was, the whole think really wasn’t my fault (well, actually it was, as I explain in the lessons learned) – I walked away “clean”.  Or at least as clean as you can be after charges like this.

I had a friend who grew pot plants.  Yes, I knew this.  No, it didn’t bother me – I didn’t see that he was hurting anyone and I just didn’t think it was any of my damn business.

It became my business when his electrical meter reader saw the plants on his porch and decided to report him to the cops.  Before the cops got there though, another neighbor had noticed the meter reader’s interest in the plants, and called and warned my “friend”.

I was at work this whole time – on a 72 hour on call shift.  I did not, and could not leave the hospital during this time.

So, being forewarned, my “friend” decided the best thing to do was move his plants somewhere else – like MY house!  When the cops showed up at his house he was mostly clean – they found a joint – and they used it to threaten him into disclosing where the plants were.  They threatened to take his 8 month pregnant wife to jail, so he gave in – and he led them straight to my house.

I was still at work for another 24 hours – I had no clue any of this had happened.  I finally returned home after a grueling 3 day shift to find two scruffy, heavy set biker-looking dudes on my front porch – as well as several 5 foot tall pot plants.

My friend nervously introduced these thugs as friends of his – I knew that wasn’t true – he was an engineering geek, not a biker freak.  I was wary.

When one of the guys took out a joint and lit it, and passed it to me, I declined.  I knew something bad was happening.

Long story short – I was arrested that night for possession of pot plants that the cops eventually admitted they knew I had no knowledge of.  I was arrested for distribution of something I never had in my possession.  I was handcuffed, booked and jailed.  Why?

Because I had not yet learned the most important lesson of my life – pick your friends closely.  Pick only those people you can trust your life with to be friends.  Don’t pick people that will put your ass in jail if they think it will save their ass.  Be selective.   There are BILLIONS of people on this planet – associate with the ones you can trust.

I also learned that this “friend”, although bright, wasn’t very smart – so I started surrounding myself with *really* smart people. 

Eventually I was cleared of the bullshit charges and my “friend” got probation.  Last I heard he worked for GM designing new cars.  No wonder Toyota is kicking our ass.

But I never forgot the lesson I learned about picking friends.  I learned my lesson about surrounding myself with people smarter than me.

I learned to pick smart friends.  I try to teach that to my kids.  As a hiring manager I tried to pick people smarter than me – people that could push me up the ladder – because I had no interest in walking over bodies to get up the ladder.

Pick people you trust – both in business and in life, and they *will* make you look good.  But be selective.  You have options. Don’t settle.


  1. Excellent advice. I’m passing it on.

  2. Good advice…geeze, what a ‘friend’…