09 Oct Bankruptcy and Steve Jobs
Words are powerful. The word “bankruptcy” carries enormous emotional baggage. People hear it and immediately jump to conclusions. “Failure,” “shame,” “irresponsibility,” “ruin” all come to mind.
Recently, I met with an elderly couple. They had significant cash flow problems, and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy would benefit them greatly. As I do with all prospective clients, I gave them the initial disclosures required by the Bankruptcy Code along with my “non fee agreement fee agreement.” I call it that because it’s simply a required agreement which says that their first consultation is free. It’s silly, but required by the Bankruptcy Code.
The reason they would not sign either document became immediately clear. The first thing they said was, “We’re not here to discuss bankruptcy!”
And then Steve Jobs died a few days later
Admittedly, I’m shifting gears a bit, but bear with me. We all know Steve Jobs passed away this past week. I can’t add anything meaningful to the accolades others have deservedly heaped upon him. I’ve got an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod, and, of course, an iMac. We all know how good these products are and how much we love them and the way Apple supports them. I also have work computers on which I run Windows 7, and Steve Jobs and the folks at Apple made Windows better as well–albeit indirectly.
When we think of Steve Jobs, we think of a lot of things. Bankruptcy, however, is certainly not a word which comes to mind. After all, Jobs and Apple have been a success. Money has been made and investors paid–in heaps.
But What If Things Had Been Different?
In the 90s, Apple wasn’t the household name it is today. Most believed that PCs would continue to dominate the market (I did) and that Apple would shrivel up and remain a tiny company with only a niche market. What if Apple needed to file bankruptcy to stay alive while it reinvented itself? Would it have filed bankruptcy–even with all the emotional baggage and stigma? I think so.
One of the many insightful things Steve Jobs said is this: â€œYour time is limited, so donâ€™t waste it living someone elseâ€™s life. Donâ€™t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other peopleâ€™s thinking. Donâ€™t let the noise of othersâ€™ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
Did you hear that?
“Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” Isn’t that exactly what these older folks were doing? (“Bankruptcy means we’re ruined.” “Bankruptcy means we’re a failure.” “Bankruptcy is immoral.” “Bankruptcy will hurt our credit.” “Bankruptcy is not an option.”)
We need another word!
I wish we could come up with another word for bankruptcy. Companies do it. It was “Kentucky Fried Chicken” and now it’s “KFC.” (Fried is bad–emotional reaction averted.) Maybe we could call it a “financial petition” or something like that?
In the meantime bankruptcy is bankruptcy. And a rose by any other name is still a rose. Don’t be trapped by dogma when it comes to your financial options. Steve Jobs most certainly wouldn’t have been.
Latest posts by Russell DeMott, Charleston Bankruptcy Lawyer (see all)
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