They liked that I had experience doing all of these things, and I was ready to move on. So I joined the company (called “i-Link,” which I can comfortably name because it hasn’t existed for years and years.)
It wasn’t ’til orientation that I learned that i-Link’s revenue model was based on multi-level sales. A pyramid scheme.
I came home from work, sick to my stomach. I worked for a company that made money in what I considered a morally reprehensible way.
[Aside: For those of you who approve of and maybe even make a living using multi-level marketing (and that's probably going to include a lot of my Utah neighbors, because it's a very common business model around here), I'm not saying that what you're doing is wrong, and it's certainly not illegal. It just doesn't sit easy with me. Let's not make the comment section be about multi-level marketing today, K?]
So I had a serious decision to make. Stay? Or go?
I stayed. Only for as long as it took for me to find a new job — about six weeks — but I stayed.
I had a pretty good set of reasons for staying: I had a house payment to make. I had kids to feed. I knew it’s much easier to find a job when you already have a job than when you don’t.
I have never been so relieved to give two weeks notice, nor so happy when the HR rep told me money was tight and they’d prefer if I was going to leave, to just walk away.
I was free of that place.
But for six weeks I worked there, writing copy for and coding the public-facing website. Creating a tool to help people leverage a business model that made (makes) me ill. Proving to myself that if the price was right, I’d do something I felt was wrong.
I think about that experience often. For a long time, I thought about it with shame. Now, though, I think about it as an incredibly valuable learning experience.
Essentially, I learned that — like me — pretty much everyone wants to be a good person. Also in my experience, there are times when people — including me — do rotten things. I learned that if I can make serious compromises I’m not proud of and then continue to do them until I find a way out, I should guard heavily against judging others who do the same thing.
Since then, I’ve come to an additional realization: the people who are most harshly judgemental are generally the least likely to have spent time evaluating and rectifying their own poor choices.
I don’t want to be one of those people.
So, when the cascade of doping admissions confirmed that Levi Leipheimer — the pro I’ve had more personal interaction with than any other (including Lance Armstrong, many times over) — had been doping for a big chunk of his career, I did my best to switch from anger to understanding.
To move from thinking “You shouldn’t have done that” to “I’m glad you’re trying to fix the damage you’ve caused.”
Because I can’t see or understand people’s motives for what they’ve done in the past. I can only see what they’re doing right now.
So I sent Levi this email:
Just in case it’s of value for you to know that you’ve still got a friend in a beloved, multi-award-winning, very handsome blogger, I thought I’d let you know: I’m still your bud, and still looking forward to doing something fun and stupid for a good cause with you next year, or maybe sooner.
In fact, let me know the next time you’re in Utah and in the mood for an easy ride. It’s about time you find out how awesome it is to go MTBing on a SS.
I honestly didn’t have any expectation of a reply, but I got one:
I really can not put into words how much it means to me when I receive an email like this, I really appreciate your support- a lot! I’m sorry that we have damaged the sport that you love but I really believe this is the best for the long term. You have supported me personally and my community and I owe you an explanation, if you want to hear it? I’m looking forward to time healing this mess and being able to redeem myself. Thanks again for the email and the support, it really helps right now.
ps I’d still kick your ass on an SS MTB
I thought this was worth sharing, so asked Levi if he was OK with that. Frankly, he was a little bit uncomfortable with it — he thought it would come off as him promoting himself. I let him know that I’d be clear that he hadn’t expected or wanted this to go public. I just tend to overshare, what with being a blogger and stuff.
So, that said, I appreciated his offer of giving me an explanation, and plan to take him up on it. I’ll get back to you on how that goes.
So that’s the backdrop for The Levi Effect, the documentary that is showing across the country tonight.
I’m one of a few people who’s actually seen the movie twice. The first time was a couple hours after the GranDonut race. By accident, the projectionist had put the filename up on the screen, which was something like “levi_effect_short_version.mp4.”
So if that’s the short version, what’s the long version?
Well, obviously (at least it’s obvious now, although I pretty much connected the dots right when I saw the filename back at the Fondo), the long version’s the version that includes about six minutes of Levi talking about doping.
I asked BikeMonkey to send me a copy of the long version of the movie, and they obliged. So I watched it with some friends last Friday night, then filmed a few minutes of our conversation afterward:
Is the movie worth going to see tonight? Well, my point of view is kind of slanted, because I know and like a lot of the people in the movie. And I’m not talking about the “stars” of the film, I’m talking about the folks from BikeMonkey: Greg Fisher, Carlos Perez, Yuri Hauswald. And Levi’s wife, Odessa Gunn.
So, with that grain of salt, I’ll still say “yes.” It’s worth seeing. For one thing, it shows off Levi’s Gran Fondo, which is in fact one of the most amazingly awesome events put on by anyone, anywhere.
And for another thing, you’ll walk out of the theatre with an interesting conversation on your hands. See, once I turned off the camera (of course) in the video above, the conversation kept going, and actually turned a lot more serious.
It’s a good catalyst to talk about doping. And judging. You might, in fact, find that the greatest value of The Levi Effect is that it makes you think about pro cyclists as people (fallible for sure, but good at heart, like the rest of us) again.