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Things I have learned: Lessons from a bad penny

“People show you who they are, not by what they say, but by what they do.” Jane Green

I recently spotted a news article about the high value of the 1943 copper penny. As most old folks know, 1943 pennies were made of steel and zinc. A very few coppers exist, and they are extremely valuable today.

I had a vague recollection that I had a 1943 copper in my coin stash. Sure enough, when I went digging, there it was. My enthusiasm began to build as I realized I was holding a coin that was potentially worth $100,000.

1943 Penny. Stock Photo

I searched the Internet for confirmation and found the trick to checking authenticity. Just hold it up to a magnet. If the magnet attracts it, it is a fake, a steel penny that has been copper clad. That was something done by a variety of folks as a business promotion back in the day. Many of those old fakes ultimately found their way into circulation.

I got a magnet and moved it toward my penny. Click! As my penny slid onto the magnet, my fortune evaporated. The penny was not what it had seemed to be. It looked good on the outside, but on the inside it was a cheap imitation, a fraud.

One thing I have learned in life is that people are sometimes just like my penny. They look good on the outside, but inside something is amiss. I experienced this as an employer, when I hired some people who seemed right in their interview, but ultimately proved to be a mess on the inside. I suspect many people in the 50 percent of marriages that fail have encountered the same issue. Life is full of similar examples.

I have also learned that the opposite happens. Sometimes, I hired people that didn’t look very good initially, but when desperate for help, we sometimes took a chance. Every once in a while I found someone who was all wrong on the outside, but proved to be a gem on the inside. I suspect more than a few great marriages have experienced that too, as folks a bit rough around the edges turned out to be very great people.

With people and with pennies, the outside doesn’t tell the whole story. The big money is on the inside. Sometimes, we just need to put it to the test to find out what’s in there. I’m just sayin.’

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