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  • Diligentia Group is a boutique investigative firm dedicated to providing law firms, financial institutions and decision makers with comprehensive background investigations, due diligence investigations and legal investigation services.
  • What Children Can Teach a Private Investigator

    by Brian Willingham

    Post image for What Children Can Teach a Private Investigator

    Father’s Day is quickly approaching, which gives us all an opportunity to celebrate fatherhood.

    My two children have brought infinite joy and happiness to my life. When I became a parent, the one thing I did not expect was that my children would be teaching me valuable lessons about life and my profession.

    Here are just a few examples of what my children have taught me about being a private investigator.

    Be Open
    When children are born, everything is new to them―food, smells and the world around them. Children naturally explore new things and constantly learn from each experience; they are open to new ideas and the things around them. They don’t have any preconceived notions.

    Over the past ten years in this business, I have learned that you have to constantly be open to new skills, trends and techniques. As John Gill, from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, once said, “Fraud doesn’t go away, it just changes.” A private investigator’s skills should be evolving―not only to continue to provide a valuable service to clients, but also to become a better industry investigator and business leader.

    Be Creative
    Throughout their early years, children are naturally creative through music, art and reading. Being creative is natural to a child.

    As the years go by, we tend to move away from that natural creativity and become “stuck” with the status quo. While some professions are more restrictive when it comes to the rules of the game, being a private investigator has taught me to always “think outside the box” when analyzing a potential objective. So, go ahead and explore a different side. Be creative and get inspired by things outside your own little world.

    Be Curious
    Being curious is one of the things that makes being a kid so much fun. My children ask questions every day that I don’t have the answers to. Just in the last week, my son has asked me what the oldest country in the world is, who the oldest person in the world is and why the Red Sox were cursed for more than 80 years (the only one I was able to answer). And I love that I don’t need to grab a set of encyclopedias to find the answer.

    The Internet, email and other modern forms of communication have opened a whole new opportunity to further investigate and get answers to everyday questions almost instantly. In our profession, if something does not make sense, be curious, do some research and become an expert in a body of knowledge that nobody else is.

    Be Bold
    The best thing about my five-year-old daughter is that she is bold. She wears mismatched socks or a tutu over her leggings or a completely outlandish outfit that only a five-year-old can get away with. As she grows older, she may continue to dress boldly, but I hope she won’t be wearing a tutu as her daily attire.

    Typically, as we grow older, our boldness is tamed and we develop a comfort zone. In our profession, we maintain a similar comfort zone in the types of cases that may fall under our specializations (e.g., due diligence investigations, background checks, surveillance). However, it is only when we take on new challenges or really difficult cases, that we show our boldness.

    Be Simple
    Explaining to an adult what I do in a few sentences is difficult enough, but explaining to a six-year-old and a five-year-old is downright impossible. Despite that, I still do it, but in terms that they can understand. “Finding information to help someone avoid a mistake” and “protecting a company (or person) from bad people” are how I have explained to them what I am doing.

    Part of what I do on a daily basis is to take complex sets of information from disparate sources and synthesize them into easier-to-understand pieces, free of “investigator speak” or lingo.

    Be Logical
    Children are logical. They learn quickly from their own curiosities. They know not to touch a hot stove after they burned their hand the first time. As an adult, you know not to touch the hot stove (hopefully not based on personal experience) because you know a stove is hot and that it might hurt if you touch it.

    You make decisions every day based on knowledge you have acquired over the years. You don’t personally need to have been a victim of a Ponzi scheme to know that someone offering you a 200% investment return is cause for concern. But some people are willing to invest a large portion of their wealth, expecting that some miracle investment scheme will make them millionaires many times over. It’s sad, but it happens all the time, and it’s totally avoidable.

    Be Authentic
    Kids like what they like, do what they do and are who they are. What you see is what you get. There is no pretending to be someone else, unless, of course, you are playing house or cowboys and Indians.

    Professionally speaking, I don’t pretend to be someone I am not. I am not a former spook. I don’t have access to secret spy sources. I don’t have Special Forces training (although that would come in handy). I am very good at what I do, but I can’t be all things to all people, and neither can you.

    Your turn. What do children teach you? Let us know in the comments.

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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    Private Investigators UK November 14, 2012 at 7:46 am

    What an AWESOME post. You’ve hit the nail on the head here in all areas. Children are what they are, when you grow up you become somebody different, that boldnes, curious side of you seems to fade away and when teenage years hits, it becomes something completely different.

    Children teach me that life is to short and soon you will be old and fragile. Do the things you enjoy, see things you need to see and live life how you want to. Children are young for a reason, they arent bothered how they look to others, they only care how they look to themselves. Dont be somebody who you arent and take a leaf out of a Childrens book and do things you want to do before its to late.
    Private Investigators UK

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