Help foes first


    I believe in being optimistic and in the goodness of people. If you think about it, believing the opposite is a pretty miserable way to live. Why think about pessimistic outcomes and being suspicious about others’ intentions? Positive thinking brings out the best in us; it betters our lives.

    In business dealings, politics, or even during a divorce, the conventional way of thinking is, “How will I benefit most and come out ahead of my foes? How can I win?” What if we turn the tables and let our foes win? Perhaps this is a different way to see the world and approach life. Maybe it will free you.

    I often apply this way of thinking in my life and it almost always brings surprising results.

    When we expand our business into different cities and countries, I think about how we can help our partners achieve their financial goals and life aspirations first, before ours. At the end, I have found that our business partners remain loyal and become productive team members. We prioritize their dream before ours. Then, everyone wins and gains more. Profit follows after we accomplish our purpose of being.

    A few years ago, I went through a divorce. It was a sky-falling event for me. I was heartbroken. We had small kids. I instructed my lawyer to allow her to win and do the best for our kids. He didn’t like that much at first, but he did so anyway. My then-wife didn’t trust me at first, but eventually she understood my intentions.

    Today, we feel that we are the best co-parents together and our kids are doing fantastic. I learned tremendous lessons from this experience and understood my short comings as a partner. Every day I work to apply these lessons in my life. Because of it, I feel I am an excellent husband to my now-wife and life partner and, today, my relationship with my kids is much deeper.

    By nature, human beings are suspicious of others — a cave man survival instinct — but in fairly recent years we have become (somewhat) civilized. I am not saying that everyone on earth is an angel. Plenty of untrustworthy people exist. But, I do feel that the vast majority are truly good; they will do everything possible to help you when you get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

    Living in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake I met many heroes. Haitian gangs feared by UN armed forces became our protectors and guided our engineers through dangerous concrete jungles to assess thousands of damaged buildings. They saw their country destroyed and wanted to be a part of the solution. They never asked for a dime of compensation. Our engineering team was able to galvanize a formerly fragmented society — the Haitian masses, the local private sector, UN agencies, U.S. armed forces, and the Haitian government — all in the name of engineering and assistance. Today, if you visit Haiti, you can hardly see the scars of an earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

    A lot of strife currently exists in the world and in our lives, but I believe in the goodness of people and in good results… with a right attitude. Life is too short to be suspicious and fearful. I want to enjoy it and maximize it every day, then we can do good for others.

    H. Kit Miyamoto, Ph.D., S.E., is the CEO and a structural engineer for Miyamoto International (, a California seismic safety commissioner, and president of the technical nonprofit Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief. He specializes in high-performance earthquake engineering and disaster mitigation, response, and reconstruction.