On a grey afternoon in Bogota, Colombia, Katie and I are sat in the meeting room in our apartment building.  Around the table is the Security Supervisor, the Building Administrator and the interior designer for the building.  The most random array of people.

The building administrator has called us all together because she has news about Katie’s stolen phone.  It was stolen 7 days earlier from right beside Katie.  We are sat making small talk as we dial Dani from the Rebel team in Colombia to help us translate and make sure we don’t miss anything.

Picture

Our studio apartment in the north of Bogota, Colombia
I am wondering how the heck we got here.  Will we get the phone back?  Has it already been sold on the black market?  What will happen to the person I know stole it?  Is the building administrator in on the whole theft?  What is going to happen next?

It all began with the Colombian football (soccer) team

Katie and I are in Colombia to help a fabulous team bring the Rebel Business School here.  Fabián saw me present when I was teaching on the MBA course at Henley Business School and connected with his friends Alfredo and Dani in Colombia to start the process to sell the first Rebel Business School here.

They ran the first event in December 2020 in the middle of the pandemic (with appropriate social distancing measures in place!) and I have been so impressed by their energy and effort that I was inspired to come here and help.

So we flew out to Bogota and have been hanging out with them.  The Colombian football team were playing in the Copa America and they got to the semi-finals playing against Argentina.  We had watched the quarter finals and were excited for Colombia!

​Katie and decided to high-jack the co-working space at the top of our building to watch the game and we invited the Rebel Colombia team over to watch it with us.  We were so excited.

We recorded a podcast together about the way the team are bringing the Rebel methodology to Colombia.  There were a few other people hanging about on the deck and in different rooms around the co-working space.  We saw some different people around wearing baseball caps, one group of 3 young people came through the room whilst we were recording and we thought nothing of it.

After the podcast Katie joined us and we settled into the comfy leather chairs in the co-working space to watch the game.  We had mazorcada, Colombian takeaway, and started to cheer on the Colombians.

Just before half time the security guard, let’s call him Carl, came into the room and asked us to turn off the lights and lock the door when we left.  We agreed and turned back to the game.  He rattled around behind us tidying the room, he went out onto the deck and then came back through and left.

After the game (Colombia unfortunately lost on penalties!) we packed up, put away the rubbish and said goodbye to our friends.  As we got back to the apartment Katie asked:

“Do you have my phone?”
“No, I haven’t seen it”
“I don’t have it”

Panic started

“Where did you have it last?” I asked (I know this is an annoying question as if the person knew this they would just got and get it, but it doesn’t stop me asking!)
“In the co-working space before the match, I was messaging Dani about food”
“You go back and check there and I’ll search the bags and the room”

We proceeded to search everywhere.  ABSOLUTELY everywhere, but it was not to be found.  Katie logged onto Find My Phone and tried to find the phone’s location but it was showing as turned off.

As soon as we saw it was turned off; I knew it had been stolen.  It was sat on the table behind us whilst watching the match and it couldn’t have turned itself off as it had plenty of battery.  Someone turned it off to hide the location.

We ran downstairs to the security guard on the desk, Jose, and told him we thought it had been stolen.  He said there was not much we could do until morning but there were cameras and we could get the recordings and see what happened.

The other security guard, Carl, asked about the phone, what colour, the style and more.  He seemed to care about helping us……….

The fight to get the CCTV footage

The next day we came down bright and early to get the CCTV footage excited to find out who took the phone and what had happened.  We were told by the security guards on the front desk that the administration would get it for us.  They said that the camera files were located in another building and they would download them and get them to us. They told us not to call the police until we knew what had happened.

We waited and waited and nothing happened.  We asked for updates and they said they were doing it but another company was in charge and they had to wait.

The administrator was ignoring our messages and we couldn’t get anywhere with her.  The time was flying by and we knew that with every hour that passed we were less likely to get the phone back.

Katie went to see the administrator with Dani from the Rebel team and they asked for the film again.  She texted on her phone, avoided eye contact and gave excuses about having to follow the proper process.  Katie told me later the administrator was just texting friends as they tried to talk to her, she could see WhatsApp on her phone screen with hearts and kisses.

After being told all day they would do it that day, nothing had happened by five o’clock in the afternoon.  Katie went to ask again and was fobbed off and left in tears of frustration.  We kept getting different bullshit stories from different people about what was going on.

I started to get angry.  I HATE being lied to.  If there is a problem tell me the truth and I will work together with you to figure it out.  If you lie to me I cease to be your friend and I will take you down.

I was angry so I called the administrator.  She rejected the call.  I called again.  She rejected the call.  I called again.  She rejected the call.

I left her a message saying do not reject my calls I am trying to speak to you.   She send a message saying that she hadn’t rejected my calls.  I sent her a screen shot of the 3 rejected calls.  The battle was on.

The security guards kept saying they had no authority and we had to wait.

When I was recounting this story to a friend he said “Didn’t they realise that they were dealing with a guy that has a podcast literally telling people to be persistent and keep going until you get what you want?”

We confronted the administrator at her office and she said that they would have the CCTV footage by 7am the next day.  She said they were bringing it from another office and it would be there by 7am.  I even asked directly if the video was kept on the servers in her office and was told no, it was kept off-site.  All we had to do was be at her office tomorrow morning and she would have it for us.

Persistence and anger

By now you can probably tell how the next day went??

​We arrived at 7am and were told it was coming.  But there was rain and bad traffic and the person was going to be late, but he was going to be here at 8am.

I had a podcast to record so Katie took over and waited.  I finished and headed back down and it was 10am and still nothing had happened.

I lost my shit with the administrator.  She had directly lied to me on multiple occasions.  I felt like she was blocking us.  I felt like she was hiding something and was in on it.  I shouted at her in my best Spanish.  I asked for her manager’s name and details and she said she would not give it to me because of privacy reasons.   Privacy? What about our privacy? We had our phone stolen from the building! She went back to texting on her phone, wouldn’t look up and flat-out ignored me.  I followed her repeating the same question.  “Give me the phone number for your boss”.  She ignored me.

The whole building came to a stand still as I shouted in reception at the administrator and the security guards.

Did I mention I hate liars and people who are obstructing things.

Watching the film

Eventually the engineer from the other company arrived, he took the screen from the front desk and plugged it into the servers in the administrator’s office and hooked it up so we could watch the CCTV footage.

​All along the videos I had been fighting and arguing to see had been in the administrators office! She lied to us about it.  I was so so so angry.   We could have watched it the very next morning after they had stolen the phone because the footage was there all along in our building but they made us wait nearly two days!

We were keen to find out who had got into the room behind us.  Was it the three young people? Was it the people in baseball caps?  Who else had been in there other than us and the security guard?

For two hours we scrubbed back and forward on the tapes and watched as people moved in and out of the co-working space.

Interestingly we found out that there were no cameras in the co-working space only on the doors in and out.  This was apparently for privacy reasons.

This is us watching the security film in the office. You can see Katie in the screen going back to the room to check for the lost phone

This is us watching the security film in the office. You can see Katie in the screen going back to the room to check for the lost phone

We watched intently as we saw the young people leave before the phone had even been stolen!  We had a pretty good idea of when the phone was stolen as Katie’s Gmail accounts on the phone update regularly and we could see when they last synced giving us a pretty good idea of when the phone was turned off.

The people in baseball caps never came into the room either.  They went around on the balcony, in and out of the other meeting room, to the bathroom (they did spend a very long time in there!) and then they left.  We were confused; they never entered the room.

Dani had arrived by this stage and so we went back to reviewing the footage from the beginning, an hour before the phone was stolen.

Dani wrote down the time line as we scrubbed back and forward.  By this time the mood had lightened and we were joking about tracking people’s length of time in the bathroom and watching people do strange things when no one is watching!

We were starting to feeling like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

By the end of watching the tapes it was clear to us.  The only other person other than us and the Rebel Team that came into the room was the security guard, Carl. He happened to be in the room at exactly the time the phone turned off.

He was the only person that could have done it.  The security supervisor, Ivan was behind us and he looked pissed off.  He asked us if any of our friends could have done it and the answer was a definitive no.

Picture

The time line of events. Dani went to the bathroom at 21:39 and other important facts in the case.

Ivan told us that they were going to polygraph, lie detector test, all the staff and he would set up a meeting with Carl the security guard and us to talk about it.

We had to wait another three days for the meeting as it happened to be Carl’s days off at that point.

We spent the next days endlessly debating what to do.

  • We doubted ourselves and what we had left the phone
  • We got angry that the security guard stole it from us
  • Should we directly approach him and ask for it back? Offer money? Threaten him?
  • We wondered if it had already been sold?  It was still showing as offline in “find my phone”
  • For two days we debated and talked about little else, I constantly checked Find My Phone encase someone turned it on to sell it
  • We tried to come to terms with the fact that the person that stole it (Carl) probably needed it more than we did
  • We messaged the Airbnb host and tried to get them to put pressure on the building administration to move faster and stop blocking us
  • We called Simon (my business partner and ex-detective) for advice (we were desperate by this stage!)
  • We imagined getting the phone back
  • We tried to let go as after 5 days it is probably already sold!
  • We changed all our passwords and online banking details

The big meeting with Carl

The day of the meeting came round and Katie was out so Dani and I headed up to the meeting room.  Dani, Ivan the security supervisor, Carl and I sat round a table.

Ivan opened saying we wanted to know where the phone was. Carl didn’t react.  Dani proceeded to tell Carl he was the only person that came in out of the room at for the entire night and we have it on film.

Carl proceeded to react like every single guilty thief I have ever met does (and I have messed with a lot of shop lifters in my time in retail, but that is another story).  He told us he objected massively to being dragged in here on his day off when he should have been in the park playing with his kids.  Without us calling him a thief (ladron in Spanish) he said he objected to us all calling him a thief.

We told him that we only wanted the phone back.  The only think we care about is the phone and getting it back.  He made an off hand comment that maybe it would show up in the next few days in the building?

Ivan came in heavier at the end of the meeting telling Carl that the polygraph test was on Wednesday and that this kind of thing goes on your permanent record and will affect you getting new jobs.  He told Carl that we knew the British Embassy and that we would be calling the police if it wasn’t returned.

Carl went quiet and the meeting ended.  As we left I stopped and stared at Carl until he looked up.  He hadn’t once gained eye contact with me until that point.  In a loud, assertive and confident tone I said “All I care about is the phone; do you understand me?”   He nodded and looked down.

​Now the game was truly on.  I knew he stole it.

Overly friendly and weird

The next two days were some of the strangest ever.  The man we knew stole our phone was at work in our building supposedly keeping us safe.  Before this had happened he scowled at us and was on the edge of rude.  Afterwards he turned turbo-friendly.

He welcomed us in the Building.  He said he hoped we got the phone back.

The next day he came over to give us an update on the polygraph tests coming the next day and said they were looking for it.  He asked us which room number we lived in and then left smiling.

They were two of the strangest days.  When we had a problem with the gas for the communal tumble dryers he was the one that came and fixed it for us.   We didn’t know what to do!  Smile, take a selfie with the thief or demand our phone back!

The administrator meeting

Seven days after the phone was stolen we got a call from the administrator telling us to come to a meeting at 2pm in the meeting room.

We arrived and there was small talk and awkward moments.  We dialled in Dani for translation help in case we didn’t understand.  After 10 minutes of the meeting they said the phone had been found.  We looked in disbelief.

Why hadn’t they given it back yet?  Why did they wait so long in the meeting?  Was it destroyed? Damaged?

The building administrator pulled a plastic bag out of her pocket and told us that is had been found by the bins.  She asked us if it was our phone.

It was!  The protective case was gone but it was our phone!  We couldn’t believe it!  I took a picture of Katie with the phone to prove it!

Picture

Katie ten minutes after her stolen phone was returned after 7 days missing.
Then the meeting took a decidedly strange turn as Ivan asked if he could have a selfie with all of us and the returned phone.  Here it is:

Picture

Katie and I with the returned phone, Ivan the security supervisor, the interior designer for the building and the administrator.
I am still in shock we got the phone back.  I can’t believe it

What did we learn?

  • Persistence pays – When you know something isn’t right, when you want to achieve something important, when you feel like this thing needs doing then persistence is an incredible tool in your tool belt. Once I knew there were cameras in the building I was not letting go until I had seen the video.  It didn’t matter how much they lied to me, fobbed me off or evaded my questions I was going to get those tapes (how 90s am I calling them tapes?).  Where do you need to apply more persistence in your life?
  • Never accept what people tell you first time if you get the feeling it is wrong – so many times we give others the benefit of the doubt (and we should) or we doubt ourselves in the face of certainty from others, but when you believe you are right, you have to stand up for it.  I have been in court faced with a judge that knew less than me about the law, he ruled against me and if I had accepted his certainty, his bullshit I would never have defended my family home from the debt my dad created.  If you have a feeling the person is wrong, press in, do research, work things out.  In this instance I just knew it was lies about where the video was kept and I had to press through the bullshit to get where I needed to get.  Where are you accepting what other people are saying when you shouldn’t?
  • Trust your feelings and instincts – this one is TOUGH in the face of competing evidence.  Both Katie and I got a bad feeling about Carl the security guard before the phone incident ever happened.  After seeing the tape we were 100% certain it was him but even with proof and certainty we still started to doubt ourselves and our feelings because of what other people said, because of our training to give the benefit of the doubt to others.  It is so important to take the time to work out what you believe and then trust yourself. Take a moment to go somewhere quiet, close your eyes and breath, allow yourself to understand your feelings and instincts and connect with them.
  • Use many angles of leverage – if there is something you want to achieve there are normally many, many different ways to do it.  You need to push forward on multiple fronts and use different angles if you are going to get where you want to get to.  The opposite of this is sending one email, making one phone call and then waiting to find out what happens next.  We were persistent and pressured AirBnb, the security team, the building administrators, the AirBnB host and anyone else we could find.  We put a huge amount of pressure on to resolve this issue.
    This created different angles of leverage that we were able to expand upon with Carl.  All these people wanted to resolve the situation plus there was the impending polygraph test, threat of it going on his permanent record and the police.  We had a huge range of leverage that we applied to the situation.  Is there something you want to achieve in your life that you need to find more angles of leverage to apply? Who else can you call? What else can you do?
  • Ask your friends for help – The people in your life care about you and quite often have some amazing skills.  Take my wonderful business partner Simon Paine for example; he is an ex-detective, coach & global business owner; the man has skills.  I need to ask him for ideas and support.  There are people who have skills in your life that want to see you succeed.  Ask them for ideas, ask them for help.  When I am asked for help I feel honoured and trusted.  We asked Dani from the Rebel team and he was incredible translating, supporting and putting pressure on the security team.  We asked Simon, the AirBnB host and more.  Never be afraid to ask for help.  Where do you need more support in your life at the moment?
  • Never give up – If you want to achieve something, if you want to make something happen then do it.  Never give up.  Most people would have reported this incident to the police and then waited.  Katie and I pushed through a lot of bullshit and challenges and we were not prepared to let go. If the phone was gone, the phone was gone but I was not going to let go of seeing the CCTV video and once I knew who it was there was no way I was letting go!  A never give up attitude is an incredible asset in your life when faced with challenges, issues and problems.  Have faith, back yourself and keep on going despite everything.   Where in your life do you need to go back at something?  Is there some one you need to call again?  Something you need to push further?

What I have yet to balance in my mind

I don’t want you to think the Donegans have it all sorted though!  lol

The thing I am struggling with at the moment (maybe you can help me with it in the comments) is the balance between being in harmony with the universe and fighting it.

To fight the battles I told you about above I have to use one of the most powerful tools I have which is anger.  However there is a huge cost to my energy, my mental health and the stress it puts on my body.  I feel out of wack with the universe as I fight the people around me.

How much do you go with the flow to have an easy life, take the universe’s signs and live a stress free life?

Or do you decide you aren’t going to accept the way things are?  You aren’t going to accept that someone tells you something is impossible and you are going to fight and change the system, the rules, the process?

Progress relies on the unreasonable people

I know that if I want things to change then I have to be unreasonable.  If I am reasonable and accept “that is just how things are” then nothing will change and nothing will improve.

I don’t accept when AirBnB tells me that it isn’t their fault that their hosts put fake computer generated photos on their site and misrepresent properties.  I don’t accept when Microsoft’s products fail continuously when I have spent a fortune on them.  I don’t accept when someone steals my phone and I can’t get the CCTV tapes.

I am going to be unreasonable and ask for things to change.  There is a cost though as this puts me out of wack with the universe. This puts me into fight mode battling giant organisations (that need standing up to) and takes a huge amount of my reserves and mental energy.

Where is the balance between going with the flow and being in tune with the universe and fighting, battling and being unreasonable because you are un-willing to accept the way things are.

I haven’t found it yet.  I am still working on it.  Maybe you have some thoughts and comments that you can give me to help me?  I would love to hear your perspectives.

Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for joining my mailing list and being part of the Rebel gang.  You rock.  Go be at least 37% unreasonable and fight to create a better world………

​Alan

Join the Donegan mailing list

Leave A Comment

Related Articles

  • life journal

    By Published On: May 17, 2022

    Nearly falling of a mountain, launching Rebel Finance School, visiting coffee farms to start a Rebel Coffee brand, picking a fight with the banks and so much more.  The Donegans have been busy and learning lots along the way. This post is rather egotistically about us (my most uncomfortable subject) and what we have learnt [...]

  • \n\n, life journal, overcome fear, take action

    By Published On: March 10, 2022

    I am sat outside a café, sipping a hot americano in the sunshine of Mexico.  I have every reason to be happy but I am not.  I am sad and down and unmotivated to do anything.   I beat myself up because I have everything that everyone could ever want; and more and yet I still [...]

  • life journal

    By Published On: March 5, 2022

    In 2018 for my Mum's 70th birthday we took her to Venice, Italy.  On a bright, beautiful day in Venice, I was sat on my own next to the grand canal with my note book doing a goal setting process.  As I sat with the sound of the boats going past and an Italian espresso [...]