Smiling Through Pain


“I’ll race you and win by throwing sweet potatoes on the side of the track.”

I’ve returned back to that joke several times since learning of your departure. To think that in your last moments at Brighton you were still able to laugh. To then think that basically everyone is going through something, and that only the best among us can keep smiling in spite the pain.

Yes, I saw you as the “best among us.” Never has my ambition been lower than the moment I first comprehended the insanity of your schedule. Up early. Up late. Meeting to meeting with no time to prepare, yet audiences always expecting that you would be “on.”

And you were. My favorite recurring meeting was unquestionably the beautifully branded “Dirty Dozen.” It was my favorite, of course, because of your presence.

In most meetings, if I knew 80% of a topic, I could get away with it. Because even if someone raised a question I hadn’t considered, I could, relying on my 80% knowledge and general reasoning, outthink him to the answer or some other satisfying conclusion.

This was not true with you; if I was in any way unprepared, I would lose the sprint to a solution. Knowing this, a level of thoroughness and deep thinking was required in preparation. In other words, your involvement meant I would be held to a standard of excellence I always strive to achieve. I cherished this.

Here’s something else I considered after seeing your life in action: I can’t believe you met me for multiple lunches. How did you ever have the time?

Even as I’m equipped with supreme self-confidence, I never lost the feeling that I needed to prove I was a worthwhile hire. This desire was in part fueled by the gratitude I possess for the opportunity you made possible through those random lunches and what I assume was some “vote of confidence” in choosing to interview me.

Which all makes the current moment so sad to me. I hope you are doing okay. I know there is much I don’t know about all the machinations leading to the present outcome. I do know this: you made me better and I thank you for that.

I would love to revive the Friedman’s lunch tradition. I was actually planning to request a lunch next month as I wanted to learn more of your leadership philosophies. I still do.

When you have some availability, just let me know, and I’ll make it happen.

Again, thanks.