Writing about the five people who have most influenced my life is like walking through dimly lit, dusty aisles of an ancient library to extract tidbits from time. It is, in the end, easy of course. It starts in my early years, at the knee of my father whose mantra and life path was "Do unto others . . .," and became an integral part of who I am. The simple precept of the golden rule seems so abstract to many people I encounter on a daily basis as I navigate life from my "advanced wisdom." I remember hearing early on in my real estate career, "Do unto others before they do unto you." A sad commentary from folks who appear to the outside world to be successful.
Dad taught me many things in his black and white life. You are nothing without integrity. Stand behind your word. Be authentic. What he taught me when he didn't know I was looking, was how proud he was of me. I walking into his store one afternoon to see him showing a customer a pad of my artwork. His beaming smile told a story he'd never shared with me. Though he left me way too soon, his lessons continued even beyond the grave, and for them I am eternally most grateful.
Uncle Harry and I shared this planet for what felt like a minute. He died of a massive heart attack when I was six, but by then he'd shown me the kind of love I've spent the rest of my life trying to replicate. He was the guy who walked into the house, slapping his knees for me to jump into his arms for an unabashed display of the purest affection. My personal Santa Claus, he would always find just the perfect gift that sat like a beacon on Christmas morning. There was the Singer sewing machine with a dark blue lacquer finish and a lock stitch that fostered my lifelong love of sewing and creating beauty in the world. And the skates, with the key to tighten them just enough so I wouldn't break my neck. This magical man saw into the soul of a child and created a presence I can still feel any time I close my eyes.
My son David has brought me to a height of bliss, where I thought my heart would burst, only to be followed by rivers of tears as he suffered his setbacks, taking me right along for the ride. As any parent knows, there is no greater love in this world than that which we share with our children . . . unless it is the incredible gift of grandparenthood.
Art Kaufman was my first real broker (even though I spent a month working in a different office when I first got into real estate). More than once, during an office meeting, Art would say "the problem with most of you is you don't value yourselves, so how can you possibly sell that value to someone else." I understood as soon as I'd been in the business long enough to know what I was doing, that I brought great value to the table. In addition to the expertise, I've always cared more about the client's outcome than my own, therefore, always doing the right thing is easy and a foregone conclusion.
Allen F. Hainge invited me to join his CyberStar group years ago and took me on an odyssey filled with wonder. It fed my never ending thirst for knowledge and need to find that better mousetrap. He was one of the visionaries in our field and he put together an incredible group of like minded people whose goal it was to help each other grow and prosper. But, more than any business related thing I learned from him, the end of his life impacted me most. This leader of men brought me to tears with the grace with which he faced a difficult road. He continued teaching the rest of us life's greater lessons till the day he drew his last breath. So, Allen, if you're standing by as I write this, sending you hugs, you da best.
The Under The Influence challenge asks us to share negative experiences and how they positively impacted our lives, so here goes. I face negative and/or insidious people every day in this real estate world that I love. Though their well placed daggers occasionally draw blood, they teach me each and every time what I don't want to be. The ladder they climb, sometimes on the backs of others, is made of wood. It is rotten from the core and can and will one day crumble beneath them. I wish them soft landings.
I learned a very great lesson from a man I loved with all my heart many years ago. He was inordinately bright, funny as hell, extremely successful and extraordinarily caring. The problem, discovered over time, was he didn't exist. In reality, his persona, much like a Hollywood set, was little more than facade. His words were figments of his imagination, at least the ones that mattered. Once I got past the horror and devastation of it all, I found me. Once again, I knew exactly what I didn't want, and what I had to have. Was it easy to walk away? No, but another thing I've learned on this circuitous path I travel, nothing in life worth having is guaranteed to be easy.