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A chance is the best gift of all.

10 Mar

On that morning I awoke and lay in my bed staring up at the ceiling. I had almost no energy, my body felt heavy and I just wanted to lie there. A deep despair filled my body. Each time I took a breath anxiety seemed to take the place of the air that normally filled my lungs. My chest was tight and I felt a horrid dread.

 I had a job many people would consider adequate but I hated it….no, actually I didn’t hate my job…what I hated was my place in the world. I was lost and losing. How had I come to this?

The following is a true story.

What was I going to do?  I had so many hopes and dreams for my life and always just expected things would work out for me. When I looked around I could see my peers getting the breaks I felt I deserved and I didn’t even know what I was supposed to be or do with my life. I was lost. I felt ashamed and began to wonder if I was going to be the one they’d tell stories about. In retrospect I realize it was on that day that I began my hero’s journey.

 When I’m lost I pray to God for help. I believe in God …even if there are times when I can’t seem to find him anywhere. In the evenings, when I was alone with my fears, I would pray for help. The more I prayed the more I realized that I had no idea what I really wanted…all I knew was that I didn’t want what I had. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be or where I would even begin to look for it. I didn’t know what success was really BUT I was sure I would know it if ever happened to me.

 When I was a very young boy, about five or six, my mother took me to an office where she worked. I didn’t remember what she did there but what I did remember was the building seemed huge to me and the people all appeared like giant ants running everywhere. My mom introduced me around and when we got to one office in particular my Mom introduced me to a man sitting behind a desk. He had the biggest office and when we walked in the room I noticed that the windows had a greenish tint to them that gave the entire room a sort of soft greenish hue.  As I stood there I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin  and remembered looking into the rays of sunlight showing through the windows and seeing dust particulates hover as if suspended in time, waiting there to be disturbed by someone’s breath or someone walking through them on the way to another part of the room.

 I didn’t know this man’s name, I had no idea who he was or what he did but his office was bigger than all the others and had the green hue in it. It just seemed more important than the rest and he felt like a “big man” and I never forgot the impression it left with me.

So one night as I was praying for help I began to picture this man’s office in my head. I wasn’t praying for a particular thing or job… I was praying for a place, a feeling, an image of what I thought a successful man’s office would look like. Anything would beat where I was at that point. 

For the next several months I prayed nearly every night and for the next several months nothing happened. I mean, I was a good person…right?  I never cheated anyone…why not me I’d say? Where are you God?  Eventually, I stopped praying and slowly began to settle back into the mediocrity that was my life. Occasionally, I would have a sort of panic attack but it would only last a second or two and after a little while I slowly began getting accustomed to lowering my expectations. It wasn’t long before I was right back into the rut where I had started.    

 Then about six months later the strangest thing happened.

One evening I was watching TV and the phone rang. When I answered I immediately recognized the voice on the other end to be that of a man named Chris Dona. I had met Chris several years earlier on a sports project I was involved with but we hadn’t spoken since and I actually didn’t know him all that well. What I did remember about Chris was that he was a real player in corporate America. He was a former senior executive at both Bosch and Lomb and Hasbro Toys and while my interactions with him were brief, he made a big impression and I admired him and looked up to him.

We talked about small stuff for a few minutes until I could not take it anymore so I asked him….”why are you calling me?” He laughed and said, “what… I can’t call an old buddy?”  I knew I wasn’t old or his buddy so I said “sure but why are you calling me” …we laughed for a few seconds and then he said he was calling to see if I was interested in coming to work for him? I was stunned! “What do you do” I asked? He said he was the Vice Chairman of one of the five largest senior level retained executive search firms in the country. That sounded very impressive to me…but I still didn’t know what he did?   

“What do you guys do” I asked again? He explained that they were retained by major corporations around the world to recruit their top executive leadership talent. The more he explained what the company did the more it became clear to me that I was exactly the wrong guy for the job. I mean, seriously, this was the big time, the major leagues and I could barely pay my bills. What is this guy thinking about…I said to myself.

 At one point I laughed and told Chris I was glad he had called but I was worried he may have mistaken me for one of the other guys he met along the way. Seriously… I had never worked in corporate America. I didn’t know anyone who did. I had no network, no rolodex (that’s what we called it back then) and wouldn’t have the slightest idea how and where to start…and to be honest …start what..I still didn’t really understand what they did or how they got paid.

He listened and then went on to tell me that they “sell” services to the top executives in corporate America.  He said the particular service is unimportant…we need business development experts who can get us in the door. He went on to say that when we worked together he saw something special in me. ”You saw something special in me…what” I asked…”what do you see?”…I needed to know.  He said, “you have a natural way of getting people to trust you and gaining trust effortlessly.”  He added, “I can teach you the business but what you have can’t be taught. If you let me I’ll teach you the business and I guarantee that you will be a success if you give it a try.”

 Wow…me a success. Let’s do it!

Fast forward about one year.

I had now been at the firm for little under a year and I was knocking the ball out of the park. How I did specifically is another great story and for another blog post later. But for now all you need to know is that I was “crushing it!” I was one of the five highest producers in my class. I was the only one invited onto the firm’s senior operating committee and I was honored and respected by my peers. I had arrived. That morning the Managing Director of the office where I worked (Wash DC) asked me if I would like to go with him on a few appointments and to check out our new office space that was almost complete.  I was excited. Our new offices were right by the White House in DC and some of the best and most prestigious office space in the city.

I remember walking into the new space and noting the smell of new paint on the walls. I stood marveling at all the wood detail, our company name on the lobby wall in big fancy letters, the glass walls, beautiful carpets, big desks, huge conference rooms and leather chairs everywhere. It was really something to see. Naturally, I was curious about my office and as we walked around the Managing Director pointed down the hall to the three doors on the right and said “that’s yours.”  It was exciting and my mind began to race as I started towards the office that would be mine. When I arrived at the door to my office I froze in my tracks.

I was there! I was staring into the office I had prayed for just a year earlier.  The desk, the chair, the carpet and yes…the green hue from the tinted windows. Tears filled my eyes and I just stood there soaking it in. As I stood there my mind flashed back and I felt my mother standing next to me.

 Before I left there for greener pastures  I was among the firm’s elite. I had served as the Managing Director, Los Angeles, and was a Practice President, Gaming and Hospitality. I was selected to the “super performance” committee and was made the chairman of the strategic reengineering project. I sat on the national dispute resolution committee and was eventually offered one of the top executive positions in the firm by the chairman and I had earned the respect of my peers. Not bad from where I started.

I often think what my life would be like if Chris hadn’t called me that night. I wonder…was it all just big coincidence or something much more powerful. 

Now I know many of you won’t believe the story and of those that do some will chalk it up to nothing more than a neat coincidence. I am not so sure. I prayed for help and I was sent an opportunity. Since that time my life has still had its ups and downs but it has lead me to a deep truth and that is that whatever I achieve in this world it will be with the help of others. 

It’s funny; I don’t talk to Chris very often these days. We remain friends but life has taken us in different directions. We have both long since left where we worked together and Chris has gone on to be a success in many things. I have stayed close to the business but there is not a day that goes by when I don’t wonder about how he is doing.

Leadership has many benefits…none more important and powerful than the ability to give someone else the chance they need to realize their potential… and their dreams. “A chance” is a powerful thing to give someone.  So I ask you…pick up the phone. Give someone a call. I can almost guarantee there is someone out there praying you will call them …even if they do not know it was you they were praying for.

 Thank you Chris…wherever you are!



Injuries force changes to my training!

2 Jun

I hyper-extended my left elbow last Tuesday and have been unable to spar or hit the bag or really use it at all in the past few days. I went to a sports orthopedist who diagnosed me with severely strained elbow tendons and recommended I delay the fight. I will not. I’ve been icing it down every night, getting sport massage daily and taking the anti-inflammatory medication the doctor prescribed for me.  

In the meantime, I’ve been focused on  my cardio, mid-section, head movement and footwork. While it’s always best to spar as much as possible, in this case I need to be creative and overcome the delay and use it to my advantage. I’m trying to do exactly that. I expect to be sparring again by the end of this week.

I’m really feeling the pain right now and trying to keep it together. 

Leadership lesson:  Sometimes the best laid plans go off track. When that happens we must try and overcome, adapt and  improvise.  

Weight: 188lbs


You can’t just want it…you have to “hurt” for it!

28 May

My fifth sparring session went better although I’m still worried about my endurance. I seem to be slowing far faster than I had in years past and it’s concerning me…a lot. I’ll pick up my cardio even more this week. On the other hand, I was sharper last night than I have been and I am starting to put things together and feel more in control. I’m seeing things much better as well and, overall, I’m feeling better. Since the last sparring session I’ve sparred with two other fighters, each with his own style, and one of them really worked me over until I figured him out. That was quite humbling.

Injury report: Lots of bumps and bruises. My elbows have been very badly hyper-extended and are extremely painful. I am soaking them in a ice bucket in en evenings but they are causing me real trouble….pain is just part of this process and I need to find a way to work around it.

Weight: 189lbs  (need 178lbs for tournament)

What’s next: You think you’ve trained your abs before. Watch next time for the abs workout of your nightmares.

Leadership lesson: Progress can be slow and painful…you just have to keep pushing.

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