I’ve spent much of the past 20 years on airplanes. The longer the flight, the better it is. More time to think, create, write and refuel.
In a world of such attraction to distraction, it’s one of the few sacred places left to enjoy innovation borne of solitude. And the opportunity to reflect.
And yet, I’ve also had wonderful conversations with fascinating people at 50,000 feet. A few weeks ago, on a flight over to Bucharest for a public event for 1400 amazing Romanians, I was blessed to sit next to a man with an original point of view. He was open and warm and thoughtful.
For whatever reason, I’m meeting so many like this, these days. I asked him who was the leader who had had the greatest impact on him. He replied that it was one of the top people at the pharma company he’d worked for. I asked him why.
“Robin, he was just one of those human beings you get to meet two or three times in a lifetime.”
My new gold standard. To radiate the decency, humanity, excellence and authenticity required for people to say, on my end, that they’d only witnessed a handful of times over the course of their lives.
My seatmate went on the celebrate this man’s ability to remember everyone’s name, to ask after their families, to see the learning chances when they failed, to collaborate versus isolate on the team and to essentially be the kind of leader we all wish we could be.
A lifter of others. A builder of quality. A galvanizer of dreams.
Then today, as I walked the street near my office on a pristine late Summer’s day, I met a man I’d had lunch with years ago. I was just beginning my career in the leadership/high-performance arena. He was an icon of business. And yet, in a stroke of pure graciousness, he happily agreed to my invitation.
I still don’t know why.
Maybe because he loves to learn from every experience. Perhaps because he wanted to help. Probably because he’s just a really good person.
His name is Harry Rosen. Started his first shop in 1954. With a $500 down-payment. Grew it into something legendary. And yet, even at the top, he walked the floors of his various stores. Shook the hands of those who put food on his table and made the connections that being in business is meant to make.
On the street, there in the sunshine, maybe 15 years after our lunch, he remembered me well. I was humbled. A little astounded. Definitely moved.
Mr. Rosen shared he’d finally retired. And was engaged in new exciting things. He then spent 15 minutes asking about me, my work, the life I’d lived since our first encounter. I tried to turn the spotlight onto him. Out of respect for an elder. Out of honor for all he’s done. But I failed.
He was just too curious and interested and kind.
The kind of person I hope people will say I was, when I get to the end.