Thursday, October 1, 2009

Plans are fleeting

He zeroed in on me from across the room with a focus that was almost startling.

I’d been here before, so it wasn’t as intimidating as it could have been. The surroundings were new and so were many of the faces, but the story hadn’t changed. Net new assets and share of wallet, you know, the usual.

I stressed for 3 weeks that I wouldn't be accepted back to the company, but they allowed it and I was grateful. Now I was back and reexamining everything with new eyes.

“I’m Michael,” he said extending his hand to shake mine. “You must be the new guy.”

“Yep, that’s me. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

We made small talk and I explained how I was technically a veteran. I’d put in two full years then took some personal time away and now I was back and chomping at the bit to get moving. Typically small talk is scattered, empty and forgettable and I can always tell the instant someone isn’t paying attention any longer. That instant never came with Michael. Despite the buzz of the sales meeting that was taking place around us, to Michael, I was the only person in the room. It was just he and I. When I mentioned I was a licensed futures broker (usually about the time people’s eyes glaze over) Micheal’s eyes exploded with curiosity and the stream of questions followed. For the moment I felt important and I certainly wasn’t used to it.

The sales meeting came to an end shortly thereafter and I had to leave to get back to studying for the Series 66 test. “Don’t take it lightly,” he advised smiling. I thanked him and left.

Throughout the next couple weeks we would pass every once in a while in the hall or in the rest room. I’d met others from the team and they were friendly but Michael stuck out. When we passed in the hall it wasn’t the normal “Hi, how ya doin.” Even the shortest of interactions made me walk away feeling better about my day and about myself.

Monday. September 28. Finally the hour of the Series 66 was upon me. I’d easily sunk 30 hours or more of the last month into my studies and today was the day I put my knowledge to the federally regulated test. After an agonizing hour and a half it was time to click the “grade” button and despite the strong impulse to vomit I clicked without hesitation. I passed.

Exuberant from my victory I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to the office. Michael and I got to the front door at the same time. We greeted each other and bantered a bit about the market and options strategies, Michael intensely focused as usual and I, my normal distanced self. Realizing we both needed to get to work, we made it short and parted ways. As I walked upstairs to the training room I turned and mentioned I had just passed the 66. “That’s reason to celebrate!" he said, the sun shining across his face through the office glass, "We’re really looking forward to having you on the team” he said , and I knew he meant it.

Michael was killed in a car accident Wednesday morning September 30th on his way to work. He was 25 and left behind a fiancé and a 2-year-old daughter.

I really didn’t know Michael that well. The combined time we spent interacting was probably less than 15 minutes, but in those 15 minutes he was able to leave an impression on me that will not fade quickly.

If there is anything I can take away from this, it’s that even the small interactions we have with people are meaningful.

Don’t take opportunities for granted. In a matter of seconds you have the power to make somebody feel important, to feel special, to feel loved. In doing so, even if they are your last couple seconds, they will be wisely used.

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