A former colleague, Marcus, sent me a Facebook “friend” request. I hadn’t seen him for years. We’d been very close when we worked together.
“How about coffee or a drink?” he wrote.
“Absolutely. I’d love to see you,” I replied. “It’s been way too long. When do you have some time?”
“This week is crazy,” he said. “I’m flying to California on Monday, back on Wednesday on the red-eye. So this week is shot.”
“Some things haven’t changed. Your schedule was always busy.”
“Yes, and now it’s worse, if you can imagine that. I’ve been so swamped I can’t even get to a lunch with my daughter. It’s been crazy.”
I didn’t know whether to feel happy or sad. After all, he’d always thrived on the non-stop. It seemed to be what he liked best.
Marcus had left the company years ago to start his own business. He ignored failure rate statistics and drew up a business plan. He started with a small two-room office with a Rockefeller Center address and went at it.
When we met in those early days, he encouraged me to do the same.
“You’re smarter than most of the people at that office. You need to get out of there. Just make yourself a plan. Once you have it, you can move forward. Put it together and follow it.”
Marcus made it look easy. He was charismatic and charming. His encouragement drew me in and I began thinking big thoughts.
But days after I left his office, I found myself back in my routine and the security it provided. The steady paycheck and familiar outcomes were too hard to give up.
“Did I tell you I’m moving my office?” Marcus wrote.
“Again?” I replied. “Didn’t you just leave the Rockefeller Center address a couple of years ago?”
“Yes, but now that place is too small and I’d like to be in a different part of town.”
“Wow. Kudos to you. Business must be really great.”
While I was happy for him, I began to strain for cheer. Every bit of good news he sent me made my own heart sink a little. My eyes turned sad.
His success made me ask hard questions that I’d otherwise bury. I’m now more or less where I was when Marcus left the corporate offices all that time ago. Where might I be had I started a plan of my own years ago? I’d done nothing in comparison. Did I really want to see him and face depression?
As my spirits sank, I saw black hole forming ahead. I suddenly put my thoughts on hold.
“I hope to see the new office when it is finished,” I told him, doing my best to regroup and revive my congratulatory spirit. “For now, whatever slot you can slip me into your busy schedule would be great.”
Marcus was still my friend. He’d earned his success. And success can also generate contagious encouragement, the same kind I felt when I first went to see him. Which is what I’ll try to pick up again the next time we meet.