If you glanced at my résumé you might assume that the high point of my life was at age thirty-three, being appointed as the president of Oberlin College. But something more significant than anything on my résumé happened a few years after I’d left that job. My awakening, in a shabby Greenwich Village phone booth, marked the beginning of a quest that would culminate, decades later.
I was awaiting a call from a foundation executive with whom I’d done business while at Oberlin. Despite my changed circumstances—no institutional tie, no office, no title, no secretary, not even a phone—as a former insider I knew how easy it is for someone with the right connections to score a grant for almost anything.
As the end of the business day approached and the phone did not ring, my hope faded, it hit me: I had become a nobody—exiled and invisible. It was not that the executive owed me a yes; it was that he’d broken his promise to call. In that moment, I knew that my dignity would never be secure and that so long as anyone’s dignity is at risk, everyone’s is.
Early on I learned that whether playing football or marketing a business the message was the same. “This is war. It’s a zero sum game that you not only need to win, but increase your portion of the pie by squeezing your opponents down to nothing.”
I got pretty darn good at setting my sights and plunging into battle. I knew that advertising was a self-centered, one-way message, and it lied. Although I became as successful in business as I had been on the gridiron there lurked an emptiness in my gut. Something was missing.
When I began inhaling books that described businesses that operated with more than one bottom line, I got hooked.
Have you noticed the power and magical quality we give to worry? For many people, not worrying is equated being uncaring or naïve. Michael, my partner, has told me on many occasions, “Don’t worry; it will all work out.” I would always reply, “Yes, but how?” He would say, “I don’t know, but I know it will.”
Worry has been the bane of my existence. During a spiritual practice that I recently engaged in with two friends, I realized that worry disconnects me from the happiness and serenity that are in my heart.