Do You Remember?
Do you remember where you were Tuesday, September 11th, 2001?
I had a number of ideas to write about this week but, frankly, they all pale into insignificance compared to what happened that day.
This is a particularly poignant week for many of us – particularly if you have ever worked in the world of Investment Banking – and so I’m not going to apologise for being reflective this week; it is a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves.
A small number of us weren’t even born then.
A large number of us wouldn’t have yet started work, we’d still have been at school or college, oblivious to the terrible event that was about to unfold.
Others were at the very height of our careers, though we may not have realised it at the time.
Even LinkedIn was, most likely, just a glint in Reid Hoffman's eye.
But most of us can remember where we were on that day – at school or college, at our places of work or at home with the children.
Moreover, most of us will remember exactly where we were standing at the very moment – 9.02 am EST - when we heard the breaking news that Flight 11 had crashed into the North Tower.
For the next few hours and days, we could scarcely believe what we were witnessing on the news or – if you were unfortunate enough to be in lower Manhattan that day – what was happening right in front of your eyes.
I was working in mid-town Manhattan at the time, partnering with our largest Investment Banking client to launch the US operation of an IT Disaster Recovery services firm specialising in Financial Services. Many of my clients and friends at Morgan Stanley, CSFB, Merrill Lynch were based in the World Trade Center.
I commuted to New York almost every week; outbound on the 06.50 Monday mornings, in my office for client meetings 11 am EST and returning home to leafy Guildford Friday afternoons (a very different era for expense claims).
I made that trip 63-times!
B y an incredible stroke of luck, the week of 9/11 I happened to be working out of our London offices, presenting business plans, sales pipeline, together with risks (sic) and issues.
2-days after the attacks and still in shock, I left a client meeting in the City of London to go home early that day. I had promised my eldest son - then aged six - that I'd watch him play for the school football team back home in Guildford. Driving around Hyde Park Corner, I received a call from our MD, telling me that we had a customer "in trouble" and that they needed to see us immediately. I told him, per my calendar, that I was on my way back home to watch my son play football. My MD (with no children) was angry. He even asked me why was I leaving work early "just" to go watch a child's football match?me
Because I’d made a promise.
My eldest son made an innocent comment and reminded me what should have been uppermost in my mind (don’t they have a knack for this?) the previous Sunday night when I’d just finished reading him his bedtime story (Harry Potter, no doubt)
I kissed him good night and, as he rolled over to go to sleep, he whispered:
"See you next weekend Dad."
Talk about a body blow. I felt physically sick as it dawned on me that Michael had gotten so used to Daddy being away all week, that he’d just assumed I was away yet again and he’d have to wait until the following weekend before I could read him the next chapter of Philosopher's Stone.
He didn’t know it at the time (or did he?) but my eldest son had taught me probably the greatest lesson I could ever have learned and that is to cherish the relationships with those closest to us above all else in this world.
Simon Sinek is absolutely right when he says we should Start With WHY?
A Hard Lesson Learned
Working hard, being away all the time, simply in order to buy a nicer house, cars, jewellery, capital accumulation, that’s all just “stuff”; at the end of the day, it’s our relationships with people that truly define our wealth in this world – everything else is surely a distant second place.
my ego for travelling the world in 1st class was undermining the relationship with my children
Right then, right there, in that precise moment, I had decided what my priorities would be in future.
I know in my heart that it was the right thing to do, that customer meeting could surely have waited until the following day.
Pewley Down's 3 pm kick-off, however, waits for nobody.
A Beautiful Game
So, I went to the game. I don’t remember who won, let alone what the score was but I do remember being 1 of the few parents there. I had kept my promise. I felt good about that and I hope my son did too.
There are (hopefully) very few occasions where the future comes down to 1 "pivotal moment" but this was just such an example.
Whilst life has hardly been a bed of roses since then, I'm really glad I made that particular decision. It brought me a new perspective on life.
A few years later, I was and humbled to watch my eldest cross the finish line in the Barcelona Marathon (pictured left); he also went on to graduate with a Masters in Economics from a top University #prouddad
Lehman Brothers on the other hand...
You'll be glad you did.
Wishing you a Marvel-lous weekend with those closest to you.