Pay It Forward

Have you received important support in your professional (or personal) life from an unlikely source, beyond family and close friends? I have... and it has committed me to "paying it forward."

I haven't had the good fortune of many strong mentors in my career... which probably at least partially explains why I'm much happier running my own show than playing the corporate game.

And then last year, while struggling to get my new ventures business off the ground, and just when I truly needed a supporter, synchronicity brought Jeff Jacober into my life. I was introduced by a casual acquaintance and during one of my trips to the area (on a whim), called on Jeff to explain my business and learn more about his.

Long story short, here was a man who has started dozens of companies and was highly successful, now investing his time and energy in me. He hired me to start up and run a new business for him on an interim basis. He paid me to accompany him and his senior team to Anguilla for three days of "strategic planning," traveling on his private plane and staying at his home there. He drew me into his organizational chart at that meeting, virtually committing to my company being a long term strategic partner for his business.

I heard only later that I wasn't the only recipient of his investment and confidence. His pilot was originally his air conditioner repairman. His top sales person was previously a bartender at a local pub. When he saw a spark of energy or passion in someone, he had a habit of investing in them and nurturing their personal growth. I had the great fortune to be one of the many recipients of this man's kindness and friendship.

Jeff was tragically killed in that same plane a few months back, along with his wife and youngest child. His premature passing affected me much more deeply than I ever would have expected for someone I knew for less than a year.

But I'm thankful for the chance to have known him, for it's committed me to looking beyond my own business success and ensure that I'm carrying on his kindness through my own acts of selflessness. I hope to be able to live up to the example he's left for me.

If you have the good fortune to be the recipient of this kind of mentoring and support, recognize it for what it is... synchronicity that connects us and makes us better. And most important, be sure to pay it forward.

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  • roger fulton

    This entry has given me a chance to thank one of the kindest human beings I've ever met--my lawyer in Denver. Won't give you his name for obvious reasons.
    When my late wife and I sued a former employer for breach of employment contract, he was young and idealistic. He was the kind of guy who lost sleep over ideas. You have to love a man like that.
    Well, we lost and I was in hock to him for legal fees which we agreed would be paid over a period of time. Sometime had passed, my wife and I continued monthly payments, and one Christmas he sent us a note saying the balance was forgiven.
    Just like that -- Merry Christmas, go your way,
    have a nice life. I've been sending him cards on every holiday from national Shoemakers Day to American Twinkle-toed Childrens Day ever since and I've moved around the country alot.
    I've stopped telling lawyer jokes -- even to him. I've paid forward that gesture every chance I get from meals to transients to train tickets to home-less people to blankets to the poor, and extra funds for adoption agencies.
    Pay it Forward...has it helped my "business?"
    I don't know, and I don't care. It's helped me.

  • Steven Morris

    First, I want to thank Mike for sharing this very touching story. It's far too often in the workplace that we feel compelled only to stick to intellectual interests.

    Act of graditude are often overlooked in our busy lives. I'm sure that most of us don't have to look very far for the people that have given us a "leg up" and selfless mentorship. I know for me Mike's entry has inspired me to do more than simply refect on the kindness of others. He has inspired me to act -- reach out and thank those who've help me and pay it forward to others that I can help in turn.

  • Larry Brown

    One of the reasons this works so well is that people who think like this are long term thinkers, and long term successes.

    The business world is so full of people who are oriented to the thought of what's in it for me, right now. Doing things whereby there is nothing, or very little, in it for you right now, but will pay off in the long run, is how people have operated for centuries. The business world changed that for a while, but now it is changing back.

    Larry Brown