Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Significance of the Insignificant

Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys. - Emma Bull

Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. - Albert Einstein

In the middle of a hectic business schedule and planning out a cross-country move, I received this email yesterday from a long time friend whom I will identify as L.M.  L.M. wrote to me after reading one of my posts about 9/11 where I remembered common friends of ours, specifically Narender Nath and Eric Bennett, who were both lost on 9/11.

I am a survivor of 9/11.  I woke up that day with a terrible headache that day that made me 15 minutes late for the ferry. I watched the smoke rise from Tower 1 and stood on the deck of the Ferry and watched as the second plane flying so low we could see people in the windows fly up the length of the tower 2 and fly into the building.

Those 15 minutes saved me. I would have been in the elevator going to my assignment somewhere in a conference room on one of those floors blown out by the plane.

I was doing some strategy work for Lehman at the time through Cap.

I read what you wrote about Narender and I remember Eric's happy smile and I think we survived for them. To give them light.

I only hope we do them justice.


Despite a hectic, complicated schedule, this email caused me to stop and reflect on my years on Wall St. as I do from time to time, remembering the great people I have been blessed to work with there.

I started telling the person sitting next to me about some of those people and I bombarded the person with funny stories.  As I told the stories, I named a specific individual and I paused.  His initials are also L.M. (curiously enough) and doesn’t know the L.M. who wrote to me.

Suddenly I felt the need to reach out to him even though I haven’t seen him in 10 years, decided to call him the next day and then realized I needed to call him now.

Caller ID on L.M.’s phone ruined my surprise call to him and we reconnected effortlessly as is often the case with people who are connected on deeper levels than one can often explain or describe.  He said something that I hear frequently when I feel compelled to call someone – “I was just thinking about you. I can’t believe you are calling me at this moment.”


I don’t think so.

We caught up quickly and then he said something that struck me.

L.M. told me he had just finished a job interview with a prospective employer in N.Y. and interestingly enough, the group he was hoping to work with was being run by a well-known, highly respected man that I know well.

When I worked with L.M. over 20 years ago, the young man who is now running the group that L.M. hopes to join had joined us as a quiet, thoughtful, brilliant new addition to the IT industry.  Myself and a colleague named Bill were assigned to mentor him and as L.M. and I joked yesterday, anyone assigned to Bill and I quickly had any shyness or quietness “beat out of the them” while retaining a respectful, intelligent approach to problems and people.

And now a circle has the potential to be closed as L.M., a brilliant, sensitive, compassionate man in his own right has the opportunity to “close a circle” by working for the man I mentored so long ago.

As we discussed this odd “coincidence” yesterday, L.M. said something else that moved me deeply.  His wife had died in 1996 and he said that my support and guidance then had helped carry him and prevent him from doing something stupid.  I didn’t know my impact on him then until yesterday.

All these years later, L.M. once again found himself in a difficult place that he has an opportunity to lift himself from if he secures this opportunity with the man whom I mentored.

L.M. said to me, “That’s twice your influence has appeared in my Life when darkness was present.  This call has lifted me into the stratosphere.  There is no way this is a coincidence that I have this opportunity to work for someone you mentored and that you are calling me just as the opportunity has appeared.“

We chatted for a while and after we hung up, I sat back and reflected on what I had just experienced.

Twenty plus years ago, he was one of many clients and the man he hopes to work for was one of many colleagues.  At the time, I wasn’t thinking that my day-to-day actions would mean anything for either one of them.  After all, in the busy world that many of us live in, we often don’t realize what a powerful impact (good or bad) we are having on people until we get reminders like the one that I received yesterday.

More than twenty years later, a man whom I admire immensely has an opportunity to work with another man whom I admire immensely, two men whom I have influenced in ways that at the time seemed unimportant.

But they are important to L.M. right now.

L.M. and I talked about God’s providence versus coincidence.

If I were to calculate the probability of the “coincidences” that L.M. and I were talking about, I would no doubt come to a realization that such an event couldn’t happen.

But it did.

How do you explain that?

And so I am reminded of how profound the impact of simple actions can be and that greater things are at work in our Lives than we can understand.

By the same token, the first L.M. who started this whole process yesterday by writing a simple email to me created a profound moment for the second L.M. and myself.  I doubt the first L.M. had any idea that their email would have launched the moments that subsequently unfolded.


I don’t think so.

What do you think?

It reminds me to be more in the moment because we rarely know what impact we are having and more times than not, will never know.

Unless we have reminders like the one I received yesterday.

Are you cognizant of the impact you are having as you make your way through your busy Life?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

It matters.

Create a great day for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

You are not just creating a great day!

You are creating the potential for a great future.

In service and servanthood,


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