The week after the announcement of my termination as Chairman and CEO of TSI was in the WSJ a prominent Boston venture capitalist, who we pitched on numerous occasions but who had never invested, called to assure me there was life after public executions. He offered to invest $2 million from his fund in whatever I decided to do next.
I began watching Steven Spielberg’s movie Hook, where Peter Pan has grown up to be a clever financier who dabbles in mergers and acquisitions, and forgets the essence of his being, until his nemesis Captain Hook steals Peter’s children and forces him to return to Never Land to remember who he is so that he can save his children. I must have watched that movie 20 or 30 times, long after my wife and children grew bored with it, but this was my situation. The movie Hook became a Delphic oracle explaining my fall from grace. Now I needed to rediscover my true identity, decide who to truly be, and find my right occupation for the next stage of my life. From every failure comes new opportunities.
When I was on top of the world, everyone singing my praises, Loretta would remind me: “I know you better than they do and you’re not as smart as they say you are.” When everything fell apart, and the WSJ wrote my obituary, Loretta could now affirm: “I know you better than they do and you’re not as dumb as they say you are.” My family understands me in a way that helps us navigate life’s challenges together. When recovering from my downfall at TSI, Loretta suggested that when school got out we go hiking and camping at Acadia National Park with another Concord couple with kids the same ages as ours. I went reluctantly, but being in nature and hiking cheers me.
The morning of the second day we were there I found myself awaken in the predawn by the singing of birds. So I got up and dressed quietly and made my way to the top of a nearby hill. Watching one of the most beautiful sunrises ever, alone on the hilltop, with the birds singing forth their harbinger of hope, and my family sleeping peacefully below me. I wept. No matter how difficult the fall, or how painful it feels, the sun also rises, and life begins anew.
This was an important further awakening of my spirit on my journey to spiritual maturity.
This is the key to the spiritual discipline of gratitude. When only good things happen to someone, anyone can be grateful for those things, even if people sometimes aren’t. But our joys and sorrows are woven fine together.
If we engage with life we will experience both. If we live life with audacity our joys and sorrows multiply. This is the nature of being human. This third spiritual discipline, which works best when built upon having learned resilience and surrender, is gratitude. Gratitude for life as it is. Gratitude for the good things we seek for ourselves and others. Gratitude for the pain and suffering we endure along the way. Gratitude that we feel, that we suffer, that we endure, and sometimes find new hope. We are not rocks. We are not islands. Because we love we will inevitably be hurt. But we are transformed in the process.