All posts filed under: Resilience

Jim Sherblom in 1961

Discipline One

Discipline One of Six: Resilience My spiritual memoir Spiritual Audacity: Six Disciplines for Human Flourishing is built around six spiritual disciplines of which the first is resilience.  Is this an important discipline in your spiritual life?  How has it become or not become the basis of your flourishing? Resilient people use a well-developed set of skills that help them to control their emotions, attention, and behavior. Self-regulation is important for forming intimate relationships, succeeding at work, and maintaining physical health. —The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté How does spiritual resilience factor into your life today? Resilience: The single most important spiritual practice in my life. Having lived with and through so many difficult circumstances in my life, I have needed to make resilience a core spiritual practice for myself. This is largely about transforming suffering. One of my teachers compares transforming suffering through resilience to feeding a family from a spoiled dead fish. A dead fish stinks. You want to keep it as far away as possible from your supper. Yet if …

October 1987 Crash

I had hungered to be wealthy even when I didn’t become a millionaire before the age of thirty. So after leveraging our debt to buy Genzyme founder’s stock from Sam, then taking Genzyme public in 1986, I borrowed as much as I could on margin to buy yet more Genzyme stock. I believed by taking on margin debt, and raising the value of our Genzyme holdings, though heavily leveraged, we could better reap the fruit of all my hard work. Loretta asked me how low the stock could go before we lost it all. Genzyme had gone public at $10 per share and traded as high as $16 per share. I told her Genzyme had never traded below $7 as a public company and we could meet any margin calls as long as the stock was above $5.25 per share, which was less than half its current level, and 25% below its lowest price ever. On the other hand if Genzyme went to $30 per share as predicted by analysts we would become wealthy. Then …

New Hope

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 …

Prideful Fall

My 1993 Budget presentation to TSI’s Board ended with three definitions of success. The first Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” The second I called Bain’s definition: “A superior financial return for shareholders over an extended time period. Finding high growth sectors to maximize business opportunities; with a focus on relative market share, value creation, and high reward for high performance.” Finally one I called the Genzyme measure of success: “Building an important corporation faster and better than the competition; with great expectations, satisfying but not focusing on shareholders, stretching forecasts as far as you reasonably can, and then working like …

Being CFO

As Chief Financial Officer it was my job to report how we were doing financially and raise additional funds as needed. Our annual bonuses and jobs depended upon hitting our numbers. The Board of Directors agreed that if our revenues for 1984 exceeded $5 million, and we became profitable for the first time, Henri would become Chairman and CEO in 1985, forcing our founding Chairman to resign, and preparing the way for our Initial Public Offering in 1986. David, our Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Henri had offices on either side of mine. They were my closest friends at Genzyme. We were all underpaid but eligible for large bonuses if we hit these targets. Our ability to raise more funds, and value of our stock options, depended upon positive results. Just after Thanksgiving David walked into my office and said we have a problem. My heart sank as he described the situation. Our Maidstone enzyme plant was contaminated with a virus, so a large production order could not be completed before year …

Joining Genzyme

Biotechnology had taken off first in California’s Silicon Valley but there were now half a dozen biotech start-ups in the Boston area. Nobody had a reasonable business model yet. Thanks to Bain’s incredible network around Boston I landed interviews with three promising start-ups. Henri, the newly arrived President of Genzyme, offered for me to become their Chief Financial Officer. It paid less than half of what Bain paid. In fact Loretta pointed out that I was making more money working part time as an independent consultant. But if Genzyme succeeded it would more than make up for the difference in stock options. It would require more stressful 80 to 90 hour weeks. Making short work of my role as a family centered householder. But luckily Bain had taught me how to work that kind of schedule. I would start on February 13, 1984. The week before starting Henri called me at home to confirm my starting on Monday. He asked me to fly to London that Sunday evening and join “Sam”, Genzyme’s Chairman of the …

Jim Sherblom in 1961

Small town boy

Each of us comes from somewhere, for me that is Rhode Island. RI is a very small, densely populated, state along New England’s rocky coast. It has more coastal water views per capita than any other state, more economic disparity cheek by jowl, with poor fishermen and sailors routinely passing by the glittering Newport mansions. RI has a very part time state legislature, and the state house is within an hour’s drive of every part of the state, so residents can drive to the state house of an afternoon to discuss issues with their state representative. The sense of living in close proximity to power, economic disparity, and the prevalent rocky shores of RI play a significant role in the unfolding of my story. I was a skinny, boisterous, energetic, boy with a buzz cut, and a pronounced RI accent, struggling to make my way in the world. In order to survive and thrive in a turbulent world, I became a storyteller. My story begins on a sunny Saturday in 1961 in Newport, RI. Nature …