Good morning, friends. I am writing to you today, with fresh memories from a memorial service I attended yesterday, for a long-time mentor and friend of mine. This person lived a full, generous, successful life in all ways. He was a giant on Wall Street, and in his community, constantly taking an interest in the people and the projects around him. He was a tireless supporter and volunteer for countless causes, and touched so many lives. Including mine. His name was Fred Whittemore.
I will spare you the details of our relationship, other than to share this… when I was in my mid-20s, I developed this crazy idea that I wanted to sail in the Olympic Games. I was new to the sport, but had a vision and a plan, and way too much energy. And I put together a team of three sailors, and we went for it. But there are lots of athletes who have skill, plans and energy. In addition to all those things, athletes need support. And Mr. Whittemore got wind of my Olympic dreams, approached me, and offered his help. A long story turned very short… he supported us through his own resources. But he also used his network and his influence to help us get the attention and support of lots of others.
Fast forward six years, and our team fell short, just short, of our ultimate goal. We did not win selection for the 2000 Olympic Team. We finished second and were named as alternates… something I was not proud of then, but have learned to be proud of today. Along the way we reached #5 in the world rankings, and enjoyed many successes. It was the ride of a lifetime, and the lessons from those 5+ years still resonate for me today. I can easily draw a direct line between the life I am living today, and those experiences from 1995-2000 while pursuing my Olympic goal.
Fred Whittemore took an interest in my goals and dreams, and while my team did all the hard work on and off the water, his interest and support gave us wings. He gave us a platform. He gave us credibility. He gave us oxygen.
My point today is two-fold:
First, I want you to know about Fred Whittemore, and the role he played in my life. I am proud of the things I have done. But I am aware enough to realize that without the support of Fred, and several others, my life would look very different than it does today. I want you to know about him. And I want you to know I am grateful for everything he did for me.
And second, I want to encourage you to take a moment and think about the people in your life that have had a tangible impact on whatever successes you have enjoyed. When we do something well, when we achieve some sort of success, we have every right to be proud of our efforts. But we, all of us, should also take a moment and reflect on the helping hands that have been extended to us along the way. For all of us, the successes we enjoy are always influenced by people we come in contact with along our journey, who contribute in some way to our outcomes.
And I think it is important, humble and generous to remember to say “thank you” to those people on occasion.
So, here is my request of you. Think about the people in your life that have helped you along the way. And reach out to one today. Say “thanks.” And then reach out to another one the next day. And then another one. Show gratitude.
In a world where connection seems to be harder and harder than ever, we need to be intentional about staying in touch with the people in our lives. Don’t wait.
Rest in peace, Mr. Whittemore.
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