Every now and then I’m surveyed about why I opted to do business with a certain _________________ (fill in the blank): financial advisor, sales representative, car salesman, hairdresser, etc. The survey will offer some suggested answers like “Trust,” “Professional Demeanor,” “Knowledgeable,” “Responsive to my Needs.”
The one they rarely offer – and the one that is the real reason 99% of the time — is “He’s funny and makes me laugh!” That’s how my broker won me over. Never mind that he put me in Cisco and Intel at the absolute top of the tech bubble and I watched them tumble steadily down to a shadow of their purchase value. He was funny and that counts. The other thing about Mr. Small (who is actually extremely tall) is that when he takes me out to lunch he does something that demonstrates his gallantry (as well as his 30 plus years of marital bliss): he tells me to order the two things on the menu that I’m debating between. He’ll eat the one I like less.
So this week I’m back in New York and lunching with my contact from a leading research firm and I’m remembering why I preferred to do business with him over the salesperson who was actually assigned to my firm many years ago. Back at that firm, Tommy tried to get me to meet the real sales person assigned to the account, but I wasn’t having any of it. Tommy is funny. Real sales person wasn’t.
Once Tommy made an observation about people that I actually wrote down and taped to my computer: “The world is divided between Complicators and Simplifiers.” That’s not funny, per se, but it reminded me of when I used to run around saying, “The world is divided between Links and Tools.” (Links are obviously people who get things done while tools are self-important non-starters.) His terminology was a tad more elegant and I knew immediately that I was a simplifier, surrounded by complicators. Complicators find reasons not to do things and start most of their sentences with “But.”
So, Tommy and I are in this swanky mid town restaurant called Fresco by Scotto which is owned by Rosanna Scott, local Fox Channel 5 News Anchor for Good Day New York. He spots Tony Tantillo (CBS’s Fresh Grocer newsman) at a nearby table. Before the meal is over, I spy Geraldo Rivera directly across from me. We’re in news glam heaven.
But, the thing that has my attention is Tommy and his tales of his last 12 months battling lymphoma. With very few symptoms except, “I just wasn’t feeling quite right,” Tommy took himself to the doctor a year ago and learned (after five or six second opinions) that he had cancer. He proceeded down the road that none of us wants to take. It was clear listening to him talk about his wife, his family, his writing for a French/American jazz magazine that he is fighting his cancer without losing an ounce of his humor or a pinch of his fortitude.
He was happy and funny as usual. And he wasn’t harboring any feelings of “I should have done this,” or “I should have done that.” He told me some of the horrific behaviors of family members and colleagues and he even flipped the bird midway through his personal exposition. (Geraldo, did you see that?!)
But the bottom line was this – in his year of pain, he was still simplifying and still linking. Still relying on humor to get him through the trip.