Two Days In Palo Alto

Stanford Dish CC Donjd2My grandfather died one year ago today. He was my hero.

I was riding the Caltrain to my office job in Palo Alto when I got the news. And when I got to the office I was fired.  This was no surprise. I had seen the termination coming almost since the day I started. And I was glad. But the double-whammy seemed like the act of malevolent Universe.

At the funeral I was strong for my family. We were all stunned. It happened so fast, as if he planned it all along. My grandfather was quite the prankster,  and this was his final zinger–one that could never be outdone.

I prepared a eulogy and recalled the moments we shared that I will carry with me as my grandfather’s eternal legacy. And then I broke down during the mourner’s kaddish. I was living through the day I had always dreaded.

It took six more months before I hit rock bottom.

I always thought that my destiny would find me, and for 31 years I lived in denial. Somehow I was never in the right place at the right time to find the success that was just around the corner. Life is not like that.   I was digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole, expecting things to change by magic.

Putting aside my pride I reached out to my most respected peers, some of whom may be reading this now. There was nothing to hide. I needed help. I needed direction. And it came.

I was in Palo Alto today, but only by chance.  We were less than one mile from where I used to work, yet lightyears away from my past self. This time last year I was helping a bloated, hierarchical organization squeeze millions of dollars out of sick people. This morning I was in Palo Alto to help three world-changing women plan their next amazing act. And that was just breakfast time! I got to spend the balance of the morning talking about the need for focus with a frighteningly talented young designer. This afternoon I jogged six miles along the San Francisco Bay.

The life I have today I could have never imagined one year ago, and I feel as though I’m just getting started. And it was no accident. I work hard every day. I love it.

I’ve never been happier because I devote my time to people who are passionate about making a better world. I know my my grandfather were alive he would be so proud.  He was a great man who helped countless people, and left the world better than when he entered it.

And when I wear his old hat, as I did today, I can’t help but think how different life can be on two days in Palo Alto.



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