I didn’t get to Boston in time, and for that I am sad…
I first met Norman Paul, MD, at a professional meeting in 1986. We both were sitting in the back of a conference room and he coveted my copy of the New York Times. I jokingly responded, “What’s the problem? Are you to cheap to buy your own copy?”
That exchange marked the beginning of a wonderful, mutually enriching relationship. Norman was born in 1926, eleven years ahead of me. He called himself a “recovering psychiatrist.” That meant that while he was grounded in his profession, he had long since stopped functioning in the traditional manner that characterizes nearly all of his more traditional colleagues.
Norman’s thought process knew no boundaries. He was creative, inventive, curious, and a voracious reader (He had 8,000 – 9,000 books in his library and had read them all!) Those qualities, coupled with genius-level intelligence, made for one extraordinary human being AND a very insightful professional. In the course of my long history serving families in business, I worked with Norman on many occasions to assist in unlocking the complex issues that block progress in so many families.
“We are blind by design,” he would say, and then elaborate on how our eyes are positioned to see what is before us. We can’t see ourselves and are often totally unaware of our behavior and our impact on others. Norman used a unique methodology he developed to unlock relationship mysteries for many people.
I arrived in Boston on October 10,2011 in the early afternoon. The plan had been for me to visit with Norman that day, but he was too ill for visitors. His condition did not improve and Norman died on Saturday, October 15. For me and many others, it was as if a giant had passed from our midst. Norman was my elder, my mentor and my friend. While he is gone, his wisdom lives on in the countless people whose lives he influenced.
Norman and I were not related biologically but we were men of the same spirit. We thought alike, we laughed a lot at ourselves and we were passionate about serving our clients. We both have certain “crusty” qualities that help us not take ourselves too seriously. This quality is useful to everyone. I am grateful for the years Norman and I had to work together and for the lessons I learned from this wise man. He was my mentor, my elder and my friend.
This experience with Norman reminds me that everyone, including those in family enterprise, needs wise elders who serve the same functions that elders provided in both ancient and modern “tribes.”
In my next post, I’ll talk more about the role and importance of elders for families in business together.
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