In which Victor and Mark discuss what $25 can buy, customers vs. clients, Nordstrom and Moe Greene, the value of counsel, prescription pads and graphic design software, Click and Clack, experience vs. results, Victor's use of big words, Mark's emotional investment, the allure of membership, Victor's playlist and scripting the client experience, Lily Tomlin's "Ernestine" answering the phone, and other very important matters.
“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour).” — Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory.
On Monday, Sept. 13, I will turn 60. There doesn’t seem to be any escaping this appalling fact, no matter which baby boomer bravely declares that 60 is the new 30. That wistful rallying cry seems rather difficult to credit when my monthly haircut makes staring in the mirror for half an hour unavoidable.
The average lifespan for a male in America is now 76, giving me a mere 16 years remaining. I think: “When was 16 years ago? Oh, 1994. Wait! That seems like yesterday.”
On a more hopeful note, I recently had a health-insurance physical exam and it turns out that two of America’s distinguished life insurance companies are willing to bet a considerable amount of money that I will make it to 80. That means 20 more years. Twenty years ago was, let’s see…1990. Wait! That still seems like yesterday.
But even assuming I live to 80, that means I have now lived 75 percent of my life and am about to enter into the final quarter. Perhaps my goal should be to play hard and hope for overtime.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Contributing to these reflections is the fact that both of my parents have passed away. No matter what my hopes for the next 20 years, there does not seem to be any denying that I have moved up one place in line — it is the blight man was born for, it is myself I mourn for.
Looking back before I look forward, I examine my life for regrets and items of pride. Like most people, I wish I knew at 21 what I know now. (On the other hand, what might I know at 80 of which I am currently blissfully ignorant?)
I regret that I did not go into business for myself at a much younger age. I regret that since taking up the game of golf at age 13, I have never discovered a reliable putting stroke. I regret that I spent 35 years worrying about the Soviet Union and then one day woke up to find that it had disappeared without a shot and without a trace. I regret lost love.
And despite the millions and millions of words I have written for publication, I regret that I have not written more. Each moment that I spend writing is an island of bliss, whether it is a book, a poem, a blog post, an ad, or the label for a ketchup bottle.
I am most proud that I have helped raise a beautiful son who is about to turn 18. I am proud that I was smart enough to pull him out of school in 3rd grade, and that I knew my job was to provide him with security and love and otherwise stay out of the way and try not to screw him up.
I look back with great affection on my life as a journalist, the profession of my youth, which I abandoned at age 40. I learned so much, and had such a wonderful time.
I am proud that there are some 25 people whom either directly, or secondarily (as in the case of children) depend on me and/or my company for their livelihood. It scares the you-know-what out of me late at night, but I am proud of it, too. And I am grateful to my employees, whom I am privileged to lead, and whose talents and abilities make SmartMarketing such a special company.
I am grateful for my friends: my professional friends, whom I value more than they know, and my personal friends, who have supplied so much warmth and laughter. Most of all, in this category, I am grateful for Michael, my best friend of 32 years. Along with my cherished biological siblings — my brother Bruce, and my late brother Guy — he has been my brother. I could not have asked for a better one.
I am grateful to the women whom I have loved and who have loved me. They brought the music to my life. I can’t embarrass them by naming them here (especially since some of them have emerged from the mists of time to become Facebook “friends”) except to say thank you, thank you, thank you. “…Across my life, one whispering silken gown!”
And the next 20 years or so?
If I have my way, I will spend them as I spent most of the first 60: reading, writing, and winking at the girls.
“There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time!” — Coco Chanel