A giant of a man died last week. No really, compared to me (5’5″ at best), he was about 6’3″ or so. But he was also a giant in my career. As we go through life’s journey there are many people who help you along the way—no one makes it completely on their own.
For example, I remember a teacher back when I was a senior in high school. I was having trouble with chemistry–just couldn’t quite lock in on the correct thought process. So even though it was maybe only week 3, I had pretty much accepted my fate. I was a basketball nut at the time (still am). And I would spend a lot of time after school out at the local elementary school playing ball. One of the teachers there approached all of us, I guess just to make conversation. Asked us how we were doing and somehow learned that I was struggling in chemistry. He invited me/cajoled me in to meeting him the next day in his classroom and voila, in maybe 2-3 sessions had me on track and moving forward. I think I received an “A” in the class. It would have been a “D” or an “F’ without that teacher’s help. And he had absolutely no obligation to do so. I am forever grateful.
I’m sure there are other examples of people reaching out to me during my journey, but none stands out more than my good friend. It was shortly after I had moved my office to Carlsbad from El Cajon. I was a young attorney struggling to establish myself and find the areas of law that I would enjoy and support my young family. He and I were tenants in a new building. The building was without air conditioning so everyone left their entry doors open to allow for ventilation. That created a more friendly and social environment than is typical in office buildings. We had said good morning a few times but, that was about it. One day he came in to my office and said he wanted some legal advice. And just to make sure I knew he was “for real,” he laid a $50 bill (now maybe worth $500) in my hand. That was the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.
At that time the internet was just a figment of someone’s imagination. So obtaining information was time consuming at best as it required a trip to the library. But still, you didn’t know what you didn’t know. And there was a lot about running a law practice that I didn’t know. In that era, in big firms, so I am told, training of new attorneys involved not only how to be a lawyer, but how to dress, how to tie a tie, how to network, etc. And most importantly, assigned a mentor to the newbie. I was completely on my own. No training to speak of, no mentor, no anything. I had thought that if I just hung out my shingle, clients would show up at my door. I was pretty sure that was how things worked for my Dad who was a physician who got his start during the depression.
This gentleman suggested approaches I could take with prospects, books I should read. But the most important thing he did occurred a few years after we established a friendship. He had seen an ad by an attorney in the Bay Area. The attorney was advertising to financial advisors (which was the profession of my friend) to bring in their clients for estate planning. My friend was interested and graciously invited me to join him. We met the attorney in San Francisco to hear his pitch. Call it industrial espionage, perhaps, but it changed my career. From there we traveled to Lake Tahoe to my friend’s cabin (it was more like a mansion) to create my 5 year business plan. I had never really heard of a business plan for a service business (law, medicine, etc) before. So this was the start of everything.
We had many meetings together after that as I honed my business plan. One of the important focuses was learning how to let the world know I existed, i.e. advertising. As with most things, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about this. The right way brings in clients, the wrong way wastes money. I often called him “professor,” since he reviewed my advertising attempts and generally marked them up extensively and sent them back with a grade. At the start I was lucky to get a “C.” Eventually, I started getting better and I knew I had arrived when the grades were at the “A” level.
We were really a study in contrasts. Besides the height differential, we came from completely different backgrounds. He grew up in rural northern Minnesota, the son of a movie theater owner and postmaster for a small little hamlet; I, on the other hand, in an upper middle class household in west Los Angeles, the son of a physician and teacher. We often compared when our first TV showed up in the house and how many channels were available as well as our other differences.
I wrote a column for the largest regional newspaper in San Diego. On a few occasions, the editor decided that my column didn’t fit a new format that was being implemented. Fortunately, my friend knew the publisher and a call to the publisher always managed to get the editor to reconsider. The column made me quasi-famous as people often recognized me in restaurants from the photo that appeared with the column. Eventually, he, too, obtained a column in that paper. We both, also, held separate presentations for the public. And I think the constructive criticism to each other helped make us both better.
About 15 years ago, his vision started to fail. Some sort of disease in which the person tends to lose all peripheral vision and eventually can only see a narrow tunnel directly in front. We discussed Seeing Eye Dogs and Brail lessons. But he always refused. I think he was just too proud.
Over the years that vision kept deteriorating and he had to give up driving and started walking with a white cane. Often in crowded or darker areas he would put his hand on my shoulder so he could not only feel my direction but also changes in the elevation. I would guide him out to sunlight where he could see better. I was pleased to be able to help.
Eight years ago, he moved away but we still spoke often and, I’d like to think, leaned on each other for advice. About 2 years ago he moved back to the area. We would have lunch or dinner together frequently. I was happy to have him close again.
I had seen him a few weeks earlier and we had had our usual great conversation. And then last week he passed, suddenly. I feel a great loss as I am sure all of his family does. I will remember Galen Maddy—always!