So the rational skeptical guy starts wondering about this thing called “The Universe”. People say (not me of course), that when you figure “it” out (whatever the hell “it” is), that “the universe” will start sending you signs that you are on the right track. Okey dokey people…Have you visited you astrologer for a palm reading lately, I thought…So how do you explain the bus and the United 93 thing within a week of each other? Blahhhh, mere coincidence, right? Come on folks, we went to college, let’s grow up. There is no Tooth Fairy and no Santa, sorry to rain on your parade. Jump forward a year or so.
Since I had the “Aha”, realizing clearly that I feel fulfilled and have a sense of purpose when I feel like I make a difference, I just started going out doing things that made me feel like I was making a difference. I started volunteering for boards, helping charities, and having a real interest in everything philanthropic. I felt for the first time that I was on the right track in life. Once in a while, these little “coincidences” would happen that made me realize I was doing what I was supposed to do.
Soon my business began to transition from just investment management, into one that was deeply focused on helping people figure out what’s really important to them, then helping them transition their finances toward their values. Before, it might have seemed touchy feeley, but having had these experiences, and also working with other folks who felt the same way I did, really gave me a fulfilled sense of purpose. Philanthropy became a much more important part of my practice and helping clients carry out significant gifts became extremely gratifying.
Chicago: Take Two
I discovered an organization called Advisors in Philanthropy which was made up of a diverse group of financial professionals who were committed to integrating philanthropy into their practices, just like me. I had become a member of the organization and signed up to attend their conference. The conference was to be held in Chicago. Great, I thought! I’ve been learning to love Chicago :)
As I got to Newark Airport early that morning, I decided I would treat myself to a shoe shine (something I don’t get to do much since I stopped commuting to NY daily). Jokingly, I said to the shoe shine guy, “Huh, I wonder what’s going to happen this time. Strange things always happen when I go to Chicago.” We laughed a little and I didn’t give it much more thought. After I tipped the guy, I went into the newsstand to get my gum and water for the flight. As I was paying, there was a book above the register that caught my attention, as it looked out of place and it also didn’t seem like they sold books here since it was such a small stand. I glanced at the title, “Beyond Success” it was called. Hmmm, sounds like something I might like to read I thought, I wonder who wrote it? I looked over at the author’s name and nearly fell out of my chair (or at least my place in line). Randall Ottinger! HOLY CRAP!!! HE”S SPEAKING AT THE CONFERENCE I”M GOING TO RIGHT NOW!!!” While that may not seem like a big coincidence, there were only about 200 or 300 people at this conference. What are the odds of that I thought! “Do you sell this book?”, I asked the woman at the register. “No, someone left it here”, she replied. HOLY DOUBLE CRAP!!! (sorry for the profanity but sometimes I just can’t help it). Now someone was playing with me, I thought. Must be that “universe” mumbo jumbo…”May I see the book?”, I asked. Now I will do away with the vulgarities since the rest of the story speaks for itself and you can fill in with your own if you like…
I took the book from the woman and opened it up. Inside the book was a page of hand written notes with a bunch of illegible things and some stock quotes. The only thing I was able to make out on the page said; “Chapter 21: Advisors in Philanthropy”. Now I could hardly contain myself. I told the woman my shock and disbelief and she just chuckled when I told her why I was so taken back. I handed her my business card and told her I was taking the book and if anyone came looking for it, she should give them my name and I would be happy to return it to them.
As I read the book, I couldn’t help think I was reading my life story. The book was about building a personal, financial, and philanthropic legacy and it dealt with the very same issues I began to adopt in my wealth management practice. It was amazing that I had been handed this book, on the way to this conference, dealing with the very same issues, higher purpose, blah, blah blah…I just couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t wait to tell Randy this story when I finally saw him in Chicago.
As I tell Randy this unbelievable story, he just begins to shake his head. “That falls into one of those THINGS YOU CAN”T MAKE UP category”, we said to each other. Thinking we had just closed the chapter on a truly remarkable story, we went about our business and attended to the other conference matters.
The next day, Randy comes up to me and says, “Rich, you are NEVER going to believe this…I sit down at dinner last night and introduce myself to this guy and he looks at me and says OH, I BROUGHT A COPY OF YOUR BOOK FOR YOU TO SIGN, BUT I LOST IT AT THE AIRPORT…” Randy tells me he just looked at the guy and said “I know”. Kevin replies, “What do you mean YOU KNOW?” Randy says to Kevin, “Because that guy over there has your book”.
That’s how I met Kevin. This is a story I will never forget. I’m starting to think there might be something to this “Universe thing” after all. Oh, and by the way, Kevin and I are working with Randy in starting a new organization in NY called the Metro New York Philanthropic Advisor Network. You might just say “The Universe made me do it”. Check out my post: “The Good Apples: The Rise of the NY Philanthropic Advisor Network here.
Have to run now, I have an appointment with the tarot card reader…