People are a two-sided tapestry. On the one side they are beautiful expressions of art, smooth and detailed, something to be admired and adored. On the other side, they are complicated, tangled ends of fabric, a mishmash of issues and complications. Some might even say that back side is ugly, though others would disagree. Nonetheless, it is the beautiful design on the front we display, but that side can never be divorced from the back, from the tangles that resulted from the making of something beautiful.
This is the wisdom of Leonard Cibelli, poured like water over the course of the little more than an hour we spent together today. Len and I are an incredible blend of similarities and differences, much like those same tangled fabrics from his tapestry. He is a New Yorker, from an Italian background with a strong background in tech sales and an incredible story. I keep returning to this place where I hear the most incredible tales from people, but find myself unable to articulate them in a way that would do them justice. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson so far, that the joy of connecting is the joy of building relationships, of becoming a custodian of stories on your own.
This meeting was made even more special by the passing of my friend Tim yesterday. It can often seem like the hardest thing to meet a new person while we grieve. In many ways it is almost impossible. I actually didn't attend a meeting I am normally at this week because I couldn't handle it in the wake of yesterday. Today though was the chance to meet someone new and I said the project would not be delayed, so I met with Len.
Where do I start with all this man has learned in his life? How do you sum that up? I think for our purposes, I will do as Len suggested during our talk. I will look at the entire pie, and select the slices that had the most impact to share with you.
What is a connection? His insight on this was different from mine. To Len the connection is a mechanical process, the time taken to introduce yourself to someone, to click the connect button on social media or the introduction at a networking event. It is basic, but only a beginning. It is after the connection, where your respect and genuine value for the person you are meeting, where you begin to get to know them by the simplest device. You ask question. Not empty questions, but questions based on legitimate interest, this is where you start to build a relationship, to see the tapestry from a closer vantage.
He shared an old Amish saying with me, "too late smart." To Len this is a great saying because it covers so much of how we live. We burn so fast for career, or whatever our driving goals are that we forget those things around us. Too often we don't realize that until we are much later. Len has been married for 41 years, I have been divorced twice, but we were able to smile because the reality is we had both done foolish things and neither of us could really tell you how I ended up in my place or him in his.
Then he hit me with the most impactful thing, the moment where I felt massively connected to Len and where we went beyond simple conversation to connection. Len survived 9/11.
If that story is to be told, it should be him who tells it.
Len and I both understand how quickly someone can be gone form your life, how suddenly someone can vanish and how the ability to meet someone, to chat with them and to form a connection is a gift, maybe the greatest one. You never know the impact they will have on you. I know that I haven't been great about this during my entire life, in fact I've had a problem keeping in touch with people. Still, maybe I am too late smart at the very least.
I like to think the world shows us meaning, guides us and reenforces what we are meant to do. I'm glad we didn't pause this project. In the end, this was exactly what I needed. Perhaps we are all too late smart. Maybe we spend too much time chasing things, titles and accolades while not spending enough time on people and stories, on connections. With any luck, we learn over time. One thing is for certain, there are always two sides to the tapestry, and I am convinced that connection involves seeing both.
(No, I didn't forget the question.)
Favorite DInosaur: Bronotsaurus
Why: They are adaptable, creative plant-eaters who live life in their own big beautiful way. (Which is what Len tries to do.) They also eat healthy.