Picture your drive to work every morning. This is probably the most familiar bit of driving you do in a given day, multiple days a week. Odds are you don't have to think about the turns, you don't even anticipate them anymore, you just make them as naturally as breathing, moving from your driveway to the parking lot of work with little to now distraction. What you probably can't do is tell me the names of the people on the road around you during any given instant of that drive. Those people are just shadows in their own little metal boxes moving down the road every morning and every afternoon, staying nameless at all times. Honestly, until I asked you just now, had you even thought about them? This is an extreme example, but you can see it more closely in coffee shops and restaurants where people put their heads into their phones and seemingly never look up. It's the depersonalization of society. It's something that Seth Mason thinks a lot about, it and the tragic consequences it has for all of us.
Seth and I were connected on LinkedIn and, in another example of depersonalization, we had never actually met each other. He had been intrigued by the story and reached out to me to express how much he enjoyed it. Having a connection with him made natural sense.
The first thing you notice in a conversation with Seth is his incredible intellect. He studies what he cares about, takes the time to really dig into it, to appreciate it and to let it fill in the space it will occupy in his mind. It is a marvelous machine to witness. He is so attentive, studying you, not for judgement, but for the opportunity to better understand you, to communicate truly. Seth Mason is not a cold intelligence though, not a sterile conversation based solely in academics and theory, he is actually a really warm guy. My time with him is very welcoming and I fall easily into dialogue with him because he is just that friendly. The porch we are sitting on, surrounded with greenery definitely accentuates the feeling.
Seth and I dig into stories, and I have to tell you, I love his story. It begins with him falling in love with Latin America in middle school. He began studying Spanish and started falling in love with the culture and the language. He delved even deeper when he made a friend who was from Mexico and learning English as a second language. Seth talks about Latin America with an incredible amount of passion. I have been to some of the places he has, but he clearly has developed a deeper bond with them than I have. It's incredible. He went on to college, majoring first in architecture, then switching to Spanish and International Business, with his dream to work in Latin America. That didn't happen when he graduated and he found himself first writing, and later owning, a small Spanish language newspaper. It began small and then ended up in 12 major metro markets in the Carolinas and Georgia. There are some pretty incredible sights in this world, but the eyes of a person who has lived a life of passion and purpose, even for a moment, are among the greatest sights on the planet. Seth worked that paper in all of its varied facets over the years and eventually sold it, during the 2008 financial crisis.
Seth is a man who understands that we learn from adversity, we learn from loss and we appreciate more when we have less. These are qualities of the people in Latin America that have deepened his passion for that region of the world. He has taken some losses in his life, though he overall feels he has been successful. Part of that success comes from these powerful lessons being learned, not only in his spectacular mind but also in his incredible heart.
He tells me that he doesn't know his neighbors well. It's definitely a cultural thing in America, that we have lost some of the sense of community as a society at large. Seth dreams and plans on moving to Medellin, Colombia. He tells me about the beauty of the place, about the connectedness of people in that part of the world, of community and connection. It is the connecting that I am doing in this story that drew him to it. It would be easy to look at a guy like Seth Mason and identify him as a pure intellectual, but you would be robbing yourself of the depth of his heart. He is a man who really loves people, loves community and even loves his hometown, Charleston. It's just that he has found his heart in another place.
I think it's safe to say I like Seth. I make a note to look him up in Colombia when he gets there and I am passing through. I can't think of anyone who could do a better job showing me the culture.
Why: They were big and powerful, so they could throw their weight around, but they didn't step on other creatures, literally. They had humility and he respects them for that.