For the past 3 years, my college roommate, Ben Dalley, has flown out from DC to celebrate our September birthdays together… perhaps, a tribute to the epic “2nd-annual 21st birthday party” we hosted our senior year that landed us in a hearing with the Dean of the College (sorry mom). He now has developed his own following of Ben Dalley fans among my friends out here in SF and it reminded me of something that Ben would always say back when we were in college. He would routinely refer to someone as “Good People.” “See that girl over there? She’s Good People. You gotta meet this dude… he’s Good People.”
I can go on forever about how Ben is Good People, I mean, he was our Senior Class President at Brown for a reason. A few years ago, he found himself in business in a world where he wasn’t surrounded by Good People and with the exception of a couple post-college visits to DC, I never saw him. Then he did something drastic. He sold out of those businesses to run a non-profit that raises money for kids with Autism through organizing charity bike rides called Bike to the Beach, and now he comes to visit SF every September! Today he’ll say he doesn’t make as much money, but he is doing something he loves, and is able to get out of DC more often to visit the Good People in his life, and meet many more along the way. The Ben Dalley story is representative of many great stories I could tell about all the Good People in my life. I don’t know how or why, but I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by Good People and it’s never more obvious than at a party or event that I host when I see Good People colliding into one another left and right. Many of you know what I’m talking about! Nothing makes me happier than seeing two Good People develop a lifelong friendship and feeling like I had something to do with that.
I believe, that in many ways, you are a reflection of the people around you. And if that’s true, I’m as vain as can be, and when I look at that mirror within that context, today is the best looking I’ve ever been… until tomorrow. You should be too. We’ve all seen that passive-aggressive post or tweet about cutting someone out of your life or taking pride in cleaning out your friends list online. Those thoughts never cross my mind (though if they ever did, I probably wouldn’t feel it necessary to broadcast them to the world). I’m fortunate to still be really good friends with the same group of guys I grew up with in CT, most of whom happen to still be living in our hometown, a place I haven’t lived since leaving for college. Who would have known at 8 years old, 10 years old, 14 years old? We all acted like a bunch of idiots back then (and still do sometimes). Turns out they are all Good People and more recently, I’ve gotten to see most of them marry fantastic women and become pretty awesome parents. Despite how much my life in SF has diverged from theirs, we’re still close. Perhaps it’s a result of good choices, perhaps it’s luck, perhaps it’s a case of you get back what you give, or maybe Good People breed more Good People. I have no idea, but either way, the past few days hanging out with Ben has reminded me about how I’ve hit the Good People jackpot.
As I look forward to another great year in the life, I am hopeful that my two sisters will feel the same way about the people in their lives when they reach this age. I’ve been blessed and I want them to be as blessed too. I also hope that my friends do what they can to not only make an effort to surround themselves with folks they consider Good People, but make the time to be with them. If you’re working at a company that lacks Good People, and it’s small enough to change, change it. If you can’t change it, go work somewhere else. Life’s too short to spend it surrounded by anything but what you consider to be Good People. My first hire at my last company wanted to get away from the people at his banking firm so badly that he was willing to work for free for several months for our unknown solar startup, and later moved to San Francisco when we could pay him. When I decided to leave last year, I handed him the keys to the company and he’s now the CEO of a pretty cool little solar energy business that employs nothing but Good People, obviously.
Finally, if you’re working too much, or something else is keeping you from seeing the Good People in your life, do something about that. Imagine your life if you had nothing but all the money in the world. Imagine your life if you had nothing but all the success in the world. Imagine your life if you had nothing but all the Good People you know in the world. What matters more? Prioritize accordingly. And the dirty little secret of all this is that spending time with those Good People isn’t just for fun, it’s because whether you notice it or not, those Good People make you a better person too.