On Friday, I started a new book that I found nested in my reading list called “Only the Paranoid Survive.” It stood out as a good pick as I’m currently standing at the foot of a major precipice in my work. A few pages in, the premise of the book—written by then CEO of Intel, Andy Grove—is suggested as a tome of lessons and guidance on navigating strategic inflection points: moments in a business when a significant shift in technology, competition, or other forces threatens their existence. From what I’ve read, the book will serve as a good primer for navigating any upcoming challenges. What’s more interesting, though, is that I chose to start that book as the buffer for an unexpected flight to spend the weekend with a woman I met two weeks ago.
As we merged onto the expressway exiting the airport, I remarked “this is fucking nuts!” By traditional standards, it was. Thirteen days and a few hours change ago, neither of us knew the other one existed. To be in the same locale and be in this situation? Color it harmless. To hop a few state lines via aircraft? The stakes decidedly go up. As if that weren’t enough, not only were we separated by a geographical gap, but age as well: eleven years apart, with her leading at the half. Surreal would be an understatement.
My personal expectations for the trip were practically non-existent. The experience was so incredibly foreign, there was simply no way to guess the outcome. The spread was unknowable. What I did know is that in the two weeks since we’d met, we’d developed an incredible rapport and intimacy in our words that has been exclusive to a narrow list; a personal checkbox that always suggests advance. Against all logic, all common sense, all known wisdom, I couldn’t help but be compelled by her invitation to visit. From a third-party perspective, I knew what I was doing was off the charts (or in her parlance, grid) insane. But what stood out to me was the overwhelming feeling of it being right despite the circumstances.
Uncharted waters consumed me. We started quickly, following a much-needed breakfast and a chance to recompose after the flight, a drive to take a walk in a hilly cemetery is prefaced with a staccato lesson in driving a stick-shift. Resting later, I spot an indecipherable text inked on the underside of her left wrist; in a tender moment it’s translated from Thai as “let go.” Arrows accepted.
In two separate, unannounced moments, she takes presidency of the piano in her living room. First pounding out an original that caught me off guard…”just a riff.” Later, following an evening at the Sinatra-themed symphony, a few Frank songs made her smirk at the keys and me swoon from the archway. An afternoon of misunderstandings and bated breath midway through my visit is the—oddly—perfect counterbalance. The depth of character hit me like rapids. To chalk it up to the council of years would be too easy. This was (is), plain and simple, a live wire. Unique. Indecipherable. A deer in the headlights challenging my every turn of the wheel. Raw beauty.
A conversation I watched recently underscored it best: “it’s the stuff you don’t do that messes with you later on.” While erring on the side of caution would have certainly kept me safe from rigor, there’s a good chance if this experience didn’t kill me—a joke I teased considering our lack of familiarity—the regret of not going eventually would. As I rounded the corner of her suburban neighborhood on a solo hike, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” guided my step. “Help me make the most of freedom, and of pleasure…nothing ever lasts forever.” Noted. Whether this ends here, though likely, I can’t say. What I can say is that, in this brief eclipse of romance, the decision to jump the barrier was the right one.
Don’t let your illusions of what’s appropriate prevent you from taking leaps. Take chances, even in the face of absolute uncertainty. When you do, though, remain aware of the consequences. I fell on the lucky side of the lottery in that my choices didn’t find me in a predicament (save for a severe taxing of my emotional compass). I fully acknowledge, however, that the exact opposite could have taken place. I was fortunate to be in the company of a hyper-composed intellectual who, no matter how confusing the moment, assuaged fears.
The lessons are endless. A moment in time that will stick with me indefinitely. The beginning of something…different.