The Hero’s Journey: Failure

I just finished a long day of work. I’m in London, England and just completed a three hour drive with my friend and colleague from Manchester, England. It was a successful workweek. I’ve been away from home for over a week this time. I live in NYC. I’ve been away from my native home, CA for nearly three years. California is where all my friends and family reside. I visit often but not often enough. I only have two more days left on this trip and then it’s back to NYC. Since I moved to NYC it has been hard to find good friends. I guess, as we get older, that’s just how it goes. It takes time to develop that level of trust and respect in another human being.

I always found myself gravitating towards older friends. I found it easier to relate to friends who are 10-20 years my elder. Not sure why but I always got along with my seniors. After my divorce I moved into the “Melrose Place” of the Orange County, CA. Pools, beautiful people and parties every weekend, all weekend.  I’ve been in my new home for about a week and my brand new storage unit was vandalized. Some asshole thieves stole my tools and my fishing pole! I just moved in and bought a new flat screen TV. I go to fetch my tools only to find out that they have been stolen (I’m shedding tears while writing this). There I stand in shock, “Fuck!  They took my shit!”  

A large man approaches me. “Damn, they got you.” he says.  “Yup, they even took my fishing pole!” I replied “and I needed my drill to mount my TV”.  He replies, “You can use mine. I’m in 4R, just bring it up when you’re done.” Cool, nice guy I thought to myself.  He’s a large dude…in fact, he’s a massive dude, a body builder. Did he steal my shit? I thought to myself.  “Thanks, I’ll bring it right up once I’m done.”

That was my first encounter with Mike Nichols, who soon after became my friend, my confidant, my advisor, my mentor and later my groomsman. It’s funny how one apparent random coincidence can turn into a life-changing meeting. Mike and I were like peas and carrots over the next 4 years. He was an entrepreneur, inventor, investor and all-round awesome person. He was older than me but it was if we grew up together. We just hit it off and hung out a lot. We like the same stupid movies, jokes and even shared the same strange affinity for diet and exercise. Mike taught me about investing and business ownership. He taught me about taking risk and being patient. We shared everything, from family struggles, love life, past and present relationships, personal failures and successes and most importantly we were honest with each other. I called him out on his shit and he did the same for me. He was in love with an amazing woman. I was single and having fun. He would advise me on the women I would date. Finally I met the one. A local girl! We could finally double date. Only problem was, this local girl lived in NYC.  We dated cross-country and every two weeks she would visit and we could all go out on a double date. Mike was my companion when she was gone. He was still my partner in crime and kept me company in between visits.  

I’m in my hotel in London, England. I haven’t seen Mike for a few months but I’m planning a trip to CA soon to visit. We haven’t spoken in a while so when I got an email from him.  From Mike Nichols: “Greg, I am Mike’s sister.  I need you to contact me ASAP regarding Mike.”  I’m panicking and reply “is everything ok with Mike?  I’ll try to call you ASAP.”  

How do you prepare for the worst day of your life? How do handle your biggest failure? I make the call.

“What happened to Mike?”  I asked.

“Greg, Mike took his his own life.” I have failed him I thought. If I was there, If I didn’t move, If I didn’t…”What, what happened, how?”

I can barely speak. My body nearly shuts down. I have to hang up. This cannot be real. This is a dream. Only it wasn’t. I failed my best friend. If I were home, this would not happen. I lived with this for a long time. Even to this day, four years later I still feel that I failed him a little bit.

Presently, I’m reading through old emails from Mike. Reliving old memories. Old jokes about “chorizo tacos”, Christmas party plans, financial advice, government issues. Everyone in my family loved Mike. He was an amazing human. How could I have not seen this? How could I have let him down? I carried this failure for a long time. I think about my life since he passed and wonder what it would be like if he was here. I’ve invested in many stocks. Opened new businesses and made a major job change. I opened a new restaurant right in his former hometown. Maybe to pay homage to my mentor, my best friend, my brother!  

When Mike passed away there was a silver lining. I became close with his sister, brother in-law and their children. Our new restaurant is literally one mile from their house.  They say it’s something Mike would have done. They see a lot of Mike in me. I see a lot of Mike in them. When I thought I failed him, I did all I could to help others in my life. I pay more attention to people who are in pain or who express any type of hurt. It can take just one kind gesture or even a smile to alter someone’s negative thought that day which can alter the rest of his or her day. I may not have failed Mike but I responded as if I did because I loved him and don’t’ want anyone to feel what he felt in that final moment.

I’m reading more emails and reminiscing. What a great friend. He helped me to get to where I am right now! Sometimes failure leads to your greatest successes. If I failed Mike then I have many more people to help and make successful. Mike, I thank you for your friendship, your love, your wisdom, your support, your friendship and your success and your failures.  I’ll take our failing friendship over a lifetime of bullshit, phony friendships any day. You’re my Brother in this life and the next. See you again, Chaka!