“The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else. Job security is gone. The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!”
I was in the workroom of Lee Broom Picture Framing Company. It was a beautiful spring day in Scottsdale Arizona. The stereo was tuned to the classical music station and I was listening to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. The recording was of the composer himself at the piano. The year was 1929, years before the year of my birth, probably at New York City Music Hall. (I am listening as I write, to this same piece as performed by Olga Kern.) As I listened and locked in the last brad in the frame I was building, reaching as I did so for the Kraft paper I had already prepared to be used as a dust cover, I saw through the window, a Candy Appleish, Sparkly Gold Rolls Royce pulling up to the curb.
Great. This could mean a big sale. I continued working, observing the driver emerging from a beautiful if somewhat vulgar looking almost-a-limo; he walked around to the trunk which appeared to be opening itself, removed a large cardboard box and start toward my front door. As he approached the showroom I was holding the door open for my visitor. He entered the room moving deliberately toward the 4′x8′ glass table which served as a sales counter and also as my desk. The gentleman did not look around at my beautifully designed showroom as did others when entering for the first time. Nor did he hesitate when entering the room; he seemed to have been here before. Today, I was the only staff member on the premises. My two framers were absent without leave.
The music reached its conclusion. I looked at the welcome intruder, listened as he asked what I thought to be a perfectly ridiculous question, “Do you offer senior discounts.” Music returned. It was now my favorite composition of all time, the Rach’s first movement from his second piano concerto, this time being performed by Van Clyburn. Instantly inspired and at the same time recognizing my visitor, I helped him remove the contents of the box ignoring for the moment his question and pausing to admire a Piranesi print . “I know you. I couldn’t place your face but the minute I heard your voice I knew you.”
“Well”, He dragged it out a bit, watching me as though he were deliberately and easily reading my mind. “So…..tell me please,” the serious look on his face was a mask for an impish side to his personality, that particular trait being suddenly revealed by a bit of a twinkle in one eye or another, “Who am I?”.
“You Sir are Sky King.”
The gravel in my visitor’s deep baritone voice added an unusually comedic air, filling the small show room as he began to laugh, and laugh and laugh. I chuckled as he quieted down and offered me his hand. “Earl Nightingales” he explained.
“Lee Broom.” I accepted his handshake. “I’m very happy to meet you Mister Nightingale.”
”Thank you” he replied. I wish you’d call me Earl. May I call you Lee?”
“You may do that Earl. I apologize for not answering your question about senior discounts. No. I don’t do that. But I’ll tell you what I will do. If you’ll watch the shop for twenty minutes, I’ll go fetch some sandwiches. You can play with samples. Look at artwork. Just make yourself at home. When I return – I assume since it is 11:45 that you haven’t had lunch?” I paused. “When I return I’ll give you a ten percent discount on all framing and artwork that you might be inclined to buy and I’ll deliver all completed work to your home free of charge. I’ll even install it for free if you will allow me to bring a photographer.”
A big smile lit Earl’s larger than life, face. “Where’s the sandwich shop, Lee?”
“Scottsdale and Shea.”
“Scottsdale and Shea? That’s two blocks from here. I don’t see another car out front. It’ll take twenty minutes just to walk there and back. Another 15 minutes for the food to be prepared. Is your car in the rear of the store?”
“It’s at the garage having the brakes re-lined.”
“Well, just how did you plan on getting there?”
“I plan to drive your car.” His face now had that same look that I’d interpreted earlier as his ESP face. He reached in his pocket and removed his keys.
“I’m trusting you with my Rolls Royce, Lee.”
“I’m trusting you with my shop, Earl.” I suddenly had an idea and told him to hold his thought while I retrieved something from the back room. I returned with a well-worn copy of THE STRANGEST SECRET by Earl Nightingale. “I made some notes in this book. Maybe while I’m gone you’d like to flip through the pages.” That look again. And, then a smile.
And thus began a friendship with a man who would with no more than a dozen meetings in as many years, be remembered as one of the most stimulating friendships I had ever known. We talked a lot about “Success” over the years. He learned that day, the day he loaned me his Candy Appleish, Sparkly Gold Rolls Royce, the day that I left him with my well-worn copy of his book, The Strangest Secret; he knew that I did not agree with everything that he had written. Whenever I had felt a critique rising to the surface I’d left written evidence in the margins of those thoughts. Some were a bit caustic. I’m not certain why I took a chance like that. I ran the risk of sabotaging a friendship not yet realized and on a more practical note, I needed his business. But, I felt that I knew Earl the minute I let him in my front door. And, as time would demonstrate, my sense of a connection had been accurate. It could be said that the concert pianist playing in the background as Earl and I met, was only a skilled craftsman compared to the Composer who was one with the Universe as he wrote the original composition. One could say that but I believe that would be a mistake in judgment.
I believe that those who create, especially those who create music are often indeed, One with the Universe, regardless of which role they happen to be playing at the time. I believe that on this particular day that Earl and I were every bit as connected as Van Cliburn to Rachmaninov, on that spring day in 1981. Or was it 1982. (As you can see I have more faith in my connectedness than in my memory.)
When I returned, Earl was visiting with my friend and business neighbor, Herb Drinkwater. It was to Drinkwater Liquor and Cheese that I had gone for sandwiches. Silly me. It was right across the street. Earl was telling Herb about his new home. It was near the crest of Mummy Mountain. It had a fully equipped radio station, a 100 foot mast and he was already doing his radio show every morning from the comfort of his own home.
I was very familiar with the building in which he lived and after he left that day I wondered for a moment what it must be like for him to be earning his living doing the work that he loved. It took only a moment to realize that this is what sparked the flame of recognition between us for it was that drive to live one’s dream that Earl and I shared.
I reached across the table and picked up THE STRANGEST SECRET by Earl Nightingale and opened the cover.
“To my new friend Lee, who loaned me his store and welcomed me to Scottsdale Arizona. Earl Nightingale.”