My father died when I was very young, but I remember many of the teachings he gave to me when I was younger. Little tidbits here and there, he would call them. I don’t think he realized just how much they have helped me during my time as a businessman and growing up in general.
The lesson he once told me is always to carry a lighter, and you’ll meet many people that way even if you don’t smoke. When I went to go live with my uncle, he didn’t believe in lighters. He didn’t like them. I don’t know why—one of those little irrational fears. So the lesson was now always to carry a box of matches. A small one, you don’t have to be so overdramatic.
I didn’t think it was a significant thing. I thought it would be one of those quirky little things. Oh yes, Richard always has his matches. But in reality, it turned into much more than a quirk.
I was at college and never smoked, but I was surrounded by people who smoked weed, and I started many conversations and relationships because no one ever thought far enough ahead to plan how they were going to lite them. It was pretty interesting how many relationships I made simply because I had the matches when no one else did. I met some of my closest friends that way, I’m the best man at my friend’s wedding, and we met because he forgot high lighter and wanted a smoke.
It helped me in the business world also. My father never taught me how to network, but he knew a lot of men both in France and America because of his business relationships. There was a lot of pressure on me to continue those relationships at a young age. I remember being fourteen at these huge banquets with my uncle, and these men and women I had never met before were talking about business deals with me. Thank God I had my uncle to look over my shoulder and make sure I didn’t get roped into any bad deals.
One day I was outside of one of these events- I think I was sixteen at this time if I remember correctly- and there was a man who was going through his pockets trying to find his lighter, and he could, so I offered him a match for his cigarette, and we started talking. He became my mentor. As much as I loved my uncle and valued him, he wasn’t a businessman. My uncle was a lawyer. But this man helped me so much. He took me under his wing and guided me. I would never have had that relationship if I didn’t offer him a light.
The world is a complicated place, and I’m sure you hear life advice from everyone and their mother. I am no different than those people. I don’t try to act like I am different. But if you are only to take away one thing from all I will ever tell you, it is always to carry a full set of matches.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, but until we meet again.