I’d like to tell you a little story about my journey to this moment. It’s a story that begins on New Years Eve coming into this year. Prior to that, my “emotional journey” to turning 40 was fairly ordinary. A bit of regret, self-pity and a remorse over life’s disappointments. That journey took a big change of course on New Years Eve, and it’s one that I suspect many of you that I’ve spent time with have noticed, because it has changed my outlook on life entirely.
What happened on New Years Eve was simply that Mike suggested the idea for this party tonight, for that, and for this party I will be eternally grateful. For in doing so, he caused me to start thinking about what I would say tonight, how to summarize the lessons of forty years on the planet to my dearest friends and family . It left me with a profound sense of gratitude for my life and the impact of your friendship.
It also left me with a renewed belief that the extraordinary is in our destiny. You might feel it’s a pretty bold prediction for someone that has had so many disappointments and setbacks in their life. In fact, it is actually because of those setbacks and the lessons they teach that I, more deeply than ever, expect the extraordinary.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that the folks in this room have done great things and will rise to do even greater things in the future. Look at the talent, the character of this networked group of people, living in the most prosperous powerful places in the world. But extraordinary is not just a degree of great, there is a special ingredient that separates the great from the extraordinary. It’s the subject of books and studies. I went to a reception honoring JB Pritzker, the billionaire hotel heir turned venture capitalist and he talked about that special ingredient among the extraordinary as being a kind of crazy. The kind of fanaticism that gives you the fearlessness to charge into the unknown.
Preparing for tonight I came to the realization that the real credit does not belong to the individual, but to the group. For it is the support of the group that makes the individual appear fearless. Let’s look at it a different way. Do you know what happens if almost everything you can imagine goes wrong? I do. And it turns out, its not a whole lot to be afraid of. For those in this room, failure is not about going hungry or being destitute. It is about some level of economic inconvenience. But what probably scares us most is the emotional toll of failure. What I found though, is that every time I felt like a failure, I found someone here, credible, that still felt I hung the moon. Every time I felt things were hopeless and with no way out, I found someone that still had the dream. Some in this room may not know how they have participated, but you have. Others may know quite well, or as my sister said some years ago, “once we get through this hell, Joe, the next project is going to be really, really, simple.” But my answer to both is the same: When we support one another, we form a kind safety net, and glory in that safety net is not in the times it catches the acrobat that has fallen, but in the times it allows the acrobat to reach higher, to attempt the thing no one else has done before. It may not be obvious to those in the stands, but the extraordinary has become possible because we are there to catch them if they fall. There are those who may quietly think this sounds like rationalization, as I have, by this metaphor, been testing the safety net for an awfully long time. And its true, but let me just say that if you had the stunts in mind that I do, you would spend a lot of time testing that safety net too.
The ultimate luxury is not a car, plane, vacation or house. It is a life lived where no challenge is too great or no dream too big. You will never give a greater gift than the one you have already given me, Mom and Dad, all of you. Thank you, and thank you for sharing this moment. Cheers!