Last week I gave a motivational speech to 100 or so employees at the GIII Apparel Group in New York (I have a personal relationship with this great company – something I’ll expand on in a future post). For these kinds of speeches, I like to tell some of the more down-and-out stories of my Brooklyn childhood; basically, I’m saying “If I can do it, so can you!” The talk went well and when we were done, I asked if there were any questions. One person asked: “If you could go back in time, is there anything you’d do differently?”
This was one of those questions that had dozens of right answers. It could be a talk all by itself! There are so many things I would have done differently, but I decided on two. When I give advice to people, I always like to start with “Two things…” One isn’t enough to be very effective and three is too many to digest.
The first thing I would have done differently is to have spent more time learning about banking and finance; to have paid more attention in my accounting classes at Syracuse and maybe to have taken some additional finance classes. That way I could have better understood the ins and outs of borrowing money, and cash flow. Being more on top of that side of the business would have taken a lot of pressure off me when I was building Steiner. As it was, I was operating from check to check in those early years. That brought out my entrepreneurial creativity, but it also brought the agita.
The second and more important thing is that I wish I had made it home for dinner with my kids more often than I did. And on the nights when I did make it home for dinner, I wish I had been on time more often. And I wish I had paid a little more attention.
As I take my daughter down to Austin for her freshman year at the University of Texas, it’s really hitting me that I’ll never get those nights back. I’m specifically thinking of this five year window at the end of the 90s and the beginning of the next decade, when I was running around a mile a minute to make Steiner Sports really stick. During that period, I signed Jeter, Rivera, Peyton Manning and many other important athletes, and we finalized Yankees-Steiner and some other big deals – and of course, I had my family in mind through all of that. But I ended up spending too many late nights in the office because I didn’t want to leave any loose ends for the next day; I had to return every call, had to send every email. Now I realize that realistically, some of it could have waited for the next morning. But I was so concerned about not taking my foot off the gas, that I didn’t see that. I was so busy trying to make it all work, that I lost sight of what I was working for – namely, two young kids. Now that they’re both out of the house, I realize how special it is just to get your family together for dinner. It was a miss on my part.
What about you? Do you ever drive so fast that you fly right by the exit you’re headed to? Have you ever seized the moment, only to later realize that you weren’t choosing the best moment to seize?