“Are you kidding me? This thing is delayed again?”
There I was at Gate C7, Ohare International Airport, bemoaning the fact that my flight to Orlando was going nowhere fast. I was bound for a work event to speak with clients about the market and their behavior but at this rate I would never get there. Luckily for me I didn’t have to be there until 5pm the next day so while the delay was frustrating I still had plenty of time to spare.
Now what? I guess I could sit in one of those insanely uncomfortable airport chairs and soak up the aroma of Chicago style hot dogs served 10 feet away from my gate but screw that, I may as well go have a drink and listen to the Greatest Showman soundtrack for the 20th time. So off I went to the misery of what is a packed airport bar.
Stepping over suitcases, and kids who shouldn’t be there, I found my way to the counter and ordered up my customary double Jack Daniels (always order double, you may not see the bartender for an hour after that). I sat down, plugged in one of my two earbuds before I heard a faint voice say “that looks good, maybe I’ll have one of those”.
As I turned I noticed that I had sat down next to an elderly Marine, a man probably twice my age. He was off to a reunion, likely visiting former Marines whose numbers had been steadily dwindling as death slowly embraced them. Since my dad is also a former Marine I was more than happy to strike up a conversation with him, heck maybe he’ll even buy me a drink. As we sat crammed onto two tiny barstools he spun tales of fighting for his country, of friends come and gone, of his love for this nation, and I felt blessed to be there at that moment sharing a drink with this magnificent stranger.
I truly believe that everyone you meet in life has a lesson to teach you, some wisdom to impart, and if you listen long enough it will reveal itself. On that day, in that mediocre airport bar, I had a met a Marine who spent an hour teaching me patience. The flight was delayed, I could rage at the world and curse the modern transportation system but instead I sat there and an elderly Marine taught me patience. His stories made time melt away and when I left for the gate I thanked him, bought his last beer, and simply said “Semper Fi”.
Everyone has a lesson to teach you. My wife teaches me love, my children teach me hope, my father taught me to be detail oriented, my mother taught me generosity in all things. I sat in an Uber and the man driving me to work, who had just lost his wife to cancer at a very young age, taught me perseverance in the face of tragedy.
Even Twitter, a place that can seem toxic at times, has lessons for you. I occupy a space called Finance Twitter, a quirky place that can devolve into esoteric conversations about monetary policy and random market stats but it too is filled with wisdom. The folks at Ritholtz management spend their days helping people they don’t even know understand things like biases and poor investment behavior. Our friend Ramp teaches us to cherish levity even in the face of screaming losses. There’s numerous others I could name like Helene Meisler (sentiment is flightly), Morgan Housel (life is an art, not a science), and Joe Weisenthal (dedication to informing people) who give freely of their time to help people understand how a complex thing like Finance and the world interacts.
As you go through life make sure you are listening for the lessons. Don’t always rush to end your interactions because you want to get back to staring at your phone or reading work email. Often times the lessons are whispered, hard to find, or even buried under a sandpaper surface. The path you walk is surrounded by people willing to teach you, make sure you don’t shut them out.