Measure Relationships In Intensity
September 5, 2017
Today has already been an emotional day, and it’s only 10:44am. Early this morning, I found out that an acquaintance, dare I say friend, had passed away from his battle with cancer. His name was Ted Rheingold.
I wish I could tell you that we were the best of friends, sharing all kinds of adventures together. But I never had that privilege. Instead, though, I can tell you about how lucky I was to have had so many, short, meaningful interactions with a great man and better human over the last 13+ years.
Ted and I met through the usual channels back then: entrepreneurship and social media. The founder of a social network for dog owners, though he famously did not own a dog, Ted was impossible to miss back in the day. And it was his welcoming smile and soft-spoken manner that made him a natural draw to everyone.
Despite how fast his company was growing, you would never know from him — he was too humble to point it out and too proud to deny the magic that the community had created and gave him witness to. He was just a router for good in the world.
We lived on the same bus route and worked a couple of blocks away from each other so I often ran into Ted on the bus on the way to work. He’d always be wearing a pair of cans but would drop them to his neck and we would make our way towards each other to say hello and catch up quickly.
A couple of years later, we even had to chance to work together. He brought us in to help and I got a chance to work with him and his team for the first time. Even there, he was the same humble being, with an optimistic zen about him.
In April or so of last year, Ted announced that he was diagnosed with cancer. At first, they weren’t sure, but in just his way, he took to sharing the experience if not to help make the world a little better, even as he suffered through the entire range of physical and mental spectrums.
I remember commenting on his post:
You’ve been one of the humblest inspirations to me and continue to do that in just the way you do.medium.com
I didn’t see Ted again until a chance encounter at a conference (pictured above). I was completely, but pleasantly, surprised to see him up and about. His energy was admittedly low, but it was great that he was with us. I’m happy, looking back, that I snapped one last picture of us all.
Don’t take time for granted, son.
We make the mistake of thinking that we’ll always have more time. We also make the mistake of not realizing how important the time we have, right now, actually is. With time, it’s always of the essence.
Friendship is not a straight thread, but a series of knots, in my experience. We’re rarely granted the opportunity to spend unbounded time with people, hence, the intensity of those interactions makes all the difference between an acquaintance and a friendship.
Some of my favorite people in the world might not call me a friend, but hopefully they at least remember our interaction. It is through that series of events that friendships eventually get formed and filled. Maybe that’s not true for everyone, but at least, that’s how I’ve seen things in the “post-school” world.
The advice I recently gave someone when asked for my best advice, in business: build relationships, not contacts.
Ted’s passing is emotional for me on a number of levels. First, he’s a husband and father, just like me and we both care immensely about our families. Second, he works in the same general field as me and he’s a part of a community I am happy to be a part of. Third, Ted’s just a few years older than me, making his passing all too close for comfort. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, shit, Ted was just a really great guy — the kind of guy I hope to be and it’s such a huge loss.
Last week, I encouraged you to “Leave It Better”. I wish you would have gotten a chance to meet Ted, but that’s not going to be possible. Instead, though, you can read this letter, son, to see what it looks like when you do leave the world a better place.
Ted left it better. Ted left me better. I’m grateful and he’ll be missed.