Pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.1
After work that evening, Jack drove straight to Taziki’s place, a Mediterranean Café on S.E. Walton Avenue, where he and George had agreed to meet up for dinner and conclude their discussion on the visit to the retreat center over the weekend. They ordered Gyros and ate in silence for a while, as if in recognition of Jack’s lingering reluctance to attend the retreat. It almost felt to Jack like he was getting himself checked into a rehabilitation center of sorts. Deep down, though, he suspected that George was right. The events of the last three weeks had really messed him up emotionally. Truth be told, he needed a way to detoxify and to get his life together. If this retreat would do it, why not?
After they ate in silence for a while, Jack looked up at his friend and asked, “Why me?”
Welch looked up from his meal, wiped a smug of Taziki sauce from his lips, and with a smile replied, “What do you mean?”
“Come on, George, you know what I mean. Why me? Why are you going to all this trouble to help me? There are a thousand and one individuals you could be meeting with right now or giving an invitation to an exclusive retreat center like LRC, but you chose me. Why?”
Welch smiled again and said, “Maybe it’s because I am running out of people I can truly call friends.”
Jack hoped he would say more. When he didn’t, he decided to drop it, but he was deep in thought as he recalled how George had invested in his business and in his life since their first meeting during the investment pitch at his office. He was so deep in thought that he didn’t hear the question until George repeated it.
“Jack, can I ask one favor from you though?” he asked.
“Anything,” Jack replied.
“Would you promise me that, one, no matter how absurd you judge some of the things you hear at this center, that you would still listen with an open mind and get the complete picture before you jump to any conclusions? Second, would you promise me that no matter how difficult or unusual the concepts may appear to be, that you would do your best to practice them diligently before deciding that they are valid or ridiculous?” Then, he concluded, “It would mean a lot to me.”
“If it means that much to you, George, yes, I will try my best,” Jack said as he wondered what he was getting himself into.
“Thank you. Yes, it’s that important. You see, every year since this center started some years back, there has been only one theme, what the leader called the Fore-giver Principles. There was always one speaker and mentor, whom most people call the Fore-giver. In fact, that has now become the leader’s name, in a way. Better brace up for it, for each day you are going to be at this retreat, the leader is going to talk about the Fore-giver Principles.”
Jack couldn’t help but cut in rather sarcastically, “Interesting. Doesn’t that bore you and the other attendees to death? Why do you keep going each year if you have heard the same speeches every year for the last seven? Is this one person possibly the only person who can give a speech?”
George smiled as he recalled that this was the exact same reaction he had had when he was first introduced to the leader. He had a knowing smile now on his face as he explained, “First of all, about hearing the same speeches once every year, remember that learning is an exercise in redundancy; that thoughtful repetition is the secret to perfection. You may not believe it, but once you hear from the Fore-giver, you will want to be reminded of this every now and then. In a way, it’s like music to your soul. A validation of sorts. A renewed connection with a small community committed to an unusual business principle that, strangely enough, seems to produce a lot of impressive results. As you will soon find out for yourself, several successful businesses have been born out of, or grown through, the Fore-giver Principles taught at the retreat center. In fact, the combined wealth of the regular attendees to the Fore-giver retreat is more than 0.6 trillion dollars.”
“What? Billion or trillion?” Jack asked incredulously.
“Actually, the LRC is like the best-kept secret within the top business performers worldwide. The center is open to only a select few each year, but it retains the loyalty of a core group who are present each year. The 0.6 trillion is estimated wealth managed by only the core loyalists. If you add the wealth managed by all the other attendees who get invited as guest attendees, it would be way above that amount.”
“And you are one of the core members, obviously,” Jack stated matter-of-factly.
“Obviously?” George returned.
“Seeing that you have attended every year of the last seven years, you have to be one of the inner group,” said Jack.
To that, George simply nodded and dug into his Gyros, an indication that the conversation was over for now, at least, for him. Jack got the hint and continued with his meal as well. This is going to be quite an interesting weekend, he thought. If nothing else, it seemed like there was a chance he would connect with some of the top business and financial managers in the world; that is, if some of them are there this weekend. God knows, he stood to learn a thing or two that could help him get his business running again in top performing mode.