“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”1
For the next three weeks, Jack suffered from a broken heart. In a million years, he could not have seen this coming. He thought that graduate school and life experiences had prepared him to anticipate almost anything. His personal motto was the famous statement that President Ronald Reagan spoke to his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1986: “Trust, but verify.” Jack understood himself and knew that he had the tendency to be too trusting and too idealistic. So, he made a personal commitment to not change who he was but to be intentional about the “verify” part. It had served him well. At his core, he continued to believe in the best of people. But then, he had always done his due diligence before signing any contract with thousands of vendors who now supplied his inspirational materials or in bringing a new investor on board. He had read about other business founders who were schemed out of their companies, so he was careful to make sure that it didn’t happen to him. He carried Mike along regarding all of the provisions the lawyer had recommended in their article of incorporation and corporate bylaws to forestall any such thing from happening to them. He never imagined once that Mike, of all people, would use such privileged information against him. Mike knew how seriously he took that threat. Jack imagined he was protecting both, and indeed, it succeeded in shielding them from some threats. If Mike even had the ball to initiate his move while Jack was around, made his case, and won over the board, he may not have liked it, but he would have respected it. He would have honored it. But to sneak behind him like a snake and betray him? That was hard to take. It was crushing him on the inside like nothing had ever done. Not even the death of his father had had such a devastating blow on his will to march on.
Drained of any personal drive and motivation to fight, Jack spent three long weeks at home doing absolutely nothing. He didn’t even visit the office once. He called his personal assistant to make sure she was in charge. He slept most of the time, binge-watching show after show mindlessly. At first, he couldn’t bring himself to eat; he didn’t care about food whatsoever. Slowly, however, he began to eat. But now he didn’t give a hoot what he ate. He was meticulous about green leafy vegetables and the healthy foodstuff. Now, he ate anything he wanted. In three weeks, he gained 20 pounds. An avid runner, he ran about 15 miles each week for the last 10 years, but in the last three weeks, he had not visited the gym once or done any outdoor activity. His beard unshaven for 21 days, now hung coarsely around his face. In short, he was merely a ghost of his former self.
George was worried about Jack but chose to give him some space. But when he hadn’t shown up at the office or taken any of his calls for three weeks, he knew it was time to do something. So, one evening, George left work early and drove straight to the home of his friend. George could hardly recognize the fellow in front of him, certainly not the highly motivated, highly driven Jack he always knew. This Jack was dejected, haggard, and depressed. Immediately, George made a call after he saw Jack, and about 40 minutes later, his personal barber arrived. He managed to talk Jack into getting a haircut and clean shave. By about 6 p.m., Welch was driving off with his friend and business partner to their favorite local restaurant.
Over their favorite steak dinner, George pleaded with Jack to wake up, as he put it, and to take charge of his life. He reminded Jack that the company needed him. While he could not go into details, he had heard that things were not going quite as well as Mike had imagined. To his frustration, none of those arguments moved Jack a bit. George was afraid that his friend had given up entirely. What could he say to help him? Was there anything he or anyone else could do to get him going strong again? After one hour of trying to rouse Jack, he had gotten nowhere. In frustration, he ate his now cold meal in silence. Whether it was his silence or the sadness that registered on his face, Jack looked up into his eyes for the first time since they started eating dinner and asked why he, Jack, should care. It then occurred to George that Jack no longer cared about the company. In his pain, he had reasoned that it would perhaps serve Mike right for the company to fail. If nothing else, that would prove to him and to the board that Mike was the wrong person all along. So, his whole argument about saving or helping the company was achieving a counter effect than what he had hoped. It was reinforcing Jack’s resolve to stay away.
With a new twinkle of hope in his eyes, George answered, “You should care because I know how much it means to you to motivate and to give people all over the world huge inspiration through JackedInspirations.com, but right now, you are hurting that vision more than anyone else in the entire world by your sudden refusal to live. This company is in a critical phase now and needs your leadership to ride the current wave to greater heights. Instead, it may go through a rough shaking that could upend the business, just because you are allowing your hurt and pain to totally blind you to the damage you are doing.” George continued, “What Mike did was despicable, but your reaction after about three weeks has become pathetic. Show some spine, man, and rebuild your company. Mark my word, if you don’t wake up soon enough, you may not have a company to come back to when you finally wake up.” For what seemed like the longest three minutes George ever experienced, Jack was stone silent. He wondered if he had crossed the line. In attempting to be brutally honest with his friend, had he gone too far or done deeper damage? Not knowing what else to say, George fell silent too, and then, Jack, seemingly out of nowhere, said, “Take me home, now.”
George didn’t argue or wonder why. They were done with their food, and it was almost 9 p.m. If Jack wanted to go home, then that was fine by him. But even more important, there was something about how Jack said those words that gave him a faint hope. He detected a bit of the kind of dreamy optimism and resolve he had come to associate with Jack. He dropped Jack off at his place and headed home. As he went over the events of the evening in his mind, he hoped that something had gotten through to Jack positively. But he wasn’t taking any chances. He had just one more card he could to play to help his friend. It was time to introduce Jack to the Fore-giver.
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1. Quotation from Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)