Glass Balls, Rubber Balls

What feels like forever ago, someone took a chance on me. They looked at a college kid with lots of passion and basically no experience, and they said "come work for me." In doing so, Mike Murray shaped my career not once, but twice. Some of the most stressful work experiences of my life were while working for him, but also some of the most rewarding. Life experiences, travel, and great career changes followed me every time I followed him from company to company, though there were certainly rough patches.

So, hearing of his sudden passing has been hard. It's led to a lot of reflection, both on the caliber of person that Mike was, and also the impact that he has had on my life. I wouldn't be where I am in my career, or where I am in the world, without the chances that Mike took on me.

And the thing that stuck out the most to me was a lesson that he taught me when I was...I had to have just turned 21. It was a tough season of life. I was fresh to his company, working what was basically my first job that was more than part-time. I was still in college, and I was freshly married. As you might expect, my ability to manage time was basically non-existent, and I had to have been a nightmare to manage. So, at some point, Mike sat me down and taught me a lesson, one that has held to me ever since then, and I wanted to write it down somewhere. Here's what he said, as best as I can remember:

Everything you do in life is a juggling act. Work, school, family, all of it. You're constantly keeping balls in the air. And all of those balls are one of two kinds: glass balls or rubber balls. Rubber balls, they'll bounce if you let them drop, and you can catch them again as they come back up. They go back into the juggling act without any complaint. The other balls are glass. Let them drop, and they'll shatter. You can't put them back together. These are the balls you must never drop.

These balls can change state as you juggle, too. Sometimes, a rubber ball might become a glass ball if you drop it a few too many times. On the other hand, a glass ball might turn into a rubber ball if you keep it in the air long enough.

The real skill is not juggling. The real skill is knowing which ball is which.

It's been years since I worked with Mike. I'm still where he last left me, but much further along than I would have been if I hadn't have taken the chance and followed him here. And all these years later, his advice and friendship sticks with me.

Goodbye, my friend.