When I returned home from an overseas trip last week and checked my voice mail and text messages, there was one text that stopped me in my tracks and broke my heart. One of my clients, I will call him Simon, had passed away unexpectedly. He had committed suicide.
Simon was not a good client. I am not going to pretend otherwise. He was the type of client who was always trying to get something for free. Can you just answer this one question? Can you just help with this? Can I have one minute of your time? Can you help me find someone to do this? I am happy to give all of my clients advice for free, if it is just a quick question here and there. But when they abuse my generosity, I draw the line, as I did with Simon. After his last request to me, a week before I left on my trip, I said, “I am happy to help. I will send you a retainer agreement and track the time I spend on your work and send you an invoice each month.” That was the last correspondence I had with him.
No, Simon was not a good client. But he was a good person. His heart was in the right place. He was passionate about education. He cared about the students in his programs. He wanted his students to succeed and to build rewarding careers for themselves. He had energy and goodwill to spare, running here, there and everywhere in his school, cheerfully injecting energy in the air.
Simon’s weakness as a business and school owner was an inability to focus. He was continually being distracted by this idea or that idea. Trying to get him to pay attention to one idea for any amount of time and to really evaluate its business potential was exhausting. He would make a decision and then call back a day later with a completely different decision.
Simon had one other weakness. Sure, he could ask for advice about this idea or that idea, but he couldn’t ask for help for what really mattered—how he was going to keep living. And that is what bothers me. I don’t know what drove him to the decision to end his life. It must have been something extremely painful. But I do know this. His school, his students, his family, his friends—they didn’t need to lose him to suicide. There is little enough goodness to go around these days, without us losing good people who, for whatever reason, can’t find a way to move forward.
So, if you need help, ask for it. Your light in the world, once extinguished, won’t come back. And the world will be a darker and poorer place for it.
And if you have someone like Simon in your life, who cheers you on as you strive for your goals, and celebrates your successes with you, take some time to say “Thank you”. They might need to hear it.