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"If Tomorrow Never Comes"

While attending a reunion of Marshall Goldsmith's 100 Coaches group in Nashville this past weekend, we were treated to outstanding performances by two Hall of Fame songwriters, Pat Alger and Kent Blazy, and new talent, Emily Falvey.

Kent Blazy sang a famous song that he wrote with Garth Brooks (his first #1 hit), “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” The lyrics sparked a memory from over twenty years ago. Spoiler alert: in the tradition of many country music songs this is not an upbeat story.

I joined Citibank’s Corporate Banking Management Trainee program out of university with a degree in Engineering and Applied Science. A pioneer in hiring for attitude, not just skills, Citi taught me financial accounting, corporate finance, risk analysis, selling and negotiating skills, etc.

After the training program I was assigned to a department reporting to an experienced banker who, thankfully, enjoyed teaching and coaching. Often staying late, meeting me in the office on weekends, and during our client interactions he guided me up a steep learning curve. He gave me freedom to make mistakes and excelled at finding teachable moments from those situations.

After four years he moved to a new assignment in Athens. A few years later I was based in London and contacted him when I was traveling there on business. We spent a Sunday visiting the nearby island of Hydra, drinking wine, and catching up. We continued to follow each other’s careers, but that was the last time we saw one another.

Skip forward nine years. I was sitting at my desk in Jersey, Channel Islands. My phone rang and it was a friend in New York who had joined the bank’s training program at the same time as me. Knowing the close relationship I had with this individual, she shared that he was in the hospital, seriously ill, and gave me a telephone number of the phone next to his bed.

I called immediately. He answered in a weak, distant voice. Realizing I only had a few moments, I thanked him for all that he had done to make me a better person and a professional as my teacher and friend. In his soft-spoken, Texas accent he thanked me for calling and said he needed to rest.

He died the next day.

Whether in your professional or personal life, be sure to take a moment to thank those who have helped you become who you are, in case “tomorrow never comes.”

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