By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner
When you worked at Arthur Andersen/Andersen, did you get to know anyone you really enjoyed working with? Someone with whom you may have established a friendship? Or someone who helped you with your career along the way? If so, as your career and life evolved, did you maintain contact with that person? Most of you would probably respond: “Yes, there was so-and-so. But I really have not seen or talked to them in many years since I left the Firm.” Or “Since the Firm went away, I have lost contact with her or him”.
Many of you receive my annual holiday greeting and message. You will remember that I often reach back to share lessons I continue to learn from one of my favorite books of all time, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. In last year’s message, I suggested that you might think about a relationship you had in the past. A relationship that you have not connected with in a long time. It could be a former colleague from the Firm, or at a former client. Or it could even be someone you knew outside of the Firm, but with whom you have lost contact. I encouraged you to reach out to that person to reconnect and rekindle it.
Many of you also receive messages from me throughout the year about colleagues and friends that we worked with who have become seriously ill or who have passed on. In recent days, I have shared a couple more of these sad messages. Often when I do so, as happened this time, I receive return acknowledgement from alums who thank me for making them aware of these events. In doing so, they frequently share stories or tidbits about their past relationships. Further, they often express melancholy or even sadness that they have not had contact with a particular individual since their working together at the Firm. Or even that they always wanted to reach out and thank the person referenced in the message, but never took the time to do so.
After I wrote last year’s holiday message, I took my own message to heart. I did some research and reconnected with five former friends and colleagues. Four were people I had met through connection to the Firm and one was a college friend. These were people that I had not spoken to in as many as thirty years. But each of them was someone with whom I had a good, friendly relationship in the days when we were working regularly together or schooling together or just hanging around with each other. It was fun to reconnect with them and learn of their stories over the past many years. I even had the opportunity with two of them to have a face-to-face reconnection. We shared stories about families, work experiences, holiday gatherings, vacation trips. We laughed, sometimes to tears, at some of the experiences we had over these past years. It was fun and rewarding to do so.
Naturally, whether we reconnected just by email, or by telephone or face-to-face, we each promised the other to continue the connection or at least shorten the time span between the current conversation and any we would have in the future. I hope we can hold each other responsible and live up to that commitment.
Each of us, no matter what our personalities or backgrounds, has some need for these unusual or infrequent social connections and interactions. Yes, the more routine and regular connections of family, work colleagues, neighbors and friends generally fills most of our social needs. But the chance to remake a connection with a long-lost or long-past relative, business colleague, college buddy or neighborhood friend is frosting on the relationship cake. So I challenge each of you, as you enjoy your next favorite beverage of choice, to think about a few of these people with whom you have lost touch. Note them down and then, using your medium of choice—personal note, email, text, phone call--to take a step or two towards renewing one of those relationships.
Over the years, many of you have responded to my words in these articles with kind thoughts and thank-you messages. I appreciate every one of them. Please continue to share your thoughts with me. I would especially enjoy hearing any stories you have about past relationships with whom you reconnect.
And, if you want to read a little more of my thinking on various subjects, pick up a copy of my book, Think Straight. Talk Straight. on www.amazon.com. Thank you! And have great spring!