High Top Coaching is dedicated to my best friend Mike. He taught me there are 1440 minutes in every day and not to waste any one of them. That is High Top Coaching.
I was very fortunate that after my college days I was jumped started into a business career that allowed me to travel the world. I was in executive leadership and mentoring positions over the past 35 years. I indulged my passion of sports and enjoyed my grandchildren and married the love of my life over 20 years ago. Eight years ago that gratifying and comfortable existence was rocked to the core by a phone call.
I was pulled out of an important meeting to take a call from my best friend Mike. He had never asked that I be interrupted when in a business meeting so I knew something big was up.
I picked up the phone and said "Hey man, I’m here, is all okay?"
“Hey Alex, do you have some privacy?” he asked. “I need to share something with you."
"Sure", I said, "Hold on while I close my office door.”
I sat at my desk, bracing myself for bad news about someone in his family. “I just left my doctor’s office” he said. “I have rectal cancer.”
My world flipped. I was shocked, shaken, and in disbelief. Mike and I were born and raised in the Bronx and had been best friends since we were two years old. He was my confidant, soul brother, and the one constant I had had my whole life. This kind of stuff does not happen to us. He told me what he knew and I reassured him I would be there and do whatever it takes to help him get through it. I left work and went home and told my wife, Janice. "We will do whatever it takes,” she said, “If it is money he needs we will sell the house. Whatever he needs, just go to him.”
Over the next year and a half I flew to New York regularly. He allowed me to share the last days of his life. We went on trips to the old neighborhood in the Bronx, walked Old Orchard Beach, and celebrated or commiserated over the Yankees. When we were not together we spoke on the phone almost every night around 5:00 PM. We talked for hours on end about the smallest details of our childhood. Mike, with his brilliant writing skills, captured these talks and put our memories on paper. He titled it “Woodlawn” for the neighborhood where we grew up.
On a Sunday morning I got a phone call from his sister that Mike was taken to the hospital. I flew to New York City that afternoon to be with him. For the next three days I sat in a chair in the room and watched my childhood friend live the last days of his life. About 2:00 AM on his last night, as his family slept on chairs and in sleeping bags on the floor, he called out to me. I moved over to him and he looked right into my eyes and said "Alex...55 years... what a waste."
I did not let him say another word. I said "Are you kidding me? How could you say that?!” It made me so angry to think he thought that. I told him that he was a caring son, a devoted brother, a husband and father like no other, and the best friend to me. “Come on Mike,” I said, “I told you through all of this, get up out of that bed, I will take this hit for you. How could you say all that was a waste? My gosh.”
Mike looked at me. Smiled. "Alex, you always were a jerk and never let me finish talking,” he said. “What I meant was that the 55 years went so fast. Alex, make sure you live your life to the fullest every day. Don't take anything for granted. Don't worry so much, and most important, squeeze out moments of joy each and every day. Remember”, he said “There are 1440 minutes in each day. Live each one.” I looked down at him and his words were penetrating my heart and soul. I just nodded my head and said, "Yes pal, I understand, thank you.”
As I sat back in my chair beside him, he said “Hey, Alex, for the last time, one more thing. Whatever day I die, make sure you wear the Black High Top Cons until we meet again."
Since Wednesday, March 12, 2008, I have never–and will never–miss wearing my Black High Top Cons on Wednesday. I strive every day to make him proud of me. Everyone with whom I work, will all come to understand and learn how to do what Mike taught me–to squeeze out every moment of Joy.