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Life’s Too Short

November 13, 2012

“Life’s too short to wait in line,” Henri Landwirth said to me on the day we first met in person, the day I first shook his hand, the hand of a Holocaust survivor, the day I first looked into his eyes, the eyes of a man who had faced unthinkable horrors and survived, the eyes of a man who lived a life of purpose and meaning every single day.

The line for Planet Hollywood, where he was taking me and his personal assistant (my then girlfriend and now wife of 17 years) to lunch snaked around the building and skirted the parking lot.

“Life’s too short.” The words meant something to me back then, even though, as a happy and optimistic 27-year-old, life seemed pretty long, and I felt pretty much immortal. But I understood those words because I detected, or thought I detected, the root of their meaning, coming from a man, who, as a child was torn from his mother’s arms and forced onto a train that stole him away from innocence and safety and delivered him into the heart of one of the most senseless and brutal tragedies in human history. I understood why Henri would say that “Life’s too short” because for many like him, who spent their childhoods in European concentration camps, life was short. Inexplicably  short. Inhumanely short. Unconscionably short. As it turned out, Henri’s life, chronologically, has not been short. He is a survivor. But more than that, he is a thriver, a success, and most important to me, a giver. He emerged from the Holocaust with both visible and invisible scars and rather than retreating to a deserved life of simple peace, safety and contentment, he worked tirelessly to achieve a level of success beyond what seems possible to me even now, and then became the most giving and generous man I have ever known.

I have thought of that line at Planet Hollywood and those words, “Life’s too short,” many times over the last two decades, and the older I get, the more sense they make, the more they resonate and the more they motivate me to make the most of every opportunity and every day, to appreciate all that I have and have been given, to acknowledge the perhaps unfair lack of obstacles I have had to face on my journey, and to cherish every relationship. For that lesson, and so many others, Henri is a mentor and a hero, driving me to become the person that I dream of being and to do the things that I know I am capable of.

And yet, I know that to become that person, to live this life of passion and compassion, to succeed and achieve, and to give back today and tomorrow, that Henri is absolutely right, “Life is too short.”

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