Ben and I met at a mutual friend’s party, about a year or two after I first arrived in Cleveland. He liked my Roots Rock t-shirt and, as soon as we began talking, we immediately recognized how much we had in common: not only were we both transplants into N.E. Ohio, but we also grew up with lawyer moms, who pushed our own ambitious success to graduate school and beyond. Both very driven and determined to make it big one day, Ben and I also share a common love: movies.
I am a movie buff – all genres, all eras. I have published a few reviews, and I have even coauthored a couple of thought pieces with Alex.
Ben and I collaborated on our first mutually published piece, “Gen X in Film: Jagged Little Pill,” which Film Slate Magazine ran in 2010, and its follow up, “The Ten Most Influential Gen X Directors,” several month later. We also looked closely at what one central theme drove the movies made in and about our specific geography: “Cleveland in Film: In Era of Dysfunction.” Cool Cleveland published that article and to this day I continue to share it with my Tri-C film students. In fact, collaborating with Ben was the first time I shared writing ideas and credit and if it wasn’t for this experience, I probably would have never been so open to collaborating on a book with Anita. Working with Ben on the written word taught me the importance of knowing when to let go, when to trust and when stand firm; all those qualities that make the difference between a viable partnership and a dead end.
Over the five or so years that we both resided in this town, and until Ben moved back to the East Coast, we bonded in a special sibling relationship that solidified itself when both our lives curved into unforeseen unknowns. No matter what, I could always pick up the phone, call Ben, ask for advice and knew that while I may not want to hear the wisdom he was willing to share, that truly listening to and following his advice would usually led to a desired outcome.
One of the smartest nuggets of truth he ever revealed to me was:
Never deliver bad news in an email. Instead, pick up the phone, call and discuss the issue in a mutually respectful fashion.
Ever since, I’ve followed this path, one of directly handling the situation vs. passively/aggressively spewing the irretrievable to then only hit the Send button. Many a relationships, personal and professional, have been spared as a result.
Last year, on phone and Facebook, I introduced Anita to Ben, via a temporary, yet effective, Master Mind Group that I began with some of the smartest people I know. Ben is one of those people and it was just a matter of time before two people I care for and respect formed a bond of their own.
As Anita recalls, “Meeting people through a phone or email can usually be difficult because not everyone speaks in the same cyber language and often ideas, comments or responses can get lost in translation. In meeting Ben, there was a natural fluidity in communication. He’s smart, powerful, and every so often throws in a refreshing smart ass comment that keeps a smile on my face every time we communicated, making working with him impressive, enjoyable and always fun.”
Even though, at the writing of this book, they haven’t yet met in person, the two admire each other and enjoy working together, as evident by the numerous business conference calls and emails the three of us have shared.
I love both reading and writing – absorbing others’ experiences and telling my own stories. I don’t get to do this often enough. Anita and Alex have provided me with an avenue to help people while indulging in these joyful activities.
An Ivy League educated businessman who graduated first in his Georgetown MBA class and whose career path has taken him from Wall Street to the White House, Ben uses his intelligence wisely, getting to know people for who they truly are underneath the many levels of facade most of us wear in an effort to protect ourselves from the elements. But don’t let those lovable big blue eyes of his fool you: he’s very much the alpha male, and can spot the good and bad from miles away.
These days, Ben lives in Arlington, Virginia, closer to his family, and is happily married to Nadia, a smart and beautiful Russian woman he met on one of his many international travel adventures. When asked about the challenges of a long distance relationship, Ben replied:
I knew Nadia was special when I met her, and I simply determined that distance would be as small a factor as we could make it. It was awfully romantic to meet for long weekends and short vacations while we were apart. We each traveled to seven foreign countries during our courtship. Rendezvous points included Paris (where we got engaged), Barcelona and the Dominican Republic.
The real challenge was ensuring our compatibility when we could only meet for a few days at a time and, for various reasons including the immigration laws, never at our own homes. For that, I thank Skype. If you talk face-to-face every day with the same person, even through a computer, you will see them in their good moods, but you will also see them when they are grumpy, worried, in a hurry, tired and annoyed. You will know them.
And, as he consults his clients about how to maximize their profits on strategic directives, we are grateful that he will be providing the same level of compassion and analysis to the stories in our book.
The Dating GPS™ project has many touch-points beyond the book. I think the interactivity of the website and Facebook page, for example, will draw people in and keep them. I can imagine stories being passed from one generation to another.
In addition, if just one person is affected in a positive way – comforted, inspired, challenged, or, if appropriate, shamed – then the impact the project will have on future generations could be profound. Think of the people whom that one reader will touch in their lifetime. Then think of the additional people whom those people will touch.
Ben is a husband, an uncle, a son, a brother and a friend to us. And now, to you.