I had the honor of knowing and being mentored by Bob Danzig for 21 years.
He always asked about my kids and my husband and my work, and then I’d push through because I always wanted to talk about Bob.
Bob led an extraordinary life and my favorite conversation with him related to Opportunity.
Did Opportunity knock on some doors more than others? Or was it that some of us are better at recognizing opportunity and taking action?
During one of our last phone calls, Bob told me about a musician he’d met, who has still waiting for his “big break.” Bob wondered why Opportunity had visited him more often than the musician.
I had a theory about Bob.
Adversity was his constant companion throughout childhood, so he was forced to develop compensatory skills to manage it. By the time he was an adult, Adversity had been around so long that it didn’t stop him in his tracks.
We talked about the foster homes he grew up in—about half a dozen different homes by the time he was 12.
We talked about the foster mom who chased him with a belt in hand, chomping at the bit to beat him.
We talked about the family that locked him in the attic and the time he escaped and spent the night huddled next to the schoolyard dumpster.
We talked about the black garbage bag he used to carry his few possessions and how he felt so like the trash being taken out during the moves from one foster home to the next.
We talked about the Valentine’s Day cards he wrote to himself because he didn’t want his classmates to know he didn’t have any friends. He was so often the new kid at the school.
We talked about the time he did make a friend and how the friendship ended just as quickly as it began. He went to knock on his friend’s apartment door and was met by an empty apartment and an eviction notice.
We also talked about the kindness that came later.
We talked about how the woman who interviewed him for the office boy position at The Albany Times Union was struck by the hat Bob wore into the office. When she asked why he didn’t take it off, he told her that a friend said he looked young and that he should wear a hat to the interview. He’d never had a hat, so he didn’t know the rules about taking it off inside.
His innocence and honesty won her over. She hired him—and then about 20 years later he became publisher of the paper, and then even more years later moved to NYC to take on the roles of CEO of The Hearst Newspaper Group and VP of The Hearst Corporation.
Throughout it all, he drew people to him and was able to diffuse difficult situations because he knew Empathy. He understood the pain others felt.
He didn’t grow up with a family, so his colleagues became his family, and with them he encouraged cultures of teamwork and collaborations. He placed a high value on nurturing those around him.
His thinking wasn’t shaped from years of being told to do something a certain way. He’d grown up alone, with little guidance beyond his heart.
So little time had been afforded him as a child that he gave so much of his time to others. He had patience and would sit for hours and listen to the problems of those around him.
And because he had been through the gauntlet so many times as a child, when Opportunity came knocking, he saw it for exactly what it was—and was willing to put in the hard work that Opportunity dictates.
Bob died this week, on August 8th, all of 85 years old.
Also on August 8th, Steve wrote about “The Artist’s Journey in the Real World.”
Bob’s life is the perfect example of the artist in the real world. He was both hero and artist, forging, fighting, creating, and inspiring.
As I type, I can hear him saying, “Well isn’t that dandy?”
Thank you, Bob.