"Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfillment." - Anthony Robbins
This piece is an unabashed Valentine (yes, in September) to a friend who happens to do great work, selflessly helps his pals, does it all with a wonderfully ingratiating manner, and deserves the spotlight he'd never seek for himself. Now I have never sent a Valentine to a man, so bear with me. All this is new.
I'm writing about him not just because I admire him as a person but also because the way he runs his business is a perfect example for anyone who wants to provide real value to his customers, er, friends so they'll keep coming back.
"We are the fight, we are the fury of our will/
We are the sound of the marauders/
Breaking down walls, as we search for the proof of.../
Our true selves" Gregory Markel
I've lived my life as a nails-tough negotiator of everything, specializing at RampRate in contracts and service-level agreements and deals. But when it comes to "want-tos" instead of "have-tos," spending time with Gregory Markel is always a (too-rare) want-to.
I first met Gregory when he was performing on stage at the now-closed Knitting Factory nightclub in Hollywood. In between effortlessly spinning out melodies, he gave four people gifts of professional massages, simply because he was grateful for his membership in a business networking group.
I remember so many times him raising awareness for efforts such as the World Wildlife Fund, Stand Up 2 Cancer, the National AIDS Training Marathon and SEM Cares. He once gave a group of us unknowns the dual great gifts of his presence and a gallon bottle of Gran Marnier liqueur
It turned out Gregory also has a day job, one even more confounding and mysterious than enchanting strangers with a musical performance. Gregory also runs Infuse Creative, a company that specializes in the black art and white science of search-engine optimization, branding, media planning and buying.
I say black art because the SEO/SEM industry, as it's known, has plenty of charlatans and scam artists, fast-talkers who claim they can move your website's rankings onto the first page of search results (i.e., the only ones anyone ever looks at) so you can make big money.
"Automobiles are free of egotism, passion, prejudice and stupid ideas about where to have dinner. They are, literally, selfless. A world designed for automobiles instead of people would have wider streets, larger dining rooms, fewer stairs to climb and no smell, dangerous subway stations." - P.J. O'Rourke
Gregory by contrast, is the real deal, his company handling the SEO/SEM needs of lots of big-name brands, celebrities and behemoth corporations so they keep coming back for more. But what helps make him special is how he treated a not-very-big-at-all client, me. As you all know, I think I know everything, but for me, Gregory is the go-to guy for any issue in this industry.
Recently, I had been grappling for ways to improve my blog, er manifesto site, so that more people might find and think about all these rants that I put out. Yes, I have a purpose.
As I like to do, I reached out to some of my smart friends, including Gregory, for guidance on a topic where I didn't know enough. "Don't worry," he said, "We'll figure it out." Always gracious, always concise and just full of wonderful. Why me?
And he did figure it out for me, putting his people to work making my site more findable, more searchable and more accessible. He went about cleaning up my messes, then charged me a gargantuan sum, which is to say. "Nothing. Zero. No charge." He did the work and then said, "Here's your gift." " I am happy to help you with your brand." It needed to be done. Whew. The chasm of Tony and SuperTony getting closed.
"Selfless service alone gives the needed strength and courage to awaken the sleeping humanity on one's heart." - Sri Sathya Sai Baba
I couldn't even figure out how to repay him. What do you get for a guy who already has just about everything: a great demeanor, smart and humble, an excellent public speaker, calm, good-hearted, good-natured, empathetic and successful? Yes, I've made him sound like Mother Teresa with different body parts, but suffice it to say I'm a huge, and hugely grateful, fan.
If Google were to transform its search engine into one that ranked people based on the so-called "Triple Bottom Line," Gregory would be the top link. That new Google one-key search for "G" would pop up with his name, not Google's.
I searched in vain for some appropriate way to thank Gregory for all he does. Then it occurred to me the best thing I could do is talk about Gregory using the same megaphone he so wonderfully shined up for me.
Gregory believes, like I do, that a win-WIN in business is one where the customers feel like they got 90 percent of the transaction's total value. His approaches to business and to life are an ongoing lesson in trust: doing the right thing by others is the right way to live your life, allowing you to realize more benefits than you may ever even know.
Gregory is one of those pay-it-forward guys. As you walk through life, how many people stick out in your experience for operating that way? Do you remember them like I do? Here in the week of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it's a time of reflection and consideration of the time past and the year ahead. I want to be more like Gregory, putting more in than I take out, adding to the sum total of truth, beauty and thankfulness in the world.
In honor of the New Year, I'll be sending a pressure cooker to my friend. It's something he probably doesn't have, will keep him healthier and most importantly keep him on the planet longer, making it better for me and everyone else. It's really a gift for the planet as a whole.
Here's to you, buddy, and thanks.
"We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them." -- Buddha