I had dinner one night with Cal Fussman.
I didn't know who he was either... until I attended a talk he gave called, "The Art of the Interview." The flyer for the talk quoted The Austin Chronicle as saying that Cal's interviewing skills were "peerless."
Turns out, I had unknowingly been a big fan of Cal's work, as he interviews high profile celebrities, politicians, business gurus, and thought leaders for Esquire's "What I've Learned" column.
Over the years, I've delighted in reading Cal's often-surprisingly candid interviews with everyone from Muhammad Ali to Donald Trump, and from Mikhail Gorbachev to Leonardo DiCaprio.
Cal was gracious enough to accept my invitation to give the featured talk at The Shine in April 2016, and he was even more gracious to meet with me a week after the event.
Over dinner, I asked him a question that I'm sure he gets all the time:
"Out of all of these big personalities and mega-successful celebrities that you've interviewed in your career, what, if anything, have you noticed that they all have in common?"
Without much thought (probably because he had been asked the question a million times) Cal answered:
"Without exception, everyone I've interviewed, at some point in their lives, lost everything, and rose from the ashes."
"Without exception?" I asked.
"Without exception," he answered again, looking straight at me.
This was a huge insight for me. because it implies (and verifies) that there is immense value to being knocked down in the ring of life.
It means when you're clawing your way out of adversity, you're in amazing company. It means don't give up hope. After all, you may be satisfying a key criteria for achieving greatness.