I remember with astounding detail the first and last time I ever spoke to him. It's difficult to reconcile that the world doesn't offer up the resolute ending where you get to say everything you really wanted to say before the opportunity is lost forever. So, I guess, writing about it is the only way I get to do it now.
Even though I hadn't seen him in years, he checked in every now and again. He is and always will be a constant voice in my head, the one that reminds me: don't be afraid of being accused of being too generous. Which was his way of telling me to quit complaining about commission splits. He told me once that I was like a rocket without fins, and I couldn't argue with that. He was the only person I'd ever met who could make you have a conversation with yourself just by asking questions and then staying maddeningly silent.
Our first conversation was an initial interview over lunch. Having lost almost any desire I had to stay in the insurance industry, I nearly declined the invitation altogether. He asked me something that no one, up to that point in my life, had ever asked me: What's more important to you, success or significance? And I remember that I verbally vomited all over him, telling him that I had seen my fair share of what most people call success in my career, but that I definitely didn't feel significant and that was a real problem for me. I wanted to be significant. I wanted to mean something to people.
He introduced me, during that conversation, to above-the-line and below-the-line thinking. I was thirty-two years old and almost exclusively functioning from a place of fear. He spoke about what it meant to function from a place a love, and how that above-the-line thinking can create the significance I craved.
He never even asked me if I wanted to come and work for New York Life. He just had his assistant call me and schedule a time for me to come in and sign my contract. I never looked back, and that in itself is significant.
Greg never failed to call me when I least wanted to talk to him, but most needed it. He had an uncanny knack for pushing every button I have, especially the ones that led to explosive breakdowns of self-denial. My favorite phone calls from him were the ones when he'd call me just to tell me where another agent was at in some contest, the guy right in front of me beating me by the hair on his chin. I'm sure I annoyed the hell out of him, the girl who was all over the place all the time, the girl who wanted to be led but hated to be managed.
It never occurred to me, ever, that he might be gone.
I always kind of thought I would hit some echelon of success that would serve as my thank-you to him. In our last in-person conversation, I know I expressed gratitude for the role he held in my life. He wished me well, assuring me that our company was better for my interest in a leadership role and that he was certain I would do well. He reminded me to max out my 401(k) and save as much as I could for my future. He also presented me with a printout of fifteen or so of my LinkedIn contacts, and did what he did- he kept recruiting.
A few years later we spoke on the phone. He was retiring and he sounded happy and free. If I'd had known that was the last time I'd ever speak to him, I would have made sure that he knew just how important his influence was on my journey. I would have made it a point to say good-bye.
Greg Yepez, thank you for giving me the opportunity that changed the trajectory of my life. I'm still creating a life of significance that I hope you can be proud of.