A Humble Giant

I’ve been mulling over the many faces of loss this Spring.

I’ve written several pieces on the topic over the course of a year and, this being the season of the anniversary of my dad’s passing, there’s been a lot of Al Mossman images and feelings in the air, my mind, and my heart.

Sadly, David Peterson, a much-beloved teacher and mentor was taken from us a couple of weeks ago. Way too soon.

I can make cognitive sense of my father’s death. He lived an arguably full life, reaching the age of 95.

I’m having a tougher time with David’s loss.

Yes, I can step back and see that in the big picture, the stats are pretty clear that the longer someone lives, odds are they’re more likely to… stop living. I accept that every living being has – whether you call it a cosmic contract, spiritual agreement, or just a simple fact – an expiration date. Death is an integral part of the deal.

But David was (I think) a few years younger than I, and dammit, I had plans!

In January 2020, just a month shy of the leading edge of the Covidian Epoch, I sat in my room at New York City’s Marriott Marquis Hotel. I’d returned early from dinner to attend an introductory webinar with David and his brilliant business partner, friend, and co-conspirator, David Goldsmith. (David Goldsmith is, fittingly, the featured guest on this and next week’s podcast episodes.)

I wasn’t quite sure what compelled me to be there, but any question of whether it was a good use of my time rapidly evaporated. David and David – or “the Davids” as we quickly came to refer to them – had something special going on. It wasn’t the content. Solid enough for sure, but at that initial point of entry, that wasn’t a driving force. (It would sure become one later on, but that’s material for other pieces.)

I immediately loved their approach and the rich intellectual rigor the Davids brought to the coaching game. But even with those things, I’m not an easy sell when it comes to what I want from my professional continuing education. A few decades of curriculum design experience – to say nothing of 17 years co-leading coach training courses – conspire to create a high standard. Where teaching and facilitating is concerned, I’m a tough one to please.

The Davids brought the facilitation goods in truckloads. Cool!

But what really sealed the deal for me was the flavor of their partnership. I don’t know that I have a special spidey-sense for this sort of thing, but just a few minutes into that intro webinar, from my dark-ish corner room of a huge Times Square hotel, I felt like I’d found a rare treasure, that these two were my peeps.

Seventeen months ago, David P. suffered the first of a pair of strokes. After months of intense rollercoaster rehab work, he was on his way to recovery and scheduled for surgery to mitigate future stroke risk. The series of incidents that ultimately took his life are less important than the fact that we’ve lost a great, quirky, mischievous, loving, and delightful soul.

On a call last week with dozens of David’s students, his wife Alexis, his sister Nancy, some close friends and, of course, David Goldsmith in attendance, we did our best to honor the life of a man whose formidable wisdom, smarts, deep humility, and humor we’d all been beneficiaries of.

More than that, we were a gathering of honored recipients of David P’s irrepressible love.

He took joy in sharing music, offering deep, direct feedback, questioning just about any established canon he could get his hands on, and pointing toward the newness that lives beyond the borders of the known.

I mentioned plans. You know, those things we humans make, those things mountains and deities find amusing.

I’d planned, at some point after his recovery, on meeting David face to face. I imagined we’d break bread, share hugs, and swap some smartass, heart-centered irreverence in person. (The man had an infectiously impish grin, complete with twinkling eye, that could slay in the best possible way.) I looked forward to learning so much more from him.

I could go on, but I don’t think additional words would add much.

I, and so many of my professional coaching colleagues, have lost a great teacher and mentor. We still have David Goldsmith, of course, and he has lost a beloved friend and amazing partner.

David Peterson would want us to look at the bigger picture…

When I do that, I see a world that has lost a humble giant.