In this episode, host John Laurito remembers and shares the life story of a great entrepreneur and a good friend. Listen in as he pays tribute to a life well lived by someone close to John but was taken by cancer.
[2:35] Who is Dave?
[3:57] From the first interaction and through the years
[11:25] The mountain and the marathon
[15:42] A thoughtful guy
[18:58] Hoped for one last talk
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader.
John All right. Tomorrow’s leaders. This is a tough one. This was a dear, dear friend of mine who had passed away back in December. And I actually did this tribute to him shortly after he passed away. He’s the brother of my brother-in-law. His name is Dave Draper, and I’ve known him for many, many years. What an incredible guy. And I had created this and done this and not shared it for various reasons. But we just had a memorial for him that was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful last weekend in Long Beach Island with his family. And it was just an incredible gathering. People getting a chance to remember Dave and celebrate his life and share stories and hug. And just it was really, really a great, great, you know, opportunity to get together with some great people.
John So I figured it’s about time to release this to everybody. There’s a lot about Dave in here, a lot of my thoughts, some stories and I think a really important message. So listen to the end and you’ll catch it. So here it goes. All right, everyone, welcome to the show.
John Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader. Today is actually going to be a very different episode today. It is Christmas Eve. And I hope everybody is enjoying and has enjoyed a very healthy, happy holiday time. Today’s episode really is going to be a tribute to a great friend of mine who, unfortunately, I lost recently in the last few weeks. And I thought it would be a great idea to take a few moments and just share a little bit about this person and what I got from them and the mark they left on my life. I’m going to do my best to go through this and do this without stopping and only do this once.
John So here goes. This is a tribute to Dave Draper Jr, who is a great friend of mine, who is the brother of my brother-in-law, Jeff. And Dave had been battling cancer for quite some time, had overcome it as of about two years ago, and completely overcome it to the point where we got a great chance to spend some time together in California on a rugby trip. And he was back to his normal self and everything was great. And unfortunately, the way life works, things took a turn in the last few months and cancer came back unfortunately Dave lost his battle only a few weeks ago. So I wanted to just share a little bit about this guy. I mean, he is a remarkable, remarkable person and somebody who I got a chance to get to know back in, I think it was 1995, somewhere around that time frame. And my first real experience with him was at work.
John And Dave is just a unique person in so many different respects. And probably the best way to give you an idea of who he is and was is through some stories and through my interactions with him, my first real kind of in-depth interaction with him or getting to see him for an extended period of time was in work in Ameriprise. This was back in Jersey, South Jersey, and that’s where Dave and Jeff and the family grew up. And Dave came on after Jeff did so. Jeff was a financial advisor with me. My sister was there, and my friends, Chris, and Tricia. We had a whole group of people that we all worked with and Dave joined our organization maybe a year or so after I joined. I don’t know exactly what the year was. Maybe it was around 1995, so I think I was in my second year and I remember Dave, just a big personality. Everybody liked him.
John I mean, he just kind of came in with this great attitude, and obviously as people like that, do, they naturally attract a lot of people into their world. So when he came in, naturally people wanted to gravitate toward him and it didn’t take long for him to build a big circle and become friends with a lot of people. So but he, like everybody, was struggling in the business of financial services. If you’ve never done it before, even if you have, it’s an incredibly hard business. I think the hardest career one of if not the hardest careers to get into. And he was starting from ground zero as we all did. And I remember having the challenge. He was having the challenges that everybody was having and that was trying to bring on clients and just trying to build this business literally from scratch. And I don’t remember exactly how long he was there, but I remember. Like everybody, he was feeling like, okay, I don’t think I want to do this anymore. I want to quit.
John I don’t think this is right for me, whatever the case may be. Now, 99% of people at that point just quit and they say, okay, let me do something different, whatever. I don’t like it. It’s not for me, whatever the case may be. And, you know, nothing wrong with that. That’s people’s life decision. And that’s how you are in charge of your own life and you make those decisions. But there was something in Dave that said, You know what, I don’t want to quit, even though I know it’s not right for me or I believe it’s not right for me. I don’t want to quit when I’m not doing well. That was important to him and I don’t remember or know exactly what exactly went through his mind, but I know that was kind of in his mind. He’s like, I’m not going to go down or out when I’m down and not doing well. So he said, I’m going to figure this out and then I’m going to make the decision.
John And I remember thinking, wow, that’s pretty incredible and remarkable. I mean, it’s there’s such a small fraction of people that do figure out the business and do turn it around, especially when they’ve not had success. And for the next several months, he just went on this absolute tear. I remember that he started having huge success, unbelievable success, and did more in three months than I think some people do in a year. Like he’s bringing on client after client after client. I mean, total dramatic turnaround. And he finally figured it out, but most people don’t. And that’s how to become successful in the business. And there’s a whole different level of enjoyment when you’re doing well with something. Think about anything, a sport. If you’re not good at it, you typically don’t like it, maybe except for golf, but you tend to like the things you’re good at and not like the things you’re not good at.
John So he went from that being good at something to being really, really good at something, getting a lot of recognition, earning some good money, and just feeling like, okay, I got this thing nailed. And then he decided to quit. And I remember feeling like, wow, you know what? Good for you, man. I mean, he made the decision from a point of strength, not a point of weakness, as most people do. Like he figured out, he said, you know what, I’m going to make the right decision and I want to turn this around for my own personal satisfaction. I want to know that I can do it. And then if I still don’t like this and don’t want to do it, then I’m going to make the decision. And he did. Nobody expected it. Everybody assumed, okay, you figured it out. You turn this business around. You’re having fun now. You’re going to stay. You’re going to be here forever. And I think most people would have. Well, I was surprised. I think everybody was. But he made the decision.
John He said you know what? Even though I’m having great success, I still don’t like this is still not for me. I don’t feel like this is my true passion or my true calling, so I’m going to leave. And he left. But he left. And one of the most graceful, respectable ways I think I’ve ever seen somebody in my 20-something years in that business have seen anybody leave. He left on top. And not after being there for many, many years, after not succeeding and turning around and figuring it out, he did something nobody does. Number one, turning it around. And secondly, then making the decision, you know what?
John This is not for me. So he left with so much respect, even people that typically would not there were people in that organization that, you know, would typically badmouth somebody when they left or whatever, for whatever reason. And even they did not. They looked at him with total respect because he made the decision on the top. And that was just the type of guy Dave was. I mean, he was cut from a different cloth than most people. He thought about things differently. He was a deep, deep guy. And I got to know him through stories from Jeff, my interactions as I got to know him and become closer with him. Over the year and years, I’ve never got enough time with him. I never got as much time as I wanted because he and his family lived out in Colorado for most of the years. And I was on the East Coast in Boston or Connecticut and now down in North Carolina.
John So I saw him on occasion. I got a great opportunity over these last, I think, four or five years to see him about once a year when we would do these rugby trips. And it was so great. I just remember every time I got together with them, it was like an instant clicking conversation. It was like we saw each other yesterday. I mean, he was that type of guy. Just super easy to talk to. Always been very interested in you. I loved talking with him because he’d always ask great questions and he was always it was never about him, you know, it was always asking, what’s going on in your life and what’s going on in the business.
John He was genuinely curious and interested. It wasn’t just to make conversation and fill the dead air with questions. It was truly because he wanted to know and he’d follow up. With other questions. He knew he was listening. He was really interested. And then he would follow up after that a few weeks later, whatever the case may be. Just a fascinating guy. And I remember admiring some of the things he did. He was just fearless. I mean, this was a guy that was physically in incredible shape. I mean, all the time he was one of these guys that were almost like a freak of nature. You know, he wasn’t this huge muscle-bound guy by any means. He was athletic. He was fed to the point where. One of my favorite stories about him out in Colorado and I’ve got to remember the name of the mountain. I know, Jeff, you’re going to be listening to this and his family and saying, oh, people need to know this and maybe we’ll put it in the show notes of if we can.
John But there is an I’m going to say maybe Pikes Peak. There’s a big mountain in Colorado that people hike up. And he decided he was going to take a hike up this mountain. And it’s whatever it is, 20 plus mile hike. And as he arrived there in his hiking boots and, you know, hiking gear and really. No, you know, nothing to say other than just he was hiking, no other equipment or anything like that. He noticed that a bunch of people were running by him and he, you know, starts kind of jogging with them. He’s like, okay, that’s that guy is like these bunch of people running. He’s going to like, you know, jump in. Okay, cool. What’s going on? He asks somebody. They’re like, Yeah, this is a Pikes Peak marathon, which is a 13 mile up the mountain and 13 mile down the mountain. Now a marathon.
John I’ve done one-half marathon in my life, and it was on the flattest surface you could ever possibly imagine it was in Hartford, Connecticut. I mean, literally no hills or anything. And it was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life. And I trained for it for months and months and months. Here’s a guy who did no training, literally no training whatsoever, other than just his normal, you know, a regimen of stuff was in hiking boots. He’s not in running shoes. He is in hiking boots. And he jumps into this marathon and decides it’s going uphill for 13 miles. Those of you who are runners out there, I know you’re scratching your head, saying no way, no way. This is truly verified by multiple people. There’s no question that he accomplished a feat that most people that have trained for years and years and years have trouble accomplishing, if not accomplished at all.
John He finished the marathon in hiking boots. He did the whole 26 plus miles up, 13 miles, down 13 miles on a whim. I mean, literally, who does that? I heard that story. I’m like, no way. And then I read it again and I’m like, Are you kidding me? This guy did that for real? And he was like, Yeah, you know what? It was just a normal Saturday, whatever. I was going out for a hike. It turned out to be a run and it was more than a run. It was a marathon. What’s so unbelievable, is that’s just the type of guy he was. He was in that type of condition. I mean, he just, you know, he ate well. He, you know, was a very physical, very adventurous type of guy. I mean, I remember his stories about him hiking with his buddies. And it was funny because he was kind of like that guy that just most people think and then they ultimately may decide to do it. He just did it. I mean, it was, you know, almost sometimes to his detriment, because the planning piece sometimes didn’t come in the way it needed to. Like, I mean, he and a buddy hiked the Grand Canyon, not like a part of it, but like the whole floor of the Grand Canyon, and literally did not have what they needed to do, not prepare the way they needed to ultimately get rescued.
John But this was not a guy that faced any fear, that did not come into his mind. If it did, he just figured out a way to just push it back to the deep recesses of his brain, because this guy’s fear did not slow him down. He just did things that nobody would do. He likes the bottom of the Grand Canyon. And I don’t remember exactly how far he got. I mean, he got most of the way, but it just it wasn’t a matter of physically not being able to do it. They ran out of water. They literally didn’t have enough water to it. And, you know, there’s this combination of respect and admiration, a little bit of humor involved because it’s like, okay, that should be the easy part. Okay, bring enough water. The hardest part is the physical taxing, a mental part of it. And that he nailed he had all the mental strength and fortitude of of of a Navy SEAL, of an ultra-elite marathoner. I’ve had some on this show.
John I mean, this Dave Draper was a guy that should have been and could have been a Navy SEAL and elite runner and elite marathoner. He would just be had that type of mentality. Nothing stopped them. And it was all about having new. Appearances and doing different things. And all of a sudden it was incredible. But he was also a really caring guy. You know, I remember when I just I had just started my business. This was in February of 2019, I’m sorry, February of 2020. So almost two years ago. And I had left my very secure, very stable career to start the business that I’m doing right now. And it was a week or two weeks after I resigned on May on February 14th, and I was out on February 28th and 29th weekend with Dave and with Jeff and a bunch of friends at a rugby event in California. And that would end up being the last time, unfortunately, that I got to spend time with him and see him unbeknownst to me. But during that trip, I remember us talking so much.
John And again, he was so fascinated about the decision that I had made and how you left that and you’re doing this and how are you going to do it? And he was really helpful in connecting me with people and marketing and all this stuff, and we just talked a lot about it. I remember he was very helpful to me because he asked so many great questions and really did show an interest. And we got back from the trip. And if you remember, I think it was March 8th or ninth, there was a week or a week and a half into March where the whole basically the entire country and soon-to-be world shut down, all restaurants closed, only takeout.
John I mean, it was like right in the beginning of March, so everything came to a halt. So needless to say, for a new entrepreneur that started a business, this was not good timing. And I remember him sending a text to me and it was right at the end of March. And I just remember how thoughtful it was. You know, it was reaching out because he said, I’ve been honest in his thoughts and I’ll read it. He said, You’ve been in my thoughts during this wacky period, a brand spanking new entrepreneur. New entrepreneurs should not be subjected to this curveball this early in their endeavor. How are you holding up? Are you able to still do a TEDTalks, the TEDx TED Talk? Virtually. Just curious. And I just remember thinking, wow, I mean, everybody’s got so much stuff on their own plate and in their own mind, everybody. And this was right after the world turned upside down. He was impacted.
John I mean, he was in business and impacted dramatically by this. Yet here’s a guy who reached out to me, thought about me, and sent me a text asking how I’m holding up. And I just remember being so touched by that. It just was unexpected. But then thinking about Dave and knowing Dave, you know what? That’s who he is. And that’s always been who he was and is and was the type of person to always. He just showed an interest and cared. So. So one of the last. One of the last things I wanted to do was to talk to him. And Dave had taken a turn for the worse, had been in the hospital in the last few weeks, and things just went downhill very fast, you know, very unexpected fast. And I remember saying to myself, okay, I got to reach out and call him. And it was a Monday.
John And I remember it was Monday night I was going to call him and I just want to talk to him and got sidetracked Monday night, Tuesday. Like, okay, I’m going to call him Tuesday. And then something happened very unexpectedly that Tuesday. So I said, okay, Wednesday and Wednesday went came didn’t talked to him. Figured, okay, I’m going to call him Thursday. Got sidetracked again Thursday with something and okay, I’m going to call him Friday. Friday turned into Saturday, which ultimately turned into Sunday. And when I finally called Sunday, I couldn’t talk to him.
John So I couldn’t talk to. He just couldn’t talk. I’m angry at myself. For not calling sooner because it was dumb and the things that I let get in the way were not more important. Speaking to Dave, I didn’t realize I would not get a chance to speak to him. But I regret it. I would have Liked To say A lot and tell him, you know, what he meant and the influence he had on me. You know, I remember one time I was telling him a story and he was telling me he’s like.
John Dude, your. Your face lights up. You’re like, Tony Robbins, you’re animated. You’re I love that, man. And I remember that was years and years ago. That stuck with me forever. Things that he said like that just, you know, making people feel better. And he was just he was a funny guy that added to people’s lives. So I will always regret not. Calling sooner. So I’m hoping that this message resonates with people because I know there are people that you want to call that you have on your mind. People that you want to say things To that deserve to hear from you and that want to hear from you.
John Maybe it’s somebody you lost contact with. Maybe it’s somebody who you just want to tell them you love them or the impact that they’ve had on you and that they do. I guarantee that will be the best call they ever get and it will make their day, if not their week. And it’s not their life to hear from you don’t hesitate because you just never know. You never know. You never know when you’re not going to get the chance to say what you want to say to the people you want to say something to.
John So I’m hoping that this resonates and you pick up the phone. Try not to text or email or leave a message if you have to do it, but try to talk to somebody and just pick up the phone. As soon as this ends and call that person. That means a lot to you that you haven’t told how you feel or you haven’t talked to in a long time, or you have a grudge with somebody that’s just not worth it. Whatever you want to reconnect with somebody. Do it. Don’t wait till tomorrow. Or the next day. Just do it today. Don’t wait.
John So that’s my message. So this is a tribute to a great guy. Dave Draper, who will be missed and remembered for the adventurous way you lived life and the unrealized influence you had on people, and just the passion for everything you did and everybody you did it with. So we love you, man. Thanks, bye.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!