Take time in your life for inspiration: A tribute to my friends Scott Mallet and Randy Wooldridge
By Manuel Palachuk
I would like to share some things with you that are very important to me. But first I have to tell you two very sad stories. I will fairly warn you, these two stories are tragic at best.
My friend Scott Mallet
I met Scott Mallet in January of 2011 at introduction from my brother Karl. My girlfriend Laura and I had driven five hours from St. Petersburg, Florida to Ft. Lauderdale to meet up with Karl as he was in town a few days for an event. While Karl was telling me how happy he was to be in Ft. Lauderdale because his buddy Scott lives there, he mentioned Scott was a SCUBA diver. SCUBA is near and dear to my heart. One of the main reasons I moved to Florida was so I could sail and dive. I got excited because Karl told me that Scott dives almost every weekend. Sounds good to me! I gotta get hooked up with this guy.
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale late in the evening and were directed to a nice little Italian restaurant. Karl introduced us to Scott Mallet and his soon-to-be wife, Christy. They had great plans of being married the following month of February. We sat down and shared some appetizers and very nice wine. Apparently Scott has an affinity for higher-end wine which did not offend either Laura or me. Laura sat across from me next to Christy. We hit it off with pretty well with Scott and Christy, and we sat and chatted until they kicked us out of the restaurant.
The following day, Laura and I were invited to tag along with Karl for dinner at Scott and Christy’s place. When we got there, Scott and I picked up our conversation where we left off the evening before - SCUBA diving! Scott made the biggest pot of spaghetti I had ever seen, cooked for a group of only five people. Not only did he lace the spaghetti with sliced up lobster, he cooked four full tails to boot. Scott loved lobster! We were trading stories and since I hadn’t been able to go diving in years, I was very envious of Scott who got to go pretty much every weekend. Scott popped a DVD into his player and turned on the TV. We watched a bunch of really cool dive videos he had taken over the last few years.
I have to back up a little in the timeline because, although I had only just met Scott, I knew of him through my brother Karl from many years before. Karl became acquainted with Scott through a common business group they both subscribed to. And actually, there was a third character named Kyle Elworthy who also was in this business group. The significance is that Karl, Scott and Kyle were known as the Three Musketeers of the group. If you find one of them, you find the other two. They found each other through this group, but they all hit it off and became very close friends over the years; largely because they are all really great people, but also they feed off of each other when it comes to ideas, energy and inspiration. They are all three like-minded, very sharp and true entrepreneurs.
Through their business association, Scott Mallet heard what great success Karl and I had been having with our business system at KPEnterprises on the west coast. He entertained the idea of hiring me to fly from Sacramento, California to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a few days to mentor his Service Manager and help tune up their service process. It was cost prohibitive, so Scott benched the idea.
Back to our dinner - When we finished watching the dive videos, we sat around sipping wine and the conversation for Karl, Scott and I turned to business. It turned out that Scott still needed someone to help mentor his Service Manager into the General Manager position and tune up his service process. Since I was looking for my next big project, we started talking about his exact situation and needs. I pitched him the idea of hiring me for a fixed length project to get him what he needed and to get me onto a project that actually interested me.
The way the conversation between Scott, Karl, and I went is hard to describe. Even during the first night when I met Scott and we were talking about diving, it was present. It’s one thing to listen to someone who shares your views or has something interesting to say, but when the topic is something you’re passionate about, like your favorite sport or the work you love, you get lost in the conversation and don’t want to end it. My brother Karl and I worked together very closely for six years. When it came to certain business topics, we could finish each other’s sentences because we were on the same page. When we sat down to talk about a business idea, process or project, we would feed off each other’s energy. The Three Musketeers (Karl, Scott and Kyle) were the same. It’s one of the reasons you seek out like-minded people in your world. You look forward to your next meet-up to share energy, enthusiasm and inspiration, among other things. So here I was with two-thirds of the trio, Scott and Karl.
Before Laura and I moved to Florida, we had been traveling for several months and had been pretty far removed from business and all the things that clutter the mind. So when I was introduced to Scott and we sat and talked about not only leisure things but familiar business, I felt newly inspired. I was inspired into new points of view on some topics and into some new directions as well. This kind of thing typically happens through short sentences and thoughts in seemingly random conversations. Just sitting and talking with people like Karl and Scott, if you can keep up, gets your mind going.
It was very late at night when Scott, Karl and I finally gave up our very animated discussion on business. Scott and Christy offered to put us up for the night so we would not have to drive five hours back to St. Petersburg at midnight. We graciously declined, said goodbye and set out. Laura was pretty tired, so I said I would take the first leg. We gassed up the car and got munchies, so we really had no reason to stop unless it was for a bathroom break. I turned the radio on low while Laura put her seat back and covered up.
Once we were on the road, my mind could not stop thinking about what we had been talking about all night. My mind wandered off a few times to diving and lobster but always came back to the business ideas I had stuck in my head. I didn’t bother to wake Laura. I drove straight through and made it to St. Pete’s in just under four and a half hours. During the drive, I laid out in my head the chapters and major content of a book I had just decided to write that evening. When I woke the next morning, I spewed the entire thing out onto paper with great clarity. In addition, I formulated a four-page document for Scott on how we would handle his business tune-up and sent it to him.
Over the next three weeks, Scott and I came to terms on my new position with his company, Network Technology Solutions, as the COO. Laura and I moved to the east side of the Florida peninsula and took up residency. I worked very closely with Scott for the next nine months. One of the things that Scott was freed up to do with me on board as the COO was to focus the bulk of his time on a new business venture he had been spinning up in the previous year. He was driven to bring this new idea to life and he had the energy to make it happen. Scott was a true entrepreneur because he knew how to let someone else work in his business and on his business with little interaction from him.
Scott and Christy were married in February as planned, and Laura and I were invited to the wedding. I don’t believe he had room for two more guests at the wedding with only three weeks’ notice. I think he felt compelled that, since he had hired one of his best friend’s brothers to come work in his company, he should invite us. Regardless, we were honored to attend. Of course the other two of the Three Musketeers, Karl and Kyle were there. It was a beautiful wedding high on top of a very nice hotel in Ft. Lauderdale with a breathtaking view of the ocean.
I really enjoyed working with Scott. Within minutes of meeting Scott, I knew instantly I was being inspired by this guy. His energy, his ideas and his total exuberance for the things he was interested in. If you knew Scott Mallet, you would vie for his time so you could share your ideas and get his opinion because he would inspire you with his attitude and outlook. It’s about giving off the right energy for others to use and getting new energy from other people. I looked forward to him coming into the office most days, but sometimes I actually hoped he would not. If he did, we could have lunch and talk about the next great thing, but if he didn’t, I could get a lot more done. I know Scott and I inspired each other because of the way the conversations went and what we did right after we had lunch together or were in the same great meeting. We would both go off and write stuff down, start new business ventures, pen the next big project before we forgot it, or just fine tune the complete domination of our worlds.
Scott invited me to go diving with him several times, but I always declined because I was too busy. I was busy with my job, getting our house unpacked and working to complete my part of a book rewrite. I love lobster too, so Scott made sure I got a supply every few weeks. He would say, “My freezer is full, you have to take some!” I highly suspect he would tell Christy, “Oh look! No more lobster? I gotta go diving.” Laura and I went to Scott and Christy’s for dinner a few times, but as of sometime around the end of July, we unpacked enough of our house that we invited them to our place for dinner. I believe it was the second Friday of August we had set, but Scott had to cancel last minute as he was sick. He wasn’t in the office for several days following. We never got to reset the date.
Scott Mallet died on October 29, 2011, while SCUBA diving. My understanding is he came up from the dive indicating complications, and once he collapsed on the deck of the boat, he expired soon after. The final ruling was something like: cardiac failure brought on by complications due to decompression sickness. Scott was only 36 years old. He had been married for only eight months. He had not yet had any children.
My friend Randy Wooldridge
I met Randy Woodridge sometime during my fifth grade year. We met one day while walking home from school. Apparently his family had just moved into a new neighborhood, and he was transferred into McClure Elementary in the middle of the year. I recall that I lived almost exactly one mile from school and it turned out that Randy lived right around the corner on the same block. We became best of friends and stayed closer than brothers for the next dozen years. For reference, I was pretty close to my brothers growing up.
Randy was what was commonly referred to as a troubled child in that his family was not only dysfunctional but his stepfather was abusive. His mother had been remarried countless times by the time they moved to Yakima, Washington, and of the four children in the family, only two had the same father. Our youth era was not so different from any other. When you’re young, going through puberty, you think you’ve got it so bad. Your parents don’t want you to have any fun, they don’t understand you, and they’re so restrictive. The era we grew up in was also not so far from the end of Vietnam War; we still believed that the bomb really could drop any day. Many of us lived our lives like we would never see the year 2000. The music we listened to was certainly written exclusively for us. After all, who else would Pink Floyd have written “The Wall” for?
Well, for Randy, his life was pretty bad. Every father figure he had was very heavy handed to the point he would come to school with a black eye once in a while. His mother and older brothers were treated the same. They all kept the younger sister as safe as they could. In the time I knew him, his father figure changed four times. Always truckers, who were rarely around, drank when they were, and who liked to be abusive. Not that all truckers are this way, just the ones his mother latched onto. Randy’s oldest brother Jeff had a reputation of going out and getting into real trouble that landed him in juvenile hall. In fact, I did not meet him for years after I met Randy. Randy really looked up to his oldest brother, because when Jeff would get out of Juvy, he would always come check on Randy and his mom. Jeff would always tell Randy, “Don’t do what I do, you stay out of trouble.”
Randy’s family was perpetually on welfare. His mom never worked as long as I knew him. All my brothers and I had newspaper routes, so Randy would help out or fill in whenever he could to have walking money. And quite often, his walking money went for food, otherwise his sister would have no breakfast or lunch at school. Their family of six lived in a two room house. All the boys had the basement as a bedroom. Since Jeff was never there, Randy always had an open bed for a friend to spend the night. However, he was rarely allowed to and when he was, he preferred to be anywhere but home when a dad was there.
Now when I say we were close, I mean we were inseparable for years on end. I got in some trouble of epic proportion with Randy. In fact, the best trouble I ever got into, I got into with Randy! In the summer, we would both lie to our parents about sleeping at the other guy’s house and we would stay out all night being bad. We stood up for each other and we looked out for each other; at school, on the streets, and at work. We worked at the restaurants for years. If I got a job some place, I got him on. If he got a job someplace, he got me on. His wife and the mother of his children was my ex-girlfriend from junior high school. The Cars wrote the song “My best friend’s girlfriend” about me, I’m certain of it! He introduced me to my first wife and the mother of my only son, Michael. I could go on about Randy and my youth for years because those were pretty full days back then.
I can truly say that the things that kept me from ever thinking I had it bad growing up were all the things that Randy did, in fact, have badly. And to me, he was this indomitable spirit. The summer we first met, I remember him sneaking out and coming over after midnight one night. I snuck out to talk with him. He told me about how he’s tired of his mom getting beat up by his drunken stepfather and how he’s tired of getting hit too. He hurt inside and he talked like I’d never heard him talk before. He talked about ending it all if it was not for the fact he had to take care of his little sister.
As close friends, we always knew what was going on with the other guy and how they were doing. Randy had a lot of other problems in his life that came along with, well, his life. I heard him talk about the depths of his depression more than a handful of times. He always let out his feelings, shook it off, and went back to it. I admired him greatly for that. I could not imagine living inside the things he had to deal with. As young people do, we talked about the great someday when we would be sittin’ on top, far from this nowhere town. I always looked at him and thought that, for sure, he would beat me to it. When his spirit was high, he would say stuff that made me think he was really going to get the golden ring if he ever got the chance. And I wanted one too.
I always gave Randy credit for a lot of self-control, something I thought I lacked in comparison. He actually had restraint for many things I had no control over. He could stop smoking on a whim and I couldn’t. He would just one day decide he was not going to smoke, and then he would not smoke for weeks or months. I would have to kill someone every day if I didn’t smoke. Who does that, stop smoking? (I myself finally did stop some fifteen years ago.)
As we got older and had children, we parted ways. I went off to tech school in Spokane, Washington and promised myself I would never land back in that hellhole. I would visit my mom often and would try to look Randy up, but he seemed to not be able to break out of a bad cycle of life he had fallen into. He tracked my mom down sometime in 1994 and passed his phone number to her. She got it to me and I called him up.
It was actually kind of messed up and weird how things went. We chatted briefly about where we were in life, and I was very proud that I had gotten out of Yakima, gotten an education and was actually making something of myself. As he told me what he was up to and where he was in life, my heart sank. He’d moved from Yakima, but he was still messed up with drugs, had ongoing issues with his ex-wife, and just got out of a short stint in prison. We reminisced for hours, and I relived some of my best youthful transgressions. It turned out he and a friend were travelling to southern Oregon and they would now make a slight re-route so they could pass through Portland, Oregon where I had been living since the early 90’s. He stopped by my house and we chatted for a short bit, but his friend was on a real tight schedule, so they could not even stay for lunch. Randy called me a few weeks later to ask if I could wire him some money because he “had to get out of town fast”. I didn’t ask a lot of questions and I wired him the $75. I never heard from him again.
Four weeks after my friend Scott passed away on his dive trip, Randy was found dead in his bedroom closet with an extension cord around his neck. That was November 23, 2011, the day before Thanksgiving. I did not find out until this year and only heard of it by chance through my oldest brother who still lives in Yakima. Randy was 48 years old. He left behind a son, a daughter and four grandchildren. He had just gotten out of prison after a two-year stint. The story is that there were others in the house but no one heard anything. Reportedly his feet were on the ground so either he had no intention of stopping himself or someone helped him (willing or not). None of that matters to me. My friend is gone. My heart sunk when I heard from him fifteen years ago, to hear then that he hadn’t gotten out of the hell he lived in. But to now find that, for more than thirty more years, he continued to suffer this hell, was unimaginable. That in spite of his indomitable spirit and his ability to shake it off and rise above, he never made it past the door.
Fifteen years ago after I spoke with my friend Randy, I began thinking of how it had come to be that I was out and away from all that and he was still deep in it. When I realized he’s probably never going to get himself out, I sealed off the old memories. From then on, whenever I thought of Randy, I thought of him the way I knew him: young, indomitable in spirit, inspiring, and ready to grab the brass ring. When I think about it, his inspiration drove me back then and still does to this day.
When I was young I didn’t pay attention to the fact that I was being inspired by my friend. Even though I know I inspired Randy much as he inspired me, I didn’t understand that I should look for opportunities to inspire those around me. It never occurred to me to look for opportunities to be inspired. It either happened or it didn’t. I met someone or saw something that struck a note with me and I got excited. But as many people do, I either acted on the inspiration or I did not. So of course I wonder now, if I could have recognized the need for encouragement or inspiration from my friend oh so long ago, would it have made a difference? What about the adults and other people in his life, his other friends, his family, teachers? Would just a few more key people saying the right thing have made the difference?
Now that I am older, I know pretty well when I see inspiration and recognize great sources of it. Scott Mallet was one of those sources. When Scott passed away, I felt as I have before in my life when someone I know or who is close to me has passed away… “But I’m not done with you! How the hell does this work? I just met you.” I know that it’s not like he wasn’t important to anyone else. He definitely was, I would say to everyone who knew him. And he was a truly cool guy to know.
People need energy. They need quality time with people they love or care about or that encourage and inspire them. Ever wonder why your kid just comes up and gives you a hug once in a while? Can’t get them to do it when you drop them off for school, or before they run off to play! But when they need just a dose of energy, they know where to get it. Adults are really no different. I have to talk to my mentors or close circle with the right frequency or I get low. It’s called quality time. It’s amazing how fast you can transfer a huge amount of energy to someone, or from someone. A twenty second phone call, a joke or prod in the hall as you pass each other. Too busy to stop but if I just say something with a smile on my face, it has that energy that revives.
There is so much that could be said about both of these people and their lives. Volumes could be written just about the time of their lives, what they left behind and who was affected. But I will not go into it. I have three very strong and prominent thoughts. So now I will share these things with you. These are the things that I cannot get out of my head when I think of Scott and Randy.
Don’t take anyone for granted. Don’t put off spending time with someone you care about or who makes you feel good or inspires you. They could be gone tomorrow. Nothing is more important. Not your job, not your mortgage, taxes or anything.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl writes, ”Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.” My personal interpretation of this is that if what you are about to say or do is not from your heart and representing the best of who you really are, stop now and revise your action.
And finally, I believe that everyone is capable of both being inspired and inspiring others. A most valuable trait is the ability to take time in your life to recognize when you should be doing which.
Interesting Note:Google doesn’t seem to know I wrote this! 🙂