I once had a friend… Stories and theatrical presentations start like that. I was 19 , I got a call from the Trust and Estate office of a prominent Law Firm.
The person on the other end said things, I’d only heard in Hollywood productions up to that point in my life. “I am sorry Mr Siddiqi, to have to call you at this hour, Id like you to sit down and if you have some one around, I want you to call them in, I am sorry to be the one to convey this to you but AJ has passed you are named a custodian of his trust. I am sorry for your loss”.
Some how, the news of AJ leaving was less shocking then my mind trying to visualize the fact that AJ had even planned his exit, gracefully and perhaps informing the only person who he thought it would ever matter to. I haven’t and perhaps will never reconcile with his leaving. What I have reconciled with is, that it never hurts being prepared.
He would have been celebrating his 21st birthday 4 days from the day I got the call. I sat there thinking, how does a 20 year old think about death, wills and estate planning. I had barely opened my first checking account in the US the year prior and was still trying to figure out how to get a consistent signature each time.
This is the story of the most extra ordinary person I ever knew. AJ came from what some one would call wealth; I would call it a broken home. Some would call it a fortunate upbringing; I would call it a most misfortunate end. When most kids get allowance he got an inheritance, when most kids get ready to go to University he was making investment decisions, when most kids have girlfriend issues, he was meticulously planning where and what his money would be put to use for.
This money in the shape, size , state he got would allow for most people to live out their days comfortably. But not AJ, he had a mission only he knew. Whilst kids his age were calling their parents at home he was calling placement advisors and pouring hour after hour researching bonds, markets, investment properties and offshore tax jurisdictions. He repeatedly told me he wanted to do good at scale. I always wondered why. Fate had not been on his side, but he wanted to change the fate of many others.
Whilst most kids had friends, AJ had 2 friends. One of them got this call on that fateful day the other one on the other side of the planet got a similar one a few days later. 5 Days Later, I met with his lawyer. I wasn’t surprised, I wasn’t shocked, when they handed me a Will that read :
“If you are reading this, I am sorry I wont be calling again. But my friend, lets make this last message matter. I am leaving in your trust, the one thing that never brought me happiness in life, access to proceeds from investments for the better half of the last few years that need to be put to good use: not that easy, its not for you. Its for the two dozen things that will be explained to you by the gentlemen who will help you in helping me, forever indebted your debt free friend”
A trust left in my care I had no clue how to react. But that didn’t matter, every thing was planned to the last detail. All I had to do was sign and it would take care of it self. Every thing was planned out to the last detail.
The thing this episode ingrained in me was being ready, being prepared. Just like in life, in business the single biggest lesson I’ve ever learnt is the value of preparedness, the importance of thinking ahead, the necessity of not wasting hours on the past but putting some thought to the present and to the future. On that fateful day, my friend gave me the biggest gift any one could give a 19 year old, a Master Class in being ready for all seasons.
– In loving memory of AJ
Note: AJ passed from a medical complication resulting from an earlier car accident