May 15, 2016 Thanking those who encourage me on the path, including the late Jan Earl Jertson
Sometimes when I am handling a particularly challenging court episode, I imagine that standing alongside me are my trial teacher Steve Rench, t’ai chi ch’uan master Cheng Man Ch’ing (who taught my teacher’s teacher), and my peace teacher Jun Yasuda.
On reflection, one of the earliest people outside my family to encourage me to see the many life possibilities ahead of me was the late Jan Earl Jertson, who passed away last November. When I was debating between attending business school or law school during my college junior year in 1984, I heard about Jan, who was a mergers and acquisition whiz at General Electric’s headquarters in my hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut.
I got Jan my resume and arranged a meeting at his home one weekend when I was visiting Fairfield. Of all the business and legal world interviews that I have had, this was among the most interesting and non-orthodox meetings. For instance, through reviewing my resume and speaking with me, Jan formulated my numerology and concluded my future would involve success through pulling myself up by my bootstraps, as he described it. This man simply seemed to see life and the world as full of possibilities rather than limitations, when at that time in my life I let myself get too bogged down about all the world’s injustices rather than invigorated simply to do something about it.
Jan then proceeded to talk to and obtain good references from my high school computer science teacher and owner of a business consulting company for which I had interned the prior summer. In the end, the summer job for which I was being considered by Jan went to an MBA student, but I nevertheless learned much through this interviewing process.
Jan was right about my pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I proceeded to get a job for the year between college and law school as an internal financial auditor at the then-named Irving Trust Company when most of the other auditors had finance, accounting and economics degrees, as compared with my major in political science with numerous economics classes. In my first law firm job out of law school, I managed to handle plenty of assignments with two great civil litigation department mentors. Nine years out of law school, I joined forces with Jay Marks to leave our employers and open our own law firm, followed by my going solo eight years ago, and I have never looked back.
I next saw Jan only three more times. One day at dinner at his home soon after I started working at Irving Trust, the subject somehow came up about the diplomatic corps in his then-wife’s native Brazil. I wondered aloud whether the diplomats were anything but yes-men for the dictatorship. Jan turned to his wife, who shared that the diplomats come from a tradition of excellence. When I got a plum one-month assignment to join the team auditing Irving Trust’s Hong Kong and Tokyo branches, Jan kindly suggested I consider calling his friend who worked at NHK, a fascinating man indeed who met me for lunch one day in Tokyo. My Japan connection took a particularly important turn when five years later I met my mentor Jun Yasuda, who has ventured since the 1970’s from Tokyo to India to California to her current peace pagoda east of Albany; she also is someone who has pulled herself up by her bootstraps, in her spiritual life.
I last saw Jan twenty-five years ago, soon before joining the Maryland Public Defender’s Office.
Curious about Jan’s current doings, I looked him up recently, and learned that he passed away last November 2015 after at some point relocating to St. Augustine (and later Austin), being involved with the arts, welcoming passersby to mark their birthplace with a pin on his front porch map, and sharing his numerology knowledge. With very limited information online about Jan, I thought I would add this post and my appreciation for his encouragement for my ongoing success.
Part of that appreciation goes to Jan’s inspiration to maintain an open mind in life. For instance, regardless of whether General Electric at the time was doing more good or bad for the world for instance with its involvement in military contracting, doing business in apartheid South Africa, and mergers and acquisitions, Jan seemed to be the very type of good person one would want at the company. When I questioned the quality of Brazilian diplomats during its dictatorship, he underlined the possibility of government officials who transcend the worst aspects of the leadership.
While I finally articulated the importance of non-judgment after learning about non-duality, decades earlier Jan had already shown me about non-judgment. He said: “I have always lived by the premise of ‘never judge.’ I don’t judge anyone’s appearance, skin color, the way they talk, or their size or shape… Everyone is different and interesting.”
Thanking and bowing to Jan Earl Jertson.