Guest columnist Michael Flynn - April 10, 2020 -
Today is Friday, April 10, and to me and at least some of you, this is Good Friday for more reasons than one. In addition to being a somber, reflective religious holiday observed by Christians around the globe, today is also the celebration of Mike Flynn’s 80th birthday. It’s why I have hijacked his weekly e-mail column and invite all of you, his loyal (and even sometimes) readers to share with Mike your birthday wishes, and maybe a note about what he means to you. I can’t think of a better gift to give him.
I also hope you’ll give a few minutes of your time to let me share with each of you some reflections on what my father has meant to me and my interpretation of what he has meant to the statewide business community over the past 30-plus years.
Much of this, several of my dad’s friends had hoped back at the start of the year, could be shared in-person at a birthday party that Ralph Ibarra of Diverse America and John Oppenheimer of Columbia Hospitality were taking the lead on planning for him, which would have taken place this week. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about everything, for all of us. I do hope you are all staying safe and healthy. And we do hope that down the road—perhaps this fall—many of Mike’s professional friends can join together and raise a toast to him in-person. For now, I’m hopeful we can do this virtually through the power of hitting “reply” to this e-mail.
As many of you know, Mike started his career as a journalist and, well, he has always been a reporter at heart even throughout his career that saw him move into more executive roles. Nearly 14 years after his retirement from his long-held position as Publisher of Puget Sound Business Journal, it is still amazing to me how few people in the Seattle business community have forgotten about his role building and running that publication.
Mike’s life has been shaped by several key factors, and he was ahead of the curve in terms of “work-life integration” in the sense that it has always been difficult to separate his friendships from his job, or his passions from his charitable and community involvements.
Each of you, likely, has a different Mike Flynn story. And whether it’s about how his Attention Deficit and lack of focus has driven you crazy working with or for him—as it has for me—or how his big heart, big ideas, and boundless energy have impacted an organization you care about (Seafair, Junior Achievement, Fulcrum Foundation, the SIDS Foundation, and United Way are just a few that come to mind to me), it’s hard for me as a business professional to think about how much our region would have missed out on had Mike’s career taken a different path, or if he had stayed in Los Angeles, Kalispell, MT or the Bay Area, the three places we moved for his work when I was growing up.
The number of people through the years that I’ve met who tell me a story about how Mike has helped them in some way could probably fill T-Mobile Park. Even when he was so busy running the Business Journal, he seemed to make time for everyone. I think it’s one reason that his professional network is also his friend network—those who got to volunteer with him, or work with him or be helped by him also grew to appreciate him. His journalist at heart has always carried throughout his career: He is deeply curious. Eager to uncover new ideas, people and businesses. And always wanting to tell a story about what he has learned.
I always share with friends, and even family members, who don’t quite understand why at (now 80) he doesn’t slow down, stop “working” and enjoy retirement. He doesn’t have hobbies. He doesn’t play golf. He isn’t a die-hard sports fan. His past-times have been spending time with and supporting my Mom as her mobility has declined, and spending time with my family and my sisters and their families. And keeping his fingers in the local business scene (and, interestingly enough, also in the San Diego business scene).
This column has been one of his favorite endeavors of his post-Business Journal life, and that all of you invite him onto your computer or phone every week is one of the prime ways he feels like he still has a voice, and that he stays connected to business, and to the statewide community. So thanks for letting him share his stories. For asking him, still, to introduce you to people in his professional network. For seeking his advice on various business and marketing topics.
At 80, he is barely slowing down (including on the track, for those who are aware he can still run a faster 100-meter dash than many people half his age). Because, aside from his family, what means the most to him is you, his professional network of friends and readers of this column. Your well-wishes, your stories, your birthday greetings—especially now, with him unable to do what he loves most (getting out and meeting with people face-to-face), will be most appreciated by this guy that we all have so much appreciation for.