The recent death of Alan Thicke, the Canadian writer, actor, songwriter, and game, pageant and talk show host, has certainly saddened millions of people. He positively touched the lives of everyone he met and his upbeat and winning personality was to be admired. Alan’s death, while shocking and untimely, has caused me to reflect on the many things I learned from this well-respected and well-liked man.
Some years ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting Alan and his lovely wife, Tanya, while on a small cruise ship sailing from Mumbai, India to Dubai, UAE. Alan was a featured guest speaker on the cruise, but I first met him at the hostess station in one of the ship’s restaurants. His back was to me, but I recognized his distinctive voice and decided to approach him, not knowing what to say or what to expect. Alan was gracious and friendly and we immediately struck up a good, but short, conversation about the then current Stanley Cup hockey playoffs between Montreal and Boston. After all, we were both Canadians!
The following morning, we bumped into each other on a stairwell and, surprisingly, Alan called me by name. Later that day he met my wife, Suzanne, and the next day also remembered her name. Suzanne and I were very impressed that a man who regularly meets hundreds of people would remember our names so effortlessly.
Over the course of the next week or so, there were many things I learned from Alan and would like to share those things in humble tribute to him:
- Show kindness: when Alan spoke, either one-on-one or in public, it was never self-centered, usually self-deprecating, and always positive. He was quick to smile, to laugh and he always focused on those around him.
- Remember names: Not only did this create a remarkable first impression, Alan’s ability to remember names made people feel good about both themselves and him.
- Act inquisitive: Always quick to ask questions, one could tell he was a life-long learner and made a conscious effort to learn about the local history and culture of the ports we visited.
- Be visible: Alan shared with me that he considered himself a writer, rather than an actor, so he would write potential scripts and visit producers to discuss those ideas. More than once, those meetings led to him being offered roles other than what he had been pitching. He believed one ought to network, build relationships, and be proactive rather than waiting for the telephone to ring.
- Maintain positivity and optimism: Alan joked with me that he proved once and for all, that no one could go up against Johnny Carson and win. When Alan’s late night talk show “Thicke of the Night” was cancelled, rather than sitting home feeling sorry for himself he became involved in multiple writing, hosting, acting, and Master of Ceremony initiatives throughout the U.S. and Canada.
- Take a chance: Although born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario and raised in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Alan went to university elsewhere, then worked in Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, and too many other locations to list. His professional working career, from 1969 – 2016, involved writing, acting, hosting, commercials, narration, producing, and composing. He embraced change, took on new challenges, and was not afraid to re-locate for work where the work was.
The above positive traits and actions are those Cenera regularly shares with both our Career Transition and Leadership Coaching clients. The next time you find yourself emulating these, think of Alan and remember his grace and optimism.
RIP, Alan Thicke.