They Won’t Remember You
At one time, Don Hewitt was the most powerful man in TV. He was the creator and Executive Producer of 60 Minutes and for more than 30 years, he held the ear of every powerful politician, rich businessman and charismatic leader in the world.
Everyone feared Don Hewitt. Those who worked for Hewitt knew he could destroy their careers and brandish them back to local TV.
Politicians understood how his show could derail any campaign. Businessmen knew Hewitt held the power to shape minds and alter habits, which meant he could sell their products and make them richer.
Today, Don Hewitt is dead.
Actually, he died in 2009, but if you walk through the corridors of CBS or even the streets of Maine, you won’t hear anyone talking about what he left behind.
Don Who? Oh, Hewitt. I thought you said, Who.
In 2006, Hewitt opened his heart to a New York Times reporter and shared what it was like to face the final years of life. He was 83 years old and no one knew he would disappear from this earth in less than three years.
“You get to a certain age. Your bones ache a little. You get up in the morning and you’re not as gung-ho as you thought you were going to be. You hang onto who you were because you don’t know any better,” he said.
I imagine Hewitt glancing down at his hands as he speaks to the reporter, staring at the age spots on his skin. I’m sure it was a moment of humility.
I did something today that I’ve never done before.
I locked up my office and walked outside in the middle of the day despite my endless to-do list. I left my cell in my drawer, grabbed my bag and walked into the slight mist that sprayed the lunch city crowd. Then, I walked over to a studio two blocks away, changed my clothes and sat in silence.
I waited patiently for my yoga class to start with about 20 other strangers. I couldn’t help but wonder who these people were and how they could find the time to stretch, relax and practice breathing exercises in a city that is always trying to take your breath away.
That’s when it hit me about life and passion and fears and ambition and sex and money and power and love and strangers and dreams and beauty and death.
So many people wake up every morning, dreading the jobs they face. We all have friends who ramble on about the bickering and back-biting they face at work. They hate the idea of going to work.
I empathize. I used to be one of those people. I know it’s scary because we all need to eat. It’s not like you can just quit your job and eat off the land.
Or can you?
The birds do it and they seem to never lack. In fact, even the homeless man who I have passed for the last 5 years seems to always find food.
I’m reading a book right now that talks about the conflict artists face, fear and feel. Most artists may not realize it but they fight an internal conflict between pursuing their love or compromising it for the sake of commercial value. Art needs to have commercial value for it to sell, but the artist also wants to express his soul in an authentic way. Sometimes, authenticity is over-rated and no one buys it.
Why would someone pursue work that doesn’t have a return on investment, the businessman asks.
Why would someone want to live an empty existence, counters the artist.
Regardless of your viewpoint, one thing is certain. We all will soon wear the shoes of Don Hewitt.
One of his most famous quotes was this: “I plan to die at my desk.”
I wonder if he would still say that today.