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A Touch of Gray

Naot CEO Steve Lax looks back on the long, strange trip from ’60s idealist to 21st-century realist—and the wisdom gained along the way.

Dear Steve,

Steve Lax
Steve Lax

So, look at me, no longer the dreamer, the longhaired child of the ’60s, no longer the Israeli socialist, farmer or soldier of the ’80s. Would you recognize the international businessman who came to be in this next century? Would you know this 65-year-old white-haired version of yourself? Someone told me when an older person looks at the mirror in the morning, a 17-year-old looks back and says, “How did this happen?” Am I imparting wisdom gained with age, or is what I have to say just more of the rhetoric we use to convince ourselves that we have in fact made a difference? Then again, would you even listen to me if given the chance? Which younger me do I even wish to converse with?

Looking back, it is the decisions I made, the good and the bad, coupled with the experiences I underwent, that made me into the person I am today. I have learned that the spiritual path is a four-phase journey. The first phase is birth, how we all come to be. The second phase is destruction; we are brought down and made to hit our rock bottom. This part of the journey has always troubled me. Why do we need pain to change? The third phase is enlightenment; we are able to see an answer. Finally, the last part of the journey is engagement; we start to work towards a goal. The understanding of this journey comes with the wisdom of age, but I wish I had known it throughout my journey. Perhaps understanding would have made it easier on my younger self.

As a child, I was the rebel, the black sheep. I did not fit into the family plan, and therefore, predictions of my failure, in terms of what society defines as success, loomed over my head. I did not seek monetary success, but rather a path to help create a better world. My generation failed. We were so hopeful and so full of belief, but we failed to leave our children a better world.

Young Steve, know this: We change the world one relationship at a time, and it is okay to realize that perhaps that is all we can ask for. The experiment of a truly egalitarian society, in which you so believed, did not succeed, but the experience was priceless. Young soldier, know that life is precious and delicate, and although the bold and the brave may win the fight, there is a bigger picture that may not always align with your beliefs. Following orders has a limit and your personal moral code is your strength.

To the young entrepreneur, learn from the failures. It is okay to fail. It shows that you are in the game. Don’t be afraid of your employees. Hire nice people and teach. Understand that the greatest form of charity is to “teach someone to fish.” Always continue to teach and teach and teach. Know that no good decision is made in fear. Remember that your family is the most important part of your life and that they, too, will make sacrifices to support your journey. Honor your life’s partner. Remember every day that she is the most import thing in your life. Don’t let success go to your head. The arrogance of power is insidious. You will believe you deserve more because you are successful, but stay true to yourself and those whom you love. Perhaps the greatest lesson is, “this too shall pass.” Breathe and enjoy the ride.

The July 2024 Issue

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