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On Hamlet, Horatios and Shakespearean mythology…

Did Hamlet have a death wish?

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”     
“Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;   
For he was likely, had he been put on,      
To have proved most royally:


And, for his passage,

The soldiers’ music and the rites of war     
Speak loudly for him.”

I had heard about Hamlet, read and seen parts of the movie, but my real interaction with the Prince happened at Columbia Business School. The course was John Whitney’s In search of the perfect prince, where we went head to head with Shakespearean plays and our personal demons under the skillful tutelage of a professor who spoke less than 300 words in a full term course and changed the lives of all that he touched.

Whitney, by our own interaction in the course, taught us that Hamlet wasn’t alone. The ghosts in his past drove him towards a destiny that was very romantic, but hardly necessary. Everything that he loved and touched turned to dust, blood and gore, which is not exactly the right mix if you plan on retiring with your loved ones to your beach front villa in Thailand, Indonesia, Venezuela or the south of France.

Stop, look around, and ask for help. Said Whitney…

We did.

You are not alone, he said…

We were surprised, but he was right.

Along the way on this journey, over the last decade, I found that the world is full of Horatios (friend of Hamlet) who will give without asking, without expectations. They are a little hard to find but destiny plays interesting games with our mutual lives and ensures that our paths cross. I have had more than my fair share of Horatios.

How do you know you have found one. Here is my cheat sheet for the Horatio test.

A Horatio is not interested in compensation. When you raise the subject, he brushes it away. You can’t tempt him with cash, with stock or with tickets to exotic locations. He will work for food, as you long as you share it with him and give him company. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bowl of sticky rice with minced beef that you paid 2 bhats on a streetside stand, or steamed rice with beefy chilly dry from a four star chef. Food is food, it’s the company that matters.

A Horatio doesn’t care about credit. He cares about your success and only asks for fairness and respect. Give him both and he is yours for ever. Cheat him out of his share, trudge him down; he will forgive you, but he will never open up again.

A Horatio doesn’t care about what the world will think or say. He only cares about what you said. Remember this and write this down. The world is jealous of your Horatio’s. It will take your tiniest sound bite and play it to your Horatio at 400 watts.

There is only thing in the world that a Horatio asks. That you treat him with the same kindness and warmth that he treats you with. That is all. A smile for weary days, a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, an open door and a place to crash when all other are locked and closed.

So the next time someone comes by and promises to open up unopened doors, bring in high flying customers, share uncommon wisdom, for a slice of the pie and a part of your wallet, what do you do…Do you walk away from unimagined conditional wealth?…You say no.

Because a Horatio never asks…

To the Horatios in our lives. Where would we be without you?

(This post was inspired by Jehan’s comments on an earlier post)