“Portrait of John Jay Osborn, Jr.”  Leica Monochrom M.

The man in this photo changed my life.  And I had never met him.

He did it by penning this line in his 1971 bestselling book, The Paper Chase: “You come in here with a skull full of mush, and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”  I loved the idea of rewiring my brain to think with speed and precision – and I loved the idea of attending Harvard Law School (HLS).  

I was up in Maine at a Navy squadron at the time and hopped in my car and drove to Harvard to walk the grounds and visit the Law School.  As a state college graduate, getting into HLS would be no easy feat but I bought the LSAT prep books and committed myself to trying.  Long story short, I ended up applying to HBS instead.  Turned out it was a good decision for me, but I would never have even considered applying if it hadn’t had been for the inspiration of The Paper Chase.  And it did “rewire” my brain (mostly for the better).

Many years later (and over a decade ago), I would tell the story of that book and the role of serendipity in our lives at new hire orientation at my first start-up (Military.com).  And one day, a new hire named Sam raised his hand and said that he had something to say.  It was kind of unusual for people to have questions during my “Paper Chase” story.  Anyway, Sam said, “My father wrote that book!”  I couldn’t believe it.  Such a coincidence.  But it gets better.

A few months later, I’m out in SF and am introduced to a young lady named Meredith.  For some reason, I relate this story to her and she says, “Sam is my brother!”  Two Osborn’s in the same year.  It turns out that their father lives and teaches in San Francisco, and I got the chance to spend time with him.  He’s an incredibly gracious, brilliant and funny man.  

Well, it had been many years since I had last seen John.  But that changed today over a wonderful catch-up lunch at The Cavalier.  He’s as wonderful and interesting as ever – and is about to publish a great new book.  

Well, you might wonder, why we decided to meet again after so many years?  I was just in Santa Fe taking a photographic workshop and one of the women in class asked if “Sam Osborn” had worked at my company.  Yes, the Osborn’s strike again!

Did you ever feel like the universe was trying to tell you something?  

If you haven’t read or seen The Paper Chase, you should.  It might just change your life.

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