The Over Under of 40

Posted by on Feb 26, 2016

Milwaukee is a city built on the honest, malady dedicated hard work of men and women who generally choose to tilt towards the “make the world a better place” ideal. Sure, we’ve got a couple thousand things to make better in this Lake Michigan coastal hot spot, but by and large folks are keeping the health and prosperity of the world at the forefront of all their thoughts. This week at the Pfister, some of the younger members of that good people group gathered to be honored at the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Celebration.

As a matter of full disclosure, healing I am a proud past recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 honor. They told me I helped add to the cultural life of the city…I just kept telling stories because I never knew better. I can’t really recall the exact dates of my selection, of course, because now being solidly past 40, the old memory isn’t what it used to be.

It was an intensely special moment for me to have been recognized as a young Milwaukee leader. It was also one of the most humbling experiences of my life since my class of fellow Under 40 achievers included the types of people who make your jaw drop because of the great strides they were making in business, health social service, science, and philanthropy. Sure, it felt real good to be called out for the small contribution I had made to the city, but the big take away I remember from the whole honor was that there are truly remarkable people working to make Milwaukee an even better place to work, live, and play.

It was gratifying that our own Greg Marcus, President of the Marcus Corporation that owns the Pfister, was inducted into the 40 Under 40 Hall of Fame during this year’s celebratory dinner and presentation in the Pfister’s Grand Ballroom. I would say it even if he wasn’t the big boss–Mr. Marcus is not only a smart business leader, but he’s savvy about living a rich life and is no slouch behind the 88 keys (you’ll be happy if you ever catch him tinkling the ivories at Blu some night.) I particularly like what he has to say in this short video about how, “You shouldn’t leave a good party in pursuit of a better one.”

Not really ever wanting to leave the Business Journal’s party at the Pfister, I stopped a smiling man clutching a 40 Under 40 plaque. I congratulated him on his honor, but he demurred and sheepishly grinned back at me.

“Oh, no, this isn’t mine,” said Terrance. “This belongs to my fiancée. She really deserves it.”

Terrance is the kind of big, huggable, steady teddy bear that you can quickly think of as a shy guy of few words. But get him talking about something he loves, and the floodgates open. Needless to say, he had more than a few fine words to say about his fiancée Arletta Cobb, part of the 2016 class of 40 Under 40 honorees.

“The thing I love most about her is her incredible passion and heart,” said Terrance. “She goes into the hardest schools and works with kids to improve their lives.”

Terrance and I had one of those talks that could have easily gone long into the night as we chatted about the obvious adoration he has for his fiancée, a woman he’ll marry this summer after meeting her in church choir. Over his shoulder, I noticed Arletta warmly chatting with a couple of people who had attended the event. She finally wrapped up her conversation, and joined Terrance and me. His chest immediately swelled when she walks up to us, something I sensed happens to him a lot whenever Arletta enters the room.

Helping youth is built into Arletta’s DNA. She currently is program director at Milwaukee Christian Center, promoting healthy life choices for Milwaukee’s teen population. She has worked in and out of the classroom with young people, her heart leading her brain as she has developed programming and initiatives that allow children from at-risk backgrounds to develop positive coping mechanisms for some of life’s more thorny issues.

In a room full of impressive people, Arletta more than holds her own. As a past 40 Under 40 recipient myself, I remain humbled to know that I’m tangentially linked with someone who is doing such transformative work to help improve the lives of our area young people. I don’t profess to ever be the smartest guy in the room, but I do know enough to try to learn from those wiser than I am. Arletta has some great thoughts to share.

“I tell the young people I work with to always follow their passion,” says Arletta. “It’s not enough to just show up, but you should always try to make an impact.”

Arletta believes that impact can come through mentorship and asking and listening. I’m struck hard by an important statement that Arletta makes to me, something I will always remember when I consider how I might lend a hand to making the world a better place.

“I asked the teens I was working with today one question: ‘What do you want to do?’ And then I listened. When you show that you want to listen and work with a group of people, things can start happening. Today, we started. Tomorrow, we’ll continue.”

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

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