Willie Shoemaker was always tiny. He weighed 38 ounces when he was born. He was so small at birth he was put in a shoebox and placed in an oven to stay warm. Fully grown he stood 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 91 pounds.
Wilt Chamberlain was always gigantic. One of nine kids in his Philadelphia family, Chamberlain was 6 feet 10 inches tall when he turned 10. He would grow to be 7 feet 1 inch and weigh 300 pounds.
Two men could hardly be more different, and yet so similar.
Shoemaker became one of the greatest jockeys in horse racing history, winning more than 8,800 races in his 41-year career. Chamberlain became one of the greatest basketball players of all time, once scoring 100 points in an NBA game.
Shoemaker and Chamberlain, almost comically different in stature, yet so similar in results.
I’ve been thinking a lot about differences these days, the kind of differences that mislead us.
A recent Antique Trader cover story featured Leonard Lauder, one of the richest men in America. Lauder is a billionaire businessman many times over. He spent three decades running his family’s publicly traded cosmetics giant, Estée Lauder. He and his brother, Ronald, co-chair the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which has awarded more than $100 million to fund trials in 18 countries.
Lauder is also a collector. His world-class Cubist art collection was valued at more than $1 billion. Lauder gave it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
But our cover story isn’t about any of that. It’s about collecting something completely different, something so commonplace that we can all relate to Lauder in some fashion. His story is about postcards.
Lauder has been collecting postcards since he was 7 and living in Miami Beach. Today, at 87, he is the oldest member of the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City. Even so, his story isn’t really about postcards either.
No, his story is really about finding something in your life that connects you to the world that surrounds you. Postcards were a means to an end. Lauder was just a kid when he found adventure in the way only a kid discovers it – magically, first in Miami Beach and then in New York City, set free by his parents to explore the unknown.
In Lauder’s case, he found a passion for postcards, for history and for art. More importantly, he found a connection. Along the way he also discovered an appreciation for mentors willing to help a kid learn.
Leonard Lauder is as different than most of us as Chamberlain was to Shoemaker. No doubt. His world of high finance and wealth are almost unimaginable. And yet, in perhaps the most important way, we are all exactly the same. We all have to find a way to connect.
And that, my friends, is the long and the short of it.