"I've got some bad news," Ethan said, sighing. "I'm going to have to cancel. Some things have gone south here and it's all hands on deck. I'm really sorry to be last minute about it."
"Aw, dude, are you sure?" said Pete, switching to persuasion. "It's just the weekend! You'll be back bright and early on Monday!"
Ethan felt terrible. "I know, it's killing me, but I really don't think I can." He tried to explain about the looming deadline. "I don't know what happened, but things are a royal catastrophe here. I'd feel like a captain abandoning ship, and I don't really have time to spare."
"Hey, how about this," said Pete. "Friday night, after a day on the slopes, the four of us sit down, take the whole situation apart, and brainstorm over a massive feast. We're all entrepreneurs, right? It will be like a strategy consult with your own personal advisory board!"
Ethan was touched, and tempted. This weekend was their only chance to catch up all year—would his friends really want to spend it focused on his business problems? But he knew he didn't even need to ask. The four had been friends for over twenty years and never missed a beat. They were always there for over each other. He knew where they stood, and he always knew he could count on them.
The promise Ethan had just made to his team about turning things around tugged at him, but Pete had a good point. The mere idea of brainstorming with his old friends lifted at least some of the gloomy weight from his shoulders. Ethan smiled. "Tempting, this is very tempting."
"Right," commanded Pete. "So you are going to pack up, go home, grab your gear, and meet us on the mountain. I'll see you there!" And without giving Ethan a chance to respond, the call disconnected.
The idea was tempting indeed. And it really was just the weekend. Ethan would be back on Monday no matter what, perhaps with some new insights about what had gone wrong. With the baby coming so soon, he also knew this might be his last chance to go skiing for a long time.
His mind made up, Ethan grabbed his jacket, gave a last, slightly guilty look around his office, and headed toward the parking lot.
TRUST IS EVERYTHING
THE BRAIN TRUST
ETHAN WAS THE FIRST to arrive at The Grove, a small ski resort that was decidedly off the beaten path. The Brain Trust had a few regular spots, but this year the group was trying something new. On the long car ride from the airport, Ethan tried to convince himself that he had made the right call. A few days of skiing in the crisp alpine air, taking in those majestic mountain views, and spending time with old friends would do him good. Or maybe he was just trying to escape the crisis. Perhaps this was a cop-out. By the time he arrived at the entrance, his guilt rising, the cop-out side of the argument was winning the day.
As the doors of the lodge opened, Ethan was distracted from his gloomy thoughts by an aroma of freshly baked bread wafting out of the lobby. That's unusual, he thought. Most resorts smell like bland, floral chemicals. Inside, he spotted a large sign with three words carved into its surface: TRUST IS EVERYTHING.
Ethan felt his irritation return. If trust was everything, why had no one on the management team told him what was really going on at 10K? But he didn't have time to brood, since a lanky teenager with a cheerful expression was walking toward him.
"Ethan Parker? Welcome to The Grove! I'm Milo. I'll be taking you up to your room."
Ethan blinked. He hadn't realized this would be the kind of place to memorize its guests before they arrived. He knew that happened at some high-end, luxury resorts, but he hadn't expected that sort of treatment at an unassuming place like this. He followed Milo up some stairs that opened out onto an expansive room. He stopped short at the sight of an Aspen tree growing inside the resort's main room.
Milo laughed when he noticed Ethan's amazed expression. "You'll see a few more. The whole place was actually built around a grove of them."
Ethan closed his mouth, realizing it had been hanging open. "Thus the name?" he asked.
"Exactly," said Milo. Apparently the original resort had been really small, with the buildings scattered around some very old Aspens. "When they built the current lodge," he explained, "the trees were so old and beautiful, they didn't feel right cutting them down."
Following Milo through the Great Room and toward the designated suite, Ethan gazed at the open spaces. He liked the thought of designing a lodge around a family of trees!
"Here we are," Milo announced, opening the door to the suite and handing Ethan the key. After Milo showed him around, Ethan dropped into a couch, hoping he hadn't just made a huge mistake.
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power by Zachary Karabell.