This blog is very personal. It’s about the loss of my brother. If you want to skip this and wait for my next blog about strategy or environment or sustainability, please feel free to do so. But this is something I have to do.

My oldest brother, David Nadler, died earlier this month. David and I had been distant, at best, for decades. When he received his cancer diagnosis in 2012, many things changed. One of them was our relationship.

David had dominated my youth. He set the bar. I wanted to be like him and I wanted to be accepted and validated by him. His seeming distance intimidated me, annoyed me and inspired me. Some good bit of my professional success can be traced to the burning desire to prove myself to him and to be worthy of him.

By our twenties, we had gone our separate ways – geographically, professionally and politically. We saw each other at family events and in family crises. We met infrequently as our paths crossed, at an office in New York City or a pub in London. We could work together when needed, but kept our distance. Our mother attributed this to David and me being too much alike; frankly neither of us cared enough to agree or disagree with her.

After David’s diagnosis, with David nearing 65 and me nearing 60, with our children grown (and some of them getting along with each other better than David and I did), we connected. As we joked, we didn’t reconcile; we had never “conciled” to begin with. We didn’t pretend; we openly referred to our growing relationship as one of the “silver linings” of his cancer.

DAN and SENWe spent time together with increasing frequency and ease. We found much we had in common, including music, books, movies and TV shows. Our mother was right: we were very much alike, even both guilty of “dreaming in PowerPoint”. We differed in many ways too. We cheerfully argued over our disagreements, especially in culture and politics. I castigated him for believing The Wall Street Journal; he pitied me for believing The New York Times; and we discovered we both really relied on The Economist.

For readers of this blog who are waiting for the applicable lessons, here are two:

  1. It’s never too late. While David and I had a meaningful relationship for only two short years, I will treasure that relationship and those two years for the rest of my life. As I told David, someone asked if I regretted that we hadn’t connected sooner. I could only quote the sage (Willie Nelson): “I could cry for the time I’ve wasted, but that’s a waste of time and tears.”
  2. Don’t let the differences obscure the agreements. After David’s last battle with his cancer began, we found ourselves spending New Year’s Eve together in a New York hospital. As we argued politics, we found we were about 98% in agreement on climate change, its causes, and what should be done about it. Who knew? What might we have accomplished if we had realized and acted on our areas of agreement over the years, instead of focusing on our disagreements?

But this isn’t about useful lessons. This is about my brother, whom I came to realize I loved and even liked, and who is now gone. To go on with my blog without giving him his due felt disrespectful and dishonest.

I will miss you, David. I will not forget you.

[Scott Nadler is a Senior Partner at ERM. To share this post, see additional posts on Scott’s blog or subscribe please go to snadler.com. Opinions on this site are solely those of Scott Nadler and do not necessarily represent views of those quoted or cited, ERM, its partners or clients.]


  1. Scott – thank you for so fiercely sharing. After what seemed like two years in hospitals with various family members, 2014 was a quiet year for me. Thankfully.

    The world is different without these people we love. And at least I have found that it’s not necessarily better or worse and that there doesn’t necessarily seem to be “a reason for everything,” as some of the conventional wisdom goes.

    I have found this to be true, though…there is no reason to wait to live into one’s truest expression. And I am thankful for experiencing as much death as I have to reinforce this idea.

    There will be no perfect timing, no perfect preparation that can be done in advance, no perfect amount of money to invest, etc. Life is practice. And I’m thankful every single day to have the opportunity to practice again…whether it’s breakfast or exercise or work or play or love or leadership or peace or rest.

    Here’s to you, your brother, and the opportunity to practice living well.

    Heartfelt love and appreciation,

  2. Scott, somehow i stumbled on this blog of yours when going through emails and am sorry i missed it when it actually came out. However, as Ryan so eloquently said, there’s not necessarily perfect timing, its all a practice and i’m practicing wanting to thank you, in this moment, for this beautifully spoken (and felt) tribute to David. It was especially empowering for me to feel how true the Willy Nelso quote is as i realize that when i ruminate on things in my past that i havent done as well as i would have liked, i just dont live as fully as i want to in the PRESENT. So…here’s to NOW and all life has to offer, here’s to the promise of an amazing FUTURE, and here’s to GRATITUDE for those beautiful souls, like David and you, who’s living and sharing reminds me of that.

  3. I’m cleaning out some old papers and found an email I wrote to your brother years ago and decided to google him. He was a teacher of mine while at Columbia and I was so impressed with how smart and kind he was. I watched his career via the internet and admired him. I remember he told me to ask people to help along the way, as people want to help others…a simple concept, but something that stayed with me. I’m glad to read about your relationship and that you reconnected even though you had limited time. He was an influencer in my life, as I am sure he was in many lives.

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