Right now I have an email from Trey in my inbox from Saturday, and I know that my response will never get a reply. This has been our journey with our friend Trey:
It was over two years ago, in May 2009 that I met Trey Pennington. I say ‘met’, the reality was that we met online months before but it was in May that year that Trey arrived in Exeter UK and a friendship was born, and the sparks of Like Minds were ignited. Since then, the Like Minds community has spent plenty of time with him in person, and even more chatting away on Twitter and Facebook just like we do. Andrew and I continually talk about him and with him. He’s just part of our lives.
Anyone who knew Trey or knew of him would’ve been well aware that Trey loves people. He loves to meet new faces and join the dots between them to create exciting new relationships. That’s what happened with Like Minds. As the history goes, he suggested I run an event of some description and before you knew it we had thousands of people talking about it on Twitter. But it isn’t just Like Minds that happened like this. Social Media Club expanded month on month because of Mr Pennington and his connecting ways, Next Generation Leaders in Slovakia was the same, as were dozens of other conferences and communities large and small that have Trey at their heart.
It’s this piece of our heart that has been lost. Trey’s wonderful southern accent, his giving heart, the way he’d say “ya’ll” at the most grammatically incorrect of times, how he saw nothing but the best in people, his “aw man” expression when he was delighted with the 100 year old Grand Marnier that we bought him, or just the tenderness of his thankful smile. Even speaking to him this last week, I reminded myself that you can never mistake speaking to Trey with someone else – there is no one like him. I wrote a blog post last year called I Love Trey Pennington celebrating that fact.
Many don’t know that Trey’s real name wasn’t actually Trey. Trey’s was named after his father and after his father before him, yet tragically Trey’s dad died when Trey was only just born. The last words his father spoke where “bring me my boy.” When Trey’s mother remarried, Trey was called Trey (as in third), in honour of his father and grandfather. But it’s this type of thing that few people actually know. See whereas Trey was quick to share his address book and advice, he wasn’t so quick to share his personal life even with people who were close to him, even when personal problems began to threaten his very life.
This is true for more people than you think. There are scores of people who act the part on Twitter while struggling to make ends meet, struggling with personal difficulties, and falling apart because of it, yet the pressure they feel to play the part keeps them silent from asking for the help they need. As I said last night, it seems that what people project online is not always what is reality offline.
This was Trey’s situation. He went through some incredibly difficult personal problems, and as his friend I have been on the phone and email with him for the last two weeks in particular. Trey and I had become very close over the years and I was glad to be able to help in a way that I suppose he’d let few others have access. Yet I would surmise that all the help on Twitter couldn’t change the feelings that had brewed up inside him, and eventually took him.
But while this piece may be lost, his legacy will live on.
I realise that I’m mixing between the present and past tense here and it’s because I can’t imagine that he is really gone. I think that’s fitting, because his legacy will continue like nothing ever happened. For all the people that he has connected, all the events, communities and movements that he sparked, for all the good will he put out there, it will all continue to do what he always intended it to do: empower people to be better.
So what next? Tributes are pouring into Trey’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, but those will end one day and things will go back to normality (or as close to normality as they can.) I suggest there’s something more that we need to do.
1. If you’re struggling, don’t do it alone. Don’t pretend like because you’re speaking all over the place, have your book deal, get retweets and the rest that you have to pretend all is alright at home. Know that if you know us, we are are there for you. Anyone in the Like Minds Community will jump to help anyone else.
2. Trey was due to speak at Like Minds 2011. He cancelled with me this week to focus on his personal issues but Andrew and I are going to keep that slot open and do something special to honour him. If you have anything you think would be good to share, let me know.
So how do I remember Trey?
Trey once told me that his hero was Zig Zigler. Shortly after, Trey got to meet Zig himself. While preparing to do a short interview on camera, Trey considered all the great questions that he could ask and get mind-blowing answers to, yet he found himself asking a question that he already knew the answer to, just because he wanted to hear those immortal words for himself. And so when Trey’s moment came, he asked him what the key as to getting everything you want in life, to which Zig replied:
“I believe with all my heart that you can have what you want if you just help enough other people get what they want. It’s not about you, it’s about them.”
That sums up Trey to a T. May it forever sum up Like Minds.
Links to other blog posts about Trey: