174. Today’s Hero: David Pearl (and the way of the steel fist in a velvet glove)

David, as captured by the National Geographic photography legend Reza Deghati (who is also quite awesome!)

“He’s kind of like you, Claus, just better — and also nicer and better dressed. Plus, he can sing opera!”

The words belonged to my partner-in-crime, Paul Bulencea, and were spoken after we’d met David for the first time. He’d awed both of us, and we’re not always the easiest people to impress. Now, having worked with David on several occasions over the last couple of years, I’m even more impressed.

David conducting an orchestra for the first time — caught in action at his 60th birthday by yours truly.
  1. He also had a core of strength and power underneath, that he rarely allowed us to see, but which was nonetheless there, and which only added to the respect I had for him.

I used the expression “… like a steel fist in a velvet glove.”

Now, years later, I still stand by that description, and I consider it compliment of no small nature. David can charm and delight and connect and empower, but he also brings a fearless dedication to the table; this is not a conflict-fearing and insecure performer hiding behind a polished smile, but a charismatic leader who is not afraid of saying the hard things (even if he says them in a gentle way).

At least he doesn’t also have an imposing beard! (Portrait courtesy of Mark Langdon)
Even David’s showreel is cooler than mine!

For me, David Pearl is one of those heroes, and I feel grateful that I get to count him not only as an inspiration, but also as a friend.

And I will admit that I would get some perverted satisfaction out of knowing that he’d squirm a bit self-consciously in a very British fashion, when reading this and realising that I mean every word.



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Claus Raasted

Claus Raasted


Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey. Author of 34 books.