Mark Goulston

Remembering a wise advisor, mentor, and friend

A personal tribute to Dr. Mark Goulston, the first contributor to WorkingNation's storytelling mission

On December 30, the world lost a wonderful, kind soul, Dr. Mark Goulston.

For the 15 years I knew him, Mark often talked about his “Dead Mentors Club.” From Warren Bennis to Larry King, his list was powerful, wise, and colorful. He talked about how their mentorship lived on after they passed and how, as he considered different issues, he would think about what they would tell him to do. Mark recognized that once you lock into the wisdom of a mentor, you don’t ever lose that. 

Mark was a best-selling author, podcast host, and spoke at dozens of events each year, always working and creating ten new projects at a time. He was a brilliant and kind doctor to many, executive coach to some, super connector to others, but overall, just a champion of what kindness can still be in this world. Although he had seen some dark things in his career, he was an optimist about the power of love and friendship.  

To me, Mark was my dear friend.

He was what I call a human lie detector test, which is why so many people came to him to ask for advice. Although I didn’t witness him ever turning away anyone, I know there were CEOs and other executives who he passed on working with because he said they didn’t have the capacity to change and work from the heart. Mark had high standards of who he allowed into his space, and his fans, followers, clients, and friends are a testament to that.

When Mark got sick, he took it in stride and started his “I’m Dying To Tell You” series. We talked about it many times and he hoped it would bring people solace in difficult moments. He said he felt more peaceful than he had in years. He always talked about his wonderful wife Lisa, their three children, and his beloved grandchildren, and how his health issues made him appreciate them even more. He was so proud of who they all were and often got a tear in his eye when he mentioned them.

What still blows my mind is that until the end, Mark was still giving, connecting, and loving – but he still wondered if he ever did enough. He was so humble. I think he would be shocked at the response to his too-soon departure from this world, but he deserves the praise and adoration so many people have shared.

Mark had been suffering from leukemia for a couple of years but that never slowed him down. He was grateful for the opportunity to undergo a stem cell transplant, thanks to a family member, and went into the hospital in mid-December.

I had it on my calendar and texted and Zoomed with him to see how he was recovering. He would give an update but always bring it back to asking how he could help me – and talk about how important friendships are. I last Zoomed and texted with him on the 28th and he said he was doing well, and the doctors thought he was going to survive.

I responded in bold – “YOU WILL SURVIVE.” What I really meant was: “The world needs you, your kindness, your wisdom, your humility, and your willingness to try to make us all better. We can’t be a better world without you in it.” That’s how powerful I felt his energy was to everyone he touched.

Mark was the first columnist for WorkingNation right after I first helped Art Bilger launch the organization in 2016. He did it as a favor, as we needed some content and he was already a thought leader when it came to work and employees. I called him “the executive whisperer.” We were so grateful for his time and commitment to his column. He helped us lift off as a content company, and the entire WorkingNation team benefited from it.

What I will remember forever is that in the days he was in isolation after the surgery, he told me that when he got out of the hospital he wanted to help WorkingNation focus even more content on how important and underappreciated nurses are. He was feeling their support and love and he valued them. He saw them, in his remarkable way of recognizing people’s hearts. Mark mentioned it many times to me and I promised him we will honor that wish as part of his legacy.

I lost another mentor, ABC News’ Leroy Sievers, over 10 years ago after a long and courageous battle with cancer. His journalism career is one of the most admirable and his legacy lives on, although I think he is spinning in his grave looking at the news now. I guess now I have my own “Dead Mentors Club” and, as morbid as it sounds, I count myself as so grateful I got to learn from these giant men of integrity and better myself personally and professionally.

I will miss Mark tremendously but I’m so glad he explained to me that I can talk to him still. In my gut and soul I know what his kind words back to me would be. They would be supportive, encouraging, challenging, but always loving. He would push me to make sure in the decisions that I make, it’s always people first. Life is too short for it not to be.

Today, on what would have been his 76th birthday, I say RIP to a man who was literally a change agent in this world, including mine, for good.

My friend and teacher, Mark. I will miss his kindness but also his silly laugh. He was so humble that when he would say something brilliant, he would laugh and say, “I don’t know if that makes any sense.”

Mark, you made more sense than anyone I have ever known. I hate that you are now on my “Dead Mentors” list but, since you showed me how it works, I will talk to you soon. I look forward to your wisdom.

Joan Lynch is WorkingNation’s chief content and programming officer and was instrumental in the creation of WorkingNation’s storytelling mission.

Watch Dr. Mark Goulston’s YouTube series I’m Dying to Tell You