Robert Nylen

Answer one question or many - using words, photos or other media.

Who did Robert like or admire?

Elizabeth Sams
Bob had masses of friends, and probably some individual heroes he greatly admired. But what stands out for me is his bone-deep admiration for ordinary people who just get up every day and do what they need to do. That's the example he demonstrated best in his own life, and it filled his writing.

I was lucky enough to edit some of Bob's pieces for Beliefnet and in piece after moving piece, Nylen painted loving portraits of regular Americans, getting the job done without fanfare or posturing. For example, Rico Colalucci, his 19-year-old platoon sargeant in Vietnam:

“Where bad things happened, he arose like a phantom, M-16 ablaze, rallying us....Don't misunderstand. He wasn't calm when bullets zinged by. He was no John Wayne, code in Vietnam for glory-seeking hot dog. Far from it. As time passed, he was a twitching, scared mess who often looked trapped in a mythic caricature he'd created for himself. We expected him to act heroically, and he delivered. It got harder when people nearby him were getting shot and maimed. Rico's eyes would go wide with fear, but his body still did the job....Whatever his inner demons, he quelled them and soldiered on. Golly, I loved that guy. No one who faces death isn't afraid. It's what you do with the fear that counts.”


What did Robert dislike?

Elizabeth Sams
Hypocrisy in any form. Bob was one of the most honest people I've ever known. He spoke his mind even in situations where he knew his ideas wouldn't be popular, and had little or no respect for people whose default mode was the opposite. That kind of scrupulous honesty made him a terrific colleague and a solid friend, a person it was easy to trust and rely on.

What did you learn from Robert?

Steven Waldman
Whenever Beliefnet would get in trouble, he would offer to cut his own pay. I learned that leadership requires self-sacrifice. He also was fearless about confronting people or things that needed to be confronted. And yet despite his deep ethical core, he was incredibly self deprecating.

What's your favorite picture of Robert?

Steven Waldman

If you pray, what have been the messages or requests in those prayers?

Steven Waldman
Bob once told me that Prayer Circles were the worst thing we'd foisted on the American public. I always loved that line. Every once in a while I pray to him, just to get under his skin. We originally described Beliefnet as being about religion, spirituality and morality. Since Bob wasn't religious he said he was in charge of self-righteousness.

Who were some famous people Robert met?

Steven Waldman
The most famous one we met together was Michael Jackson. Bob described it best: "In 2000, a megacelebrity asked his counselor — our contributor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach — for introductions to acquaintances in finance and new media. So Steve Waldman, Tony Uphoff, Highland Capital VC Jo Tango, forty strangers, and I met in the Four Seasons hotel suite of the most recognizable human on the planet. We munched finger foods and evaded jumpy PR ladies and the Good Rebbe in the star’s spacious living room.
More or less on time, the King of Pop strode from an anteroom: Michael Jackson went straight to work. A young man assisted, holding two dozen illustrated storyboards. Jackson wished to build a Peter Pan theme park. A misapplied Band-Aid held his nose to his face as he spoke diffidently, then with mounting confidence as his voice dropped from alto to tenor. It wasn’t a bad idea, aside from the unbelievably creepy factor. Theme park? Peter Pan? From a guy living a pedophilic life that J.M. Barrie only simulated? Hmm.
Mr. Jackson took financial questions for fifteen minutes,. His concentration began slipping. He lobbed grapes at his colleague, who reciprocated. Rebbe Shmuley asked us to pose, one by one, for photos with M.J., and oh, by the way, how about donating to a new charity to benefit kids? Each of us in turn grasped the naked right hand of the famous germaphobe, flesh-to-flesh, and chatted him up, too. Subsequently, I coughed up a hundred dollars for the charity, but no photo. As I recall, the charity was called 'Save These Children.'”

What are some of the best videos of Robert talking?

Steven Waldman

What six words best describe Robert?

Steven Waldman
Gutsy, scrupulously honest, comic, entrepreneurial, storyteller

How would Robert most want to be remembered?

If you could send Robert a message now, what would you say?

What are your best memories of time together?

Did Robert have a favorite phrase or common mannerism?