Keep the Fire Burning

For the world, David Warfel is the face of Zippo. But little do they know that this man is more than the Global Marketing Director of Zippo. EXEC finds out more about the man with a keen streak for adventure.

“I’ve been to India several times, but this is the first time I’m seeing the much talked about rains here.” Sometimes, wading through incessant rain and getting your favourite stockings muddy is totally worth it. A coffee with David Warfel, the Global Marketing Director, Zippo defined an afternoon well spent.

“It speeds up and cools downs the city at the same time,” smiles Warfel, polishing his plain, classic Zippo. Five years with the world’s most famous lighter brand, he hopes that this journey lasts for a while. “I have a rather long association with Zippo,” he says. “When I was 11, I bought my first Zippo.” Little did he know then that he would be heading the family that crafted these wind-proof lighters. Each, an individual piece of art, for the past 80 years, Zippos have been an absolute favourite of anyone who has ever chanced to use them.

For the young David, the lighter was a sign of security, the assurance the Boy Scout needed before running to save a puppy in need. “I remember walking into a pharmacy store and asking for a Zippo. God knows what I was thinking when I bought that lighter for $3. I bet I thought I could be some kind of a superhero.” Growing up at a time where the Zippo was a sign of confidence, this young boy knew this was a name he could trust. “All I knew was the fact that I was a scout and I knew that I always had to be prepared. At any point of time I would need to start a fire or signal someone or even rescue a small animal in pain and I knew I needed the Zippo.” Like they all say, each story about a Zippo starts with ‘I remember’.

But little does the world know that little Warfel was quite an adventurer. When he was 14, he and a good friend of his, Scott, had walked into an airport with nothing but two shopping bags, some saved up money and a plan to enjoy life for a couple of weeks. “One day, we thought that we needed to see the world, and off we went to enjoy the sun, sand and surf of the little heaven called the Caribbean we had only heard of. But unfortunately, we forgot to inform someone and Scott’s dad, who had been in the services, sent the US Navy after us. So a good two weeks later I was hauled back home and for several months after that, I was not allowed to go out anywhere except for school.”

Less than a year later, he tried his hand at music. “We were all very enthusiastic, but we were not cut out to be rock stars. No matter how hard we tried, we just could not get our guitars to sound good in public.” Unfortunately this four-member band, the Odds and Ends had more problems than that. Lead vocalist, Tom, was worse than the three Dave’s of the band. Invite even one person to watch the band jamming together and little Tom would break out into a cold sweat. “He was by far the most talented one in the band. He could actually sing. But audience was something he could never prepare himself for. The rest of us were fast learners and within a very short period of time we realized that we just could not play and we gave up. Speaking strictly about me, I was exceptionally bad with the rhythm guitar.”

But Warfel’s tales of adventures did not stop there. A little more than a decade ago, he made his way to South East Asia, and decided to embrace a job that was all about sun, sand and fun. “Though all my friends attributed this decision of mine to severe mid-life crisis, I knew what I was doing. But it was only after setting up the bar (or a few) in Thailand that I realized that having too much of fun is not good for a career.” While the rest of us can only dream of lounging around on the beach, flipping through our paperbacks, David Warfel was a man who not only walked down the path of a dream job, but also left it behind because it was ‘too much of fun’. “If you wake up in Paradise every single day, it will cease to be a place you can enjoy. Yes, having a job you love is important, but living the life you love and passing it off as a job didn’t work for me. I still cannot believe that I learnt that there is something known as ‘too much of fun!’”

A reader, a music-lover, a film-enthusiast, David Warfel is one of those men who know how to share smiles. “People are always talking to me about my work. Little do they know that I can walk on water and fly too,” chuckles the silver-haired man as the interview draws to an end.

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