A Ranch Resident’s Story: Perry Herst


By Chris Rellas

So many people in this community do not see all of the history that Rancho Santa Fe holds. Many of its residents have lived here for decades and have stories to tell. As a young person, I’ve always been intrigued by the generations that have come before me and what they have to offer. I am writing this column to help spread the stories of our community’s long-time residents.

For most people, retirement is a word that conjures up visions of leisure and relaxation, a time to finally unwind, to appreciate all that life has given. But in Perry Herst’s opinion, retirement is highly overrated.

“Retirement stinks,” he says to me as we first sit down. “It happened too early for me. I should’ve gone into something else. I should’ve kept going.”

An old-time Chicagoan and Harvard business school graduate, Herst’s desires lie in personal success and a drive to always move forward; a drive, he says, inspired by his father.

“My father was a wonderful man. A great businessman, a great person. Very unassuming.”

Herst says that a lot of who he is can be credited to his father. “He always wanted to be his own man. He didn’t want to work for anyone else.” So, it came as no surprise that when Herst entered the corporate world, he did so with some reluctance. At a young age, Herst went into commercial real estate. He loved the creativity, he says. “It was like playing with dough; making something out of nothing, really.” And with each new project, he did just that. The company he worked for, Tishman, was the largest commercial real estate company in the nation. The firm built over the air rights in Chicago and owned many notable buildings in New York City. Eventually, he made the choice to move to Los Angeles, where he became head of the newly privatized Tishman West.

“I loved the power, I loved the perks, I loved the recognition,” he recounts as he speaks of his job. “It was in my fingers, I had a feel for it.”

But, he says, he was lucky to find what he really loved to do.

“A lot of what happens in life is trial and error. You have to do what you like, but it’ll take you some time to figure out what that is.”

In essence, life is about experimenting, about taking risk and sometimes falling flat on one’s face. When asked what his advice to young people would be, he took an extended pause before answering.

“Learn to admit your mistakes. The world is moving so fast that if you admit a mistake, in two months everyone will forget about it. So don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong because it means that you were trying something new.”

But his insight is not limited to the world of business. A fly fisherman and bird hunter of 25 years, Herst has been to Europe countless times and traveled through South America and the islands off of British Columbia. “I’ve had a great life,” he says as he reflects on some of his proudest moments. But in Herst’s opinion, what it comes down to are the Y’s in the road. “You always have these critical decisions to make. Whether to go left or right. And once you make that decision, you can’t change it. Making key decisions is important.” Then, he toys with the idea in his mind and adds, “Knowing which way to go, that comes from experience.”