One is tempted to draw on the tale of Icarus when considering the trajectory of high-flying Kiwi Chris Liddell.
But, unlike the tragic mythological Greek character, any hint of descent in Liddell's life thus far has only motivated him to climb again. If there is wax in his wings, it has so far proved impervious to heat.
Liddell was appointed as US President Donald Trump's Deputy Chief of Staff for policy coordination in March 2018, said to be the highest position a New Zealander has held in the leaders' office of the world's most powerful nation.
That's an ascent for anyone. But all the more remarkable for the back story. Born in Matamata, Liddell spent much of his early years at Onewhero in South Auckland where his father was headmaster of the district school.
Liddell went on to Edendale Primary in Mt Albert during the 1960s, where he described his achievements as "unremarkable". During his years at Mt Albert Grammar, however, he found a determination which drew him through the pack to be both Dux and Victor Ludorum.
One of five children raised by their mother after his father died of a heart attack, Liddell rose from adversity with a role model he still admires above all others - his mother Eileen Liddell.
It apparently still grates he wasn't awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. He still went, of course, but he had to plead with his family to fund his studies. On returning to New Zealand, merchant banking called and he rose to joint chief executive officer at Jarden & Co by the early 1990s before moving on to Carter Holt Harvey as chief financial officer and then chief executive officer.
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Seeking to become the best by working with the best, Liddell set his sights on Microsoft and Bill Gates, one of the world's great philanthropists. This spirit rubbed off with Liddell and brother John reportedly donating $1 million to Mt Albert Grammar. Liddell has also contributed $450,000 to send Auckland University students to do postgraduate studies at Oxford – providing young "all-rounders" the scholarship he missed out on.
Liddell went on to be vice-chairman and chief financial officer at General Motors, where he led global finance operations and managed the company's $23 billion IPO in November 2010, which was then the largest public offering in history.
His third wife, Renee Harbers, is believed to have introduced him to Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and the Republican Party and he became executive director for Mitt Romney's 2012 transition team.
That path has seemingly run its course with the transition at the White House under way to a Democratic administration. His nomination as one of 10 in a field soon to be narrowed for selecting the next secretary-general of the OECD would not have been helped by Trump's defeat.
The nomination for the five-year tenure was already awkward for New Zealand due to the Trump administration's hostility to multilateral trade and international entities such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Liddell has mused about starting a centre-right political party in New Zealand. There are clues in his life story about where his policy compass may point. He has spoken of ambitions to address the "hollow centre" where the rich get richer and the poor have too few aspirations.
It may well be the long game is to bring his business and policy experience home. After all, his mother, the person he most admired in the world, was also a big fan of Sir Robert Muldoon.