Sept. 28, 2015 at 1:10 p.m.
I’m a difficult personality. I posess the self-awareness required to grasp this. Among my anal tendencies and expectations of excellence, one thing that really drives these issues or strengths, depending on the situation and application, is my absolute refusal to accept circumstances that are anything less than desirable. We have too much ability and control over this to settle.
Before I make my next point, I must preface it with clarifying statements in regards to my personal beliefs and passions. The first, is that I am truly very thankful for the time, resources, and effort my parents sacrificed to allow me to pursue my own path and build on their foundation. Secondly, what I’m about to delve into, is only meant for those who want more. Those who demand more. Those who refuse to accept anything less than the realization of their dreams.
My father grew up in a time and place where he can tell stories of he and his brothers picking cotton. They picked and worked their own fields, like all poor families did. My grandfather was, by all accounts, a hard worker. Having been a Marine Sergeant in WWII, and part of The Greatest Generation, he was a provider, even if a hard man emotionally. He did eventually parlay his hard work and effort into his own business, but never prospered to the point where he wasn’t still working side by side with his hired labor. My father and his siblings grew up in square footage that by today’s standards would be akin to living in a shed. To be fair, it was a shed that provided shelter and was owned free and clear. They all knew hard work and they knew what scraping by meant.
My mother’s family was even less a stranger to poverty. Ten children, of which my mother was the oldest, equated to a total of twelve mouths to feed on the income of my grandfather alone, who toiled in your below average low-income factory type jobs. If my father and his siblings knew scraping by, then my mother and her siblings knew the definition of poverty. They knew what it was like to be “the least of these” among neighbors and classmates. The hand-me-down kids, whose neighbors often helped supply extra food or clothing. They were dirt poor.
I tell of the background of each of my parents, in order to put into perspective that it was actually quite the accomplishment for us to live in our own two-bedroom trailer, on our own piece of land. In our rural setting, this certainly wasn’t out of the norm. Yes, looking back, we were poor, although I certainly didn’t understand this in my childhood.
I don’t thumb my nose at the roof over my head and food on the table that my parents provided. However, I highly value that what they did instill in me, is an absolute belief in hard work, education, and that I am just as capable of accomplishing something great as anyone else on this planet. I’m determined to do it. I refuse to be a victim of my circumstances, rather I choose to be a product of my circumstances. I refused to allow being poor and not having the opportunity many have to turn me into a complainer, a whiner, or a chronic excuse maker. These things helped put a chip on my shoulder that fuels me to succeed.
Growing up in a rural setting helped me to understand values that aren’t often found among a strictly white-collar background. Among these: Work, hard work, is something to be proud of, even if the wages are low. There is much to be said about the efforts of a long day, and seeing the tangible result. A man is only as good as his word was something I saw demonstrated, and still sticks with me to this day. Out of all the things I control, my word being my bond, is one of the most important. Helping others is a responsibility we should all feel. “But by the grace of God go I” is something I saw my father exemplify in his feelings toward everyone, always understanding you never really know until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes.
These values laid a foundation for who I am now, what I stand for, and what I believe to be true about people and opportunity. Each and every one of us have control over our lives. We may not control all circumstances or events, but we absolutely control what we do with them and what they drive us to become.
I believe people are created with far more power and ability than most of us realize. After all, being created in the image and likeness of God is a pretty big deal, even though we often don’t act like it. It’s exciting, powerful, and very telling. If God used the very first book of His living word to us telling of His creation, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that we too are made to create?
I don’t believe in wasting time whining or complaining about what we don’t have or can’t do, and what others have and can do. I don’t have patience or much tolerance for people who accept sub-par results or quality, to be the fruit of their efforts. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
I believe that if someone like me can be blessed with the opportunity and abilities that I have, then everyone has that same potential.
I believe that if a country boy from a rural area and low-income home, with no college degree, can achieve the things I have, build the network I have, lead the people I’ve lead, and be respected and valued for the things I’ve learned, anyone else can achieve similar results.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit 35 or so of these great United States, 4 Canadian provinces, Mexico, Italy, and a few stops in between. Opportunity abounds for those who choose to pursue it. Those who refuse to accept defeat. The difference in people, in my opinion, is what it takes to defeat them or scare them into accepting less than their dreams and true potential. People who experience difficulty, and who then decide to pack it in and play it safe, are settling. Don’t get me wrong, that’s certainly your right. It’s your life and if you’re content with that, so be it.
This is for the rest of us. The ones who although thankful for their blessings, opportunities, and achievements, always choose to continue in pursuit. We can always be better. We can always do more. We can always help more. The goal need not be perfection, but continued pursuit and improvement toward doing, building, and accomplishing greatness. Never settling.
I’ve been blessed to meet others like me, who continue to passionately pursue their goals, and chief among those goals is helping others do the same. A good friend, who’s become a mentor to me, always uses the phrase “Be somebody” and “Be somebody in Christ!” These are both so in-line with who he is as a person, and how he feels about life and people.
This man was born into a large family, who barely made ends meet. He began to work at a golf course around the age of ten, and at twelve years old he started paying into the social security system. You read that right, back in the days before child labor laws, he started paying into the system at twelve years of age.
He went on to enlist in the US Army. This patriotic embodiment of a hard working American, then began a career AFTER his retirement from the military at 39 years of age. He is now one of the most recognized names in his chosen industry, has a vast network of business contacts, and spends much of his time in mentoring kids in the Royal Rangers program, other business professionals, activities in his church, his own annual golf tournament, and many other ways of giving back. This is an example of being about it and not just talking about it.
People like us have a low tolerance for shoddy work, complaining, and perhaps more than anything else, for people who don’t understand that great things are built through and with other people. When you’ve been blessed as we have, you understand that it comes with a responsibility to be a blessing to others.
It is high time more people in this country stopped looking at what they don’t have, stopped complaining about what they can’t do, and got busy using what they can do and do have, to take the first steps toward their dreams. Yes, failures will come. The beauty of learning to step out in faith and banish fear is that failure actually becomes a blessing in terms of the lesson it teaches. You will have times where you fall flat on your face, but my hope and prayer for you is that when this happens, as it has to me, you’ll be better for it. You’ll be stronger for it. You’ll be smarter because of it. Then, you’ll dig in your heels, and be more determined than ever.
As a very successful businessman and mentor once said to me, in the midst of my struggle to make something happen out of a system that lacked structure and clarity, “There are two kinds of people. Those who talk about it and those who make it happen.” He would know, because with only an eighth grade education and his determination, he has now amassed a net worth of hundreds of millions of dollars.
You were created to make it happen. In the words of my good friend, “Be somebody!”