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Lessons From Life

From Dad With Love

John frowned as his son spoke, not liking what he was hearing. His son is a conscientious and hard worker, and it pains him to see him picking up bad habits at his new job. John understands how easy it is to get caught up in the negative aspects of any job. Still, he doesn't want his son to contribute to an unhealthy work environment. He wants his son to set good work practices for others, not follow bad examples.

John knows his son is very conscientious, and a gentle reminder is all he needs to be aware of his influence on coworkers. Sitting at his computer, he composes a text.

"Hey, bud, there are some things I would like for you to consider.

A person agrees with the employer to trade their skills for the company's benefits. If a person shows up for work not ready to start and needs time to get ready, are they holding up their part of the agreement?

Put yourself in the manager's position who is getting pressure from the company to get work done. Their workers show up needing time to get ready. Would they frustrate you as the manager?

Do you want to be a positive influence on your coworkers? Consider someone hired after you. Do you want them to learn to make comments positive about customers from you?

Consider that your manager has not received the training they need and work towards helping them succeed. They are going to make mistakes as a new manager.

Think of when, as a customer, you were unsure of what you needed and had to ask for help. How often have you been in a hurry when you need to purchase something? Does the employee's attitude make you feel cared for or unwanted?

Is the customer who takes the extra effort to get their oil changed a person to be commended or a person to be ridiculed?

You are intelligent and compassionate, and I know you will make the best decisions for yourself and others.

I am proud of you for the person you have become and will continue to grow into."

Love, Dad


The Wise Man or the Fool

Ben reaches into the cabinet and removes a large plastic cup. He is hot and tired from mowing on a muggy summer morning and needs to cool down. His next-door neighbors have had to leave for an extended stay at a distant hospital. Knowing that their yard would need maintenance to give the appearance, they were still at home. He has taken up the task of mowing and trimming their lawn. 

Turning to the refrigerator, he places the cup under the dispenser and fills it with cold water. He carries the water into the living room and flips on the overhead light and ceiling fan. He knows the ceiling fan will not stir enough air for a quick cool down, so he turns on the floor fan placed in front of his comfortable chair for such an occasion. 

He relaxes into the comfortable overstuffed chair and takes a long drink of the cold water. The familiar feeling of pain in his ankles and knees after mowing will start in just a few minutes. It is a pain he is willing to accept to keep their lawn in shape. He begins to contemplate the act of doing for others and what it means. 

A lifetime of observation has shown him that giving starts from several perspectives. People gift from what they have day to day, or they give from their accumulated excess. People give from the heart with no expectation of a return, and people gift with the expectation of a return favor in the future.

Looking back, Ben has noticed his giving has a trend line of helping people who cannot or will not be a hand up for him in his time of need. He has learned over time that doing for others from what he has with no expectations is a source of well-being for him. It is how he recharges his personal batteries. It has not escaped his attention that this type of giving does little to advance his standing in the world. He knows the path of helping others he has chosen has not been easy and will not be an easy way forward. 

He surmises the easier path, and the one he sees most taken is to gift from any excess he might gain. Doing this would limit the potential hardship of giving from what he has or needs could cause. His study has revealed that people who only share their excess appear less happy—constantly searching for the next person's issue to solve and never genuinely considering their needs. 

Perhaps he should be looking for people who could return a favor. Maybe life would be easier because of it. Pondering the thought, wouldn't superficial relationships be preferable to what he has now. After all, it is a what have you done for me lately kind of world.

Life is a journey where sometimes you are on top of the world, and sometimes you feel the weight of the world. In the end, he knows the path forward for him is to be an empathetic and giving person. The ability to walk in others' shoes keeps him grounded.

Sighing, he wonders whether his life choices have made him the wise man or the fool. 


Life Lessons Start Early


Bob's son Mike struggled in his robotics class during the school year. The course comprises building robots to compete with other schools in competitions around the state. Two student teams create, program, and participate in the team competitions. For the prior two years, Mike and a best friend had teamed together without achieving their desired results. In this his final year, he tries to go it alone without a teammate. Mike struggles to design and build his robot. Mechanical design is not his strength, but he is strong on the strategy side of competing. At the end of the first semester, he informed the robotics teacher he was stopping work on his robot and would do what he could to assist the teacher and the class.

When Mike informs Bob of his decision in robotics class, Bob, wanting it to be a learning experience, asks Mike, "ok, what did we learn from this."
Bob sees Mike's decision as an opportunity to teach a life lesson. He knows Mike, after much contemplation, has made a hard decision. It has taken a lot of guts to decide he lacked the talent for the mechanical side of building a robot and then talk to his teacher about it.

Bob sees two lessons Mike can learn from the experience. Number one, going it alone is a challenging task. It may seem like the easiest direction to go in the beginning, but when you run into the obstacles for which you lack talent, there is no one to take over. Number two is the choice of partner is critical to a team's success. For Mike and his friend, having a best friend for a partner seemed like the logical choice, but in the long run, the importance of the friendship took precedence over decisions suitable for the team in building the robot and kept necessary changes from being made.

Understanding this is an opportunity to convey knowledge for a lifetime.
Bob has a conversation with Mike, stressing the two lessons. He uses the philosophy that mistakes and missteps are for learning and improving.

Bob has two other young adult children. He understands each has a unique life experience and tailors his guidance to his offspring and their particular challenges.


Unintentional Loner

Eric is in deep contemplation as he drives a back road in Kansas. He is getting away from it all on one of his photography day trips. Fearing losing his thoughts, he decides to put them on paper before they are gone. According to the map, there is a scenic overlook with a picnic table, a great place to stop. Arriving at the lookout, he pulls in and grabs his notepad and pencil; climbing out of his truck, he heads for the table. Seated at the table, he looks out across the beauty of the Kansas flint hills lit ablaze by the early fall sun.

His mind is churning as he looks down and begins to outline a story about the unintentional loner. A man Eric would say is very familiar. Ray is a man who finds himself, except for his family, seemingly alone in a world that is unrecognizable even a few years ago.

Ray has reached middle age and, over time, has realized that he had become an unintentional loner. He is not sure how it happened. It's not like he set out to do it or even wanted it.

It wasn't always this way. Way back in middle school and high school, he had schoolmates and some friends. They would hang out after class during lunch. He would get together with friends after school hours. But then graduation came, and over time something happened; his friends and schoolmates started drifting away, and before he knew it, they were gone.

It's not that Ray is averse to socializing; he enjoys spending time with people. Rays favorite way of holding a conversation is by asking questions. He likes to get to know people by learning their stories and understanding their worldview. His philosophy is all people have an interesting story to tell, and you can learn something from everyone.

One of Rays most significant sources of frustration is that he rarely has had the chance to tell his story. He has made peace with that fact and will continue to enjoy learning about other people.

Making friends has always been a challenge for him, and he has given up on the idea at this stage.

Eric, from life experience, knows who every adult becomes is a combination of every phase of their life. Childhood and teenage experiences shape each person for a lifetime. People take different paths from similar backgrounds, but each course starts in childhood.

Moving to a small town when Ray was in elementary school. It was a community of families connected through shared ancestry and culture involving their religious denomination. Many of the town residents could find social connections through a process called the name game. It was pretty evident early on that you would have difficulty joining their social circles, moving to this town from a region of the country where speaking had a distinct accent combined with a name that did not fit the ethnic profile of the town, made playing the town's name game a losing proposition.

His friends and schoolmates were primarily new kids to town, many of whom he suspects had similar experiences. For Ray these shared experiences turned the town into just a place to live, and also turned the town into a place his friends and mates left behind, not wanting to return.

Laying his pencil aside for a moment, Eric decides it is enough background for today. He looks up and studies the hills with their deepening shadows, proof the sun is beginning its inevitable slide into darkness.

Focusing on the final push to complete his outline, he describes Ray's lessons in his life.

As an adult, Ray is coming to appreciate the lessons learned during the development time in his life as they made him who he is today. He is grateful for the gift of learning about tolerance and acceptance, and as an adult, not following the example shown to him in his early life.

Looking back now, he realizes that those differences were what made him unique. They helped define him and gave him a sense of identity as an adult. Growing up was not an unhappy time; you just knew your social place.

Ray made the observation that adult friendships are quite different from those formed during childhood and adolescence; few childhood friendships carry over. Most notably, a person's number of true friends tends to dwindle as they get older, if they ever existed.

Being the curious sort, he studies people and groups of people. Observation has led him to conclude that the ties that bind can also be the ties that separate. A study of groups has led to the understanding that they may start innocently enough but soon evolve into unwritten standards for joining the group.

Ray has come to terms with the fact that his social circle will never be as large as when he was a youth, and he's ok with that. He knows there are plenty of other things in life worth focusing on, like spending time with his wife and kids, exploring new hobbies and interests, or simply enjoying a peaceful evening at home learning to write his life experiences.

Flipping his notepad closed, Eric sighs, ending his trip down memory lane. Daylight has grown short, and a chill is in the air; it is time to return home.

Learning from Kittens

Karen approaches the playpen with an arm full of foster kittens as Andrew stretches his 57 year old body out on the basement floor. He positions himself on his side with his head resting on his hand, creating a hole that the kittens love to play in and run through. Andrew knows it will be hard to get up but being on the floor with the kittens makes it worth it.

This latest litter of month old fosters arrived in their home with their mamma as a ragtag little family. Introducing the little family to their temporary home, it was evident that they had not been at the humane shelter long. Mamma and kittens were still dirty from the harsh life they had been living before. 

There was concern that mamma did not want to feed her babies when they first arrived; once tucked safely away in the quiet basement, away from the household hustle and bustle, mamma relaxed enough to start caring for her family.

In a safe, caring, loving environment, the transformation of the little family from a ragtag bunch to a rested well fed mamma and clean, active little furballs in perpetual motion happened quickly.

Sitting in his home office, Andrew sighs; after a month, the little family was doing so well they had returned to the humane shelter the day before. He noticed the house always feels empty when the fosters leave. 

The ragtag bunch has a special place in Andrews's heart. He wonders how a mamma cat can find enough food to feed herself and her kittens; it is a hardscrabble way to live.

They have been a reminder that pets and humans alike will respond positively to being cared for and loved. The sheer innocence of happy kittens and children at play is a wonder to behold. 

He gets angry at how the actions of adult humans can destroy innocence and cause a lifetime of pain. He has seen firsthand children who will follow in the footsteps of abusive parents unless they are lucky and break the chain of abuse, a dog cowering in fear if a human approaches, the result of an abusive owner. 

Andrew has learned that as much as he wants not to care as much as he does, kittens will prove him wrong. He always wishes them a good life.

Andrew turns to his computer with hands on the keyboard; unsure of how to make a difference, he begins to type about learning from kittens and looks forward to the next bunch. 

Trust Easily Lost


It had been a while since Charlie had been able to fish at the nearby farm pond. Being an avid fisherman, Charlie was missing the thrill of the catch. During his lunch break, he called his closest buddy John and asked him if he wanted to go fishing on Thursday evening. John replied that he already had a commitment on Thursday and would be unable to go.

Charlie, while really wanting to fish, did not want to go by himself. Thursday was still four days away, so he begins contacting multiple friends searching for a fishing partner. After reaching out to a few friends, he makes contact with Matt, who agrees to join him on his fishing trip.

Thursday afternoon, Matt contacts Charlie to find what the agenda for the evening is going to be. Charlie responds that in the period between asking Matt to go fishing and Thursday afternoon, John had been able to free up his schedule to go so he would be going with John and not Matt. He tells Matt that they can schedule a fishing trip sometime in the future.

Matt hangs up the phone, just a little bit perturbed. He had wasted his evening off by holding it for the fishing trip. In the back of his mind is the seed of doubt that he can trust Charlie to keep his commitments in the future. He wonders if he will always be the last friend to be contacted when Charlie wants company.

The epilogue to the story is that Charlie is unaware he has just created a trust issue between himself and Matt. Matt is quick to forgive and forget, but the issue of trust will always be there. Trust is earned with effort and easily lost, so care must be taken to safeguard something so essential yet so fragile.


What Comes Around


Sitting at the dining room table with his head in his hands, Mike realizes just how selfish and destructive his ruthless drive for the bottom dollar has been. Getting up from the chair, he walks to the door that opens into the garage and stares at the space once occupied by his pride and joy, a shiny red Mustang Mach I from the early nineteen seventies. The sorrow at seeing the empty space is made even more burdensome as he relives the pained look in the eyes of the previous owner as they had accepted a low ball offer for their pride and joy.

Shutting the door, he returns to the table. On it is the cashier's check for his prized possession, along with a stack of medical bills for Emily's recent illness. Fair market value for the car would have brought in enough money to cover paying the statements, but it is a buyer's market and not the sellers amid an economic downturn.

Knowing he could not pay all of the bills, he had accepted the offer for below market value with a heavy heart hours earlier. The look of triumph in the buyer's eyes burned deep into his soul, and he wonders if this is how he had looked after making deals that had far undercut the seller. His thoughts turned to what if most of his hard-driven bargains were from people much like himself, just trying to pay debts and avoid sinking into debt.

He now understood how his pride kept him from revealing the actual truth of the sale. With his eyes opened to how pride keeps most people from telling the real truth behind selling prized possessions, he quietly resolved to treat people fairly in negotiation and pay a fair value for any future purchases.

Looking into the living room where Emily rested peacefully on the couch, he shuffles through the papers on the table; he finds the old bill of sale with the phone number of the previous owner. Reaching for his phone, he begins to dial.


Humbled Twice


Brian sits at his work desk; the economic downturn of 2008 had caught the small shop he ran with his father entirely by surprise. A few short months before, the shop's customers were flying high, expanding and planning for the future. The downturn was so sudden that the shops business had gone from barely being able to keep up to zero orders.

The writing was on the wall that the economic downturn would last perhaps longer than the shop could survive. In that context, Brian began to research the job market. The research showed that most jobs found are through contacts you already have. So, after weeks of writing and rewriting his resume, he attached it to an email addressed to Jerry, a friend he had known since school days many years ago. Knowing that Jerry himself had gotten his position with the company through the recommendation of a third party, he clicked the send button. In his email, he asked Terry Lou for assistance in getting the resume viewed by the company's human resources department. With shock and a heavy heart, he regarded the return email.

Reading the reasons given for why he does not belong at the company and why he should apply at other companies, he recalls Jerry, in the past, telling him that he was the kind of friend that would get him at two in the morning if he needed assistance.

Not long after being "cut off at the knees" by Jerry the shop received an email asking if the shop is hiring. Brian, knowing job hunting is a gut wrenching experience, responds to the request. He explains the shop is not hiring and then expresses his compassion to the job searcher on his job search.

Weeks later, Brian looked up from his computer on the shop floor to see a stranger walking from the office to greet him. The stranger introduced himself as Jonathon and explained that he had sent an email weeks earlier about job opportunities. What he had to say next humbled Brian; he explained that out of all the job search emails he had sent out, Brian was the only one to respond. He went on to say he stopped in to say thank you in person for the kind email.

After Jonathan had left, Brian turned his attention back to his computer with his mind trying to process the disparity in outcomes between the two job search requests. Twice he had been humbled but for two entirely different reasons.


Small Gesture Big Impact


With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, Richard pulls his chair up to the computer. Today is the day he will be typing a letter to Diana, a long-ago high school classmate. He had been fighting for weeks the urge to send an encouraging letter thinking why would she care about hearing from him. Richard and his wife watched her care for her parents in the last years and months of their lives. Her mother had passed away in the previous year, and her father had recently passed away only months before. Experience had taught Richard the months after the loss of loved ones is a lonely time. A time when it feels like the world has moved on and forgotten your grief.

The goal of his letter is to let Diana know while she was quietly a caretaker for the benefit of her parents, someone was watching and appreciating her efforts. Richard knows that giving people do good things without expecting anything in return. However, he also knows that the world's givers do not have an endless supply of giving. The well can run dry. The giver, while not willing to admit it, at times needs to be the receiver.

With a bit of apprehension, Richard adds his letter to a card and seals them into an envelope. He has his wife with her better handwriting address the envelope. Placing the envelope in the postal box, Richard sighs and thinks to himself, here goes nothing.

A month or more has gone by since Richard placed the envelope in the post office box, and life has put the sending of the letter in the rearview mirror and forgotten. So, he was surprised when his wife handed him an envelope addressed from Diana.

Richard opened the envelope which contained a thank you card. Diana had written a heartfelt thank you for the kind words he had written, but there was one section of her note that taught him a lesson he would never forget. In her message, she made a point of saying she had received his letter on the anniversary of her mother's going to heaven and how perfect the timing was. Reading the card was a moving moment for Richard. He had not expected his small token to have such meaning.

Opening the drawer, Richard places the card in with his other special memories. The card will be a reminder that even small gestures of appreciation can have a more significant impact than intended.


You Never Know


My father called to tell me about something that happened to him at the local lumberyard. He said a guy walked up to him and asked him if he was D..... Simpson. Of course, my dad responded, yes. He proceeded to tell my father, you don't know me, but years ago, I came to your shop and asked if I could sand a tabletop. He said he was surprised when dad let him use our equipment to sand his top. He told dad, I thought that was awfully nice of you and wanted you to know.

Dad asked me if I remembered him, but I really don't. Doing that kind of thing for people was just par for the course for us. It's how we lived and worked then and now.

Doing the right thing can leave a lasting impression. You never know when. I hope the gentleman learned a lesson and has been carrying it forward.


Is It Necessary


Sunday morning, just past eleven o'clock, discouraged and exhausted, Daryl plops down on the couch and turns on the television. He opens the YouTube app on his smartphone, hoping to find something mindless to stream. The previous Friday evening, his sibling Michael had arrived at his parent's home for a weekend visit. Out of duty to his parents, Daryl had forced himself to spend his weekend visiting.

There was a time when Daryl looked forward to the visits, but something has changed over the years. Michael shows an increasing lack of respect for the rest of the family. Gone is any civil conversation of the past. What has replaced it is a growing attitude of Michael challenging the opinion of other family members as they attempt to carry on a conversation. He is constantly checking his phone during conversations fact-checking his parents and siblings. Worse than being challenged regularly is the apparent lack of respect in those challenges for the learned knowledge of his family.

In conversation with his father, Daryl knows that along with himself, his father is trying to steer conversations away from any conversation that could lead to heated discussions. They both know that their life experiences and knowledge will be challenged as not valid when Michael visits. There were several conversations between Michael and their father resulting in Daryl leaving the room. It was not the topic of discussion but the lack of respect Michael showed their father that caused him to walk away.

Scrolling through videos, Daryl ponders a number of his life observations.

Siblings are all going to have different life experiences; it is critical to respect one another.

Listen to siblings, and not at sibling's; respectful conversations are not, know it best contests.

The best way to learn the art of conversation is to sit down and talk to a senior man or woman who is well past having anything to prove in life.

Listen with understanding. You must understand the information and the context in which it was given before you respond. Take just a bit of time to process. Haste in response causes misunderstandings, thoughtfulness results in clarity.

Unfortunately, Daryl knows that members of many different families often feel free to treat other family rudely when they would not treat non family in such a manner. In many cases, the recipients of the rude behavior, usually siblings or parents, are under a lot of stress as they wish to keep the peace between family members. Family gatherings should be fun and light hearted not tense joyless affairs.

Settling on a video, Daryl concludes perhaps a nice relaxing drive in the countryside might be in order the next time Michael comes to visit


Mistaken Identity


Jeff sits bemused at the Red Cross snack table. The gentleman seated at the other end of the table had approached with a friendly smile and had proceeded to strike up a conversation upon sitting down. The reason for Jeff's bemusement is he knows the only reason for the gentleman to be nice is he has mistaken Jeff for being a part of the man's group. Jeff has a distinguishing physical characteristic that has confused the gentleman and other members of his group in the past.

The gentleman starts the conversation by asking Jeff how many units he has given. Jeff responds that this was number eleven. He can see disapproval in the gentleman's face. Having donated blood at this location before, Jeff knows that it is popular with the gentleman's group. Jeff deduces the group keeps an accounting of how often group members donate blood, thus the gentleman's question and response. Jeff asks about and compliments the gentleman on his impressive unit total.

Jeff notices as the conversation continues, the gentleman's demeanor quickly changes the friendliness is gone. Jeff surmised the gentleman had deduced he was not a member of the group. Jeff strokes his beard and smiles.


Do It Anyways


It is 5:10 in the afternoon as Penelope slides into the hot confines of her car. I am so ready for fall, she thinks. It has been another unsatisfying day at the office. Working in purchasing for production is the job she loves and has worked at for many years. Purchasing has turned into a job she does not enjoy. As she reaches the exit of the companies parking lot, her mind looks back to what is has changed about the company and her job.

When Penelope started with the company, it still had the small town company feel. The values of people first inside the company extended out to the suppliers. Many suppliers had been with the company for years and worked with the company to survive hard times. The business relationships with suppliers were a give and take, and get the job done approach to solving problems was normal. Communication with suppliers was enjoyable and the highlight of the day.

Turning left onto the highway, she realizes her job satisfaction loss started when the company hired a new top manager whose corporate philosophy is profit maximization. Profit maximization is at its worst, a numbers game that leaves the human aspect of business out of the business equation.

For Penelope, this marked the end of a shared destination between her company and its suppliers. Their worth to her company is not customer service, quality, and pricing; it is the lowest price and a long list of supplier requirements that must be complied with, arbitrary as many of the conditions may be. Profit maximization is becoming a wedge between her and her suppliers. The new system of supplier compliance has turned companies into numbers instead of names dehumanizing their workers. Companies that cannot provide the lowest cost and meet the requirement demands are replaced regardless of their ability to supply quality products.

Waiting in the drive-through line at the big chain hamburger "supplier," Penelope wonders how day in and day out the kitchen provides so much food to so many customers while providing a friendly atmosphere. She surmises that the kitchen manager must know how to lead and inspire their staff. Sighing, she wishes her bosses knew how to lead and encourage their suppliers rather than threaten them with compliance to arbitrary standards, keeping their supply chain in constant flux with unhappy suppliers. Experience is showing her that managing by compliance is not an excellent problem-solving or managing methodology.

As her garage door closes behind her, she concludes, what does it matter? Just do what you are told. After all, what can she do? Perhaps the manner of her communication with suppliers could be more encouraging, letting suppliers know they are not just a number on a spreadsheet, but why bother? It's just business. Everyone knows it's just business.

You don't know what you don't know!

Roger has closed his small business, but at 58, he is too young to consider retiring. After some deliberation, he decides to see what a popular business networking website is about. Immediately noticing the amount of discussion regarding leadership. He chuckles at the acronyms behind the names and the expertise they are supposed to represent. If only they could understand what they do not know about what they do not know.

His fascination with the "concept" of leadership began in the 1980s when he discovered the book In Search of Excellence. That book was followed by numerous other books on management and leadership. The advent of the internet made instant information available at his fingertips. A popular video-viewing website made speeches and conferences on leadership, once hidden, now open to the masses.

Curiosity led him to ask people he came into contact with about their places of work. Once they discovered he cared about their situation and was safe to talk to, they would open up and share usually guarded information. He is eternally grateful for those opportunities, as he learned so much.

Knowing leadership training is as essential in frontline positions as it is in management offices, it became apparent that it needed to be pushed down to floor managers and team leads. Observation showed the leadership training freight train developed over the years was and is not being pushed down. Many people are being promoted to lower-level supervisor positions and left to flounder in their new roles.

He sees many failures as new "leaders" focused on the leadership steps they were taught. He applauds the efforts to train leadership, but the industry has become a swamp of books, training concepts, and personalities. Within all of these are a few overlapping vital concepts. It is from these concepts that authentic leadership arises.


While not one hundred percent, he observes the most influential leaders arise from learning the lessons of hardship. The teacher, the coach, and even the disciplinarian when needed. They are the people who do not draw attention to themselves. Letting their team get credit for their success and accepting responsibility when things go wrong. Putting leader in their tagline is never a thought. 

He knows it can be hard to remember the people who positively impacted people's lives. They were just there, not making waves but making a difference.

A colleague once told him some of the best managers they had were people who had raised families. From raising his own children to adulthood, he knows raising children is a baptism by fire. Being a parent is teaching, cheerleading, counseling, disciplining, and coaching when they become young adults.

He thinks of other moments in his life that formed him into an adult that practices empathy and has given him the ability to listen in conversation and hear what is not being said. 

In his mid-twenties, while working in his shop alone on a Saturday, he was interrupted by a young man who stopped in to tell him David, a young man he had mentored the best that he could with little experience, had died in a car accident. His first close experience was with the death of David, someone he cared for and considered a young brother. 

Working with his father put him in a place to be with him when he received the phone call that his father had passed away. A decade later, he was there when he found out his father's brother had lost his cancer battle. Just a year later, he was listening when the call came that his father's mother had passed on. Just twenty years later, while sitting in the office, talking to his father, the phone call arrived; his father's sister was gone. Not many children get that kind of experience with their parents.

He was in his thirties by the time he met his wife. A woman he is thankful for and could ride a small business's ups and downs. With her, he raised three children to young adulthood. The proudest accomplishment of his life.

One day driving home from the business, he gets a call from his distressed wife asking where he is; she needs him. Arriving home, she informs him that her mother had been killed in a head-on car accident caused by a drunk driver hours after leaving their house. There were many lessons to be learned from this tragic event. The first is how, in all of the seconds in a day, two vehicles could meet in such a manner. All of the decisions in the days prior and on that day conspiring to put them at that place on that road. Everyone has to make their own peace with how and why. He learned how a supporting spouse needs their own level of support.

Working late one evening, trying to get extra work done, he reaches into what he and his father considered the safest machine in the shop. This bad decision resulted in severing the end of one finger and almost severing another. In the fog of pain and uncertainty, he lets the doctor talk him into trying to reattach the missing portion. In the end, too much time had passed before the surgery, and the reattachment was unsuccessful, costing him even more of the finger. 

He missed an important doctor's appointment for his son the following day. Spending four days in the hospital after the attempt to reattach the finger. Months later, it occurred to him that he would always bear the scar of a momentary lapse of judgment. One that he could not hide from the world. An embarrassment to him for many years. 

Working one morning, he noticed his father had yet to arrive at the shop at his usual time. Shrugging his shoulders, he continued to work until his phone rang. His mother was calling to say his father was in the emergency room. It was looking like a heart attack. His father was transferred to a heart hospital in a larger city shortly after her call. It was determined upon arrival his father would require quadruple bypass surgery.

Being in the shop alone gave him time to reflect on the past and on his future. He needed help remembering the make and model of his cherished banana seat bicycle. He spent time online looking to fill gaps in childhood memories. After many hours he determined his freedom wheels were an OTASCO Flying-O Scorpion. 

In the months following the heart attack, he became a sounding board for his father. There were many conversations with his dad remembering his childhood and time in the air force. The most sobering discussions were about what it would be like to die. His father was coming to terms with death.

There came a day after thirty-seven years, he realized he was tired of fighting the small business fight. With great sadness, he began selling the equipment and building. It was a gut-wrenching time, and on that final day, with tears in his eyes, he saluted the shop and closed the door. It was the end of a way of life and working with his father.

He knew from a previous study when he decided to end the business, he was damaged goods in the job market. Through research, he knew his age and being a former business owner were marks against him. All the years of self-education put him in a position of generally "knowing" too much about too many things. Still, he cannot unlearn what has been learned.

People will ask what all this has to do with leadership, and his answer is if you ask, you don't know what you don't know. 


© Alan Simpson

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