My wife, Jessica, sent me this poem on January 2, 2021, and it made me cry.
I encourage you to read the full poem and immerse yourself in it like I did. I can relate to the poem as a father, son, and entrepreneur. Mostly I relate to it as a person who has overcome adversity and experienced success and not handled it well. There are four people throughout my life and career who have made a significant impact on me as an entrepreneur and this is how.
Sabatino Guerriero is one of my business partners. I have known Sab for the last 25 years, and together we have spent the last 17 years engaged in building a business. One of the qualities I admire most about Sab is his radical honesty and transparency. I constantly aspire toward the standard he sets in this regard. One of the patterns we’ve identified about ourselves and our business is that we know we’re moving off the rails when we start incorporating 3 simple words into our conversations with too much frequency. Those words are “hope,” “if,” and “maybe.” For example. “I hope I win the lottery. If I do, maybe my life will improve.” These are powerful words when they inspire a vision that can be acted upon with an executable plan and measurables attached. These are dangerous words if left to hang alone by themselves with nothing to support them. .
Dick Farley was my football coach at Williams College and is now in the College Football Hall of fame. He was the first person in my life to refer to me as a “man.” He didn’t specifically sit me down and say, “David, you are a man.” Instead, he referred to my college football teammates at the end of my first practice and every practice thereafter as, “men.” I do not remember consciously feeling like a man at that time, but something clicked when I heard myself referred to as a man. Coach Farley is also someone who also practices radical honesty and transparency. The most common honest phrase I remember hearing out of Coach Farley’s mouth after addressing us as “men” at the end of a particularly lackluster practice was, “There’s no Division 4! You can’t play anywhere else, and I can’t coach anywhere else. So, let’s get it together and do better tomorrow.” Honest. Direct. Real.
Tom Ryan was my business mentor. He consistently held himself, his organization, and his leadership team to high standards, and he was unapologetic about it. When I met him in my early 20’s at Oxford International, I remember aspiring to emulate his success. I spent 1-3 hours a day, almost every day for 5 months with Tom and what I remember him saying most was the phrase, “constant iteration and reiteration conveys a foreign thought upon an alien mind.” I’m not sure if he made that up or borrowed it from someone, but in my brain, I attribute it to him. It’s one of the truest statements I can think of as a requirement to achieve success. It speaks to changing someone’s mind and improving behavior, which is what sales and leadership is about. We understand a problem and provide a solution. We change behavior by delivering an outcome- rinse & repeat.
(Both Tom Ryan and Coach Farley are key figures of the man and now entrepreneur that I aspire to be. Sab is a peer who I have experienced more of life’s ups and downs with than anyone else. All three of them contribute to my definition of what it means to be a man.)
So why am I starting the year crying over a poem with a title of “If…” when I generally treat that word with such disdain?
Eric Minkwitz was a teammate of mine at Williams College, and he was the best player I’ve ever faced. He played offensive line and later tight end, and I played defensive line which means we often practiced against each other. He was a machine, and he probably still is. He was the type of football player I wanted to be, except I was not willing to put in the work and commit to the grind like he did. One of the many things I love about football is the metaphor, “each play is a battle.” The phrase is true because in life and business, you win some battles and lose others, but our common goal is to learn from the losing battles and build upon the winning battles. The best part is you only have a few seconds to wallow in your beat downs and revel in your victories because the next play is only seconds away. Such is business. Such is life.
Fast forward 20+ years from my original introduction to Mink. Mink’s dad lost a long battle with ALS and for the last two years of that battle, Mink suspended his life and became Mr. Minkwitz’s primary caregiver. As I’m sitting in a church in Massachusetts at the funeral, I see that “If” by Kipling was the centerpiece of his eulogy. Mink delivered the eulogy without waver in a fashion that would have made his dad proud. The poem was printed on the funeral service program, and I couldn’t stop reading it and sobbing and thinking about my own boys.
I found myself humbled and inspired and reinvigorated on my journey of life. Kipling used the bond of a father and son that in my mind makes manhood synonymous with successful living of LIFE.
Kipling artfully describes all the virtues I seek out in the men who inspire me like Sab, Coach Farley, Tom Ryan and Mink and attempts to provide the keys to living a successful life. My takeaway is that balance matters.
Elevation and Balance
There has been a lot of people in my life who have made me better at living it. My wife Jessica (who I have known for almost 7 years and been married to for 4 years ) not knowing my history with the poem, sent it to me recently which evoked serious emotion as I started a new year. When I asked her why she sent it to me, she told me that she could not stop reading it and the words in it reminded her of me.
It’s one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever said to me, and it’s a reminder to me that the journey of life is all about elevation. I constantly strive to surround myself with people like Jessica, Sab, Tom, Mink, and Coach Farley who make me better. It’s my “HOPE” that I can in some way make those folks better. “IF” we can constantly strive to elevate ourselves and those around us, then “MAYBE” we have won the lottery.
I’d wish you good luck in 2021, but there is no such thing as luck. We all make our own luck. Instead, I wish you take whatever lessons 2020 foisted upon you, and I wish you BALANCE.
Happy New Year!