I grew up in a rural area on the outskirts of Detroit, amongst farmland and dirt country roads. The roots of my family tree were from this area, and I was the first of my tribe to leave the area and head off to college. As you can imagine, my father was a simple man… as far as I can tell, he pretty much always did the right thing… he grew up in that same small town, got married to a gal from that small town, and after he served in the military, he walked down the the Ford plant in that town, got a job, and proceeded to dedicate the next 37 years of his life to that company.
And from that individual, a man who never went to college, or was known to me as much of a philosopher came some of the greatest shared of wisdom that I’ve ever heard… Nuggets that I’ve tucked away in a very safe place, and then used when my own “personal compass” was a little off. If you’ll allow me I’d like to share with you a couple pieces of his advice that have governed my or directed me both personally and professionally for the better part of my life…
Prior to heading off to university, Dad sat me down for a little chat. After giving me the requisite lectures on focus, studies, alcohol, and women, he said, “you know that you’re the first one in our family to go to college…” I had not thought about this before. He continued, “and do you know why you are going to college?” My response was simple, “So I can make a lot of money when I graduate”.
The look on his face was unforgettable… When he looked like this, the sides of his mouth would point down and his lower lip would become stiff. “No”, he replied, “you’re going to college so you can choose. So you can choose what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life.” In all of the years that my father had worked as a tool and die maker for Ford Motor Company, I had never ever heard him complain about his job. Even though I had seen him come back bruised, sore, and stiff from a day climbing around the inside of odd shaped dies. This was after driving 45 minutes to and from work, the result of a plant move from his hometown to a location closer to Ann Arbor. Our entire family knew that this was far from what he would, or any person would choose as a career, but day after day, year after year, this wonderful man, quietly made this his priority.
And with an understanding of what his career had entailed, his statement had hit with the force of a Mack truck… even at this point in my young life, it was a message that resonated with me. And it still does today. With that lesson came a great feeling of empowerment, that I controlled my future, and that the sky was literally the limit.
… next time around we’ll get to Nugget #2