As we grow older, looking back on the people and events that shaped our lives become a little easier. Connecting the dots and pulling together the narrative is clearer, and we can see how if this had not happened, then that would not have happened, and we wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I had a great childhood, and looking back it probably wasn’t the easiest, and my parents struggled in ways I may never realize. We lived in small houses, ate simple meals, took vacations to other family homes, didn’t eat out much, and my dad worked a lot. He didn’t work so much I ever recall thinking “Dad’s always working”, but he did have to hustle in order to provide. Much of the time he was a pastor he also actively worked as a CPA, and has done taxes for many of the same people for 20+ years.
My favorite side job of his was the season he refilled gum ball machines in the mall, and would take my brother Neil and I with him. We’d arrive at the mall around 6:00 AM, fighting for parking with the mall walkers (it was a small city with a significant elderly population). It was fun to help Dad work, even just dumping gum balls in to a big clear bowl. If enough people had bought gum balls, we’d go to Denny’s and get the grand slam special.
Today, as I actively hustle around a few jobs and a couple dreams, I can look back and connect the dots, thanks to Dad. One of the biggest lessons (and there are many) my Dad modeled for me was how to be an entrepreneur, even though I didn’t have words for it until much later in life. Because of him, I never really knew a life or a practice where you shouldn’t try and do the things you cared about, even if it meant doing some other things you don’t care as much about for a while. Being good at multiple things certainly helps, and my Dad was. A master’s degrees and a professional certification will help, and I still don’t that many people who have mastered the divine and passed the CPA exam. Balancing both sides of the brain isn’t easy.
Dad had a great willingness to try new things and shake up a group for the right reasons. I remember his sermon series on the movie Gladiator, which was scandalous (from a church view) for multiple reasons. One, Christianity and sermons didn’t really mix well with pop culture yet, and certainly not with an R-rated movie. He also brought an acoustic guitar in to a conservative (and elderly) baptist church in the mid-90’s, which I thought was a revolution. He also had one of the first Macintosh computers, and in 1996 we had a grand time setting up the internet together. Though eventually those AOL, Compuserve, and Netscape discs would become cheap ways to place disc golf around the neighborhood (man did you have to play the slice).
Of all the situations, actions, and decisions which have come to shape my story, and the role Dad has played, one other act (and many subsequent acts) stood out.
He gave me my first Seth Godin book.
The book was Free Prize Inside, and we talked about how the ideas could change businesses and work. He also gave me Tribes, Poke the Box, A Whole New Mind, and several others since then. We’ve already shared a love a for books and talking about them, and one of the great gifts of the Baptist practice is a dedication and love for stories. But these books were different. We read Seth, John Maxwell, Daniel Pink, and many other names I can’t think of right now.
Thanks to Dad, I began to think differently about work, calling, practice, and connection. He gave me these books just as I was finishing college, and little did I know they would kick-start the next evolution of my education, one that was self-driven and peer-reviewed, and will last the rest of my life. They planted ideas in my mind, without those books I wouldn’t have all these crazy ideas of being an entrepreneur, being ok in the struggle, crafting art, and changing my little corner of the world.
So for everyone wondering who was at the root of all this work, startup hustle, multiple jobs, creating something different, and thinking outside the box…
It’s all my Dad’s fault (and I love him for it). Happy Father’s Day.
PS – I could write a whole Dad series on the ways he has impacted my faith, marriage, athletics, and so many other things. Focusing on entrepreneurship and work ethic was simply an aspect I don’t think I’ve ever shared much with him about, or honestly if he’s ever thought about. When you think about this willingness to humbly share and mentor in so many different ways, it’s really what lies at the root of being a Father. A willingness to love for a lifetime.
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