“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I remember as a little boy, my goal was to be a cowboy when I grew up. When I was ten years old I decided I would be a fireman, or policeman, or maybe a baseball player. The baseball player idea stuck with me until I was age nineteen or twenty and my college baseball career was coming to an end. I was a switch hitter and I could hit. I was a pretty good infielder too, but I ran the bases like I had a piano on my back (that’s what my father would say). My arm wasn’t very strong either, so second base was about the only position I could play. I played real baseball until I was 28 years old. Sandy was getting tired of taking two children to dad’s baseball double-headers on Sundays. It was time for a new career. That would be one of many career changes. All with goals and expectations. Let’s go back in time.
In my early twenties I answered a newspaper ad and accepted a job as a door to door salesman working on straight commission. I was selling pots and pans, china, crystal, silverware, cutlery, sewing machines and stereos to single working girls. For those of you who have never heard of a “straight commission” job, it means, no benefits, no salary, you get paid a percentage of the gross sale price. You pay your own expenses, nothing is reimbursed. So, if you work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10:00a.m. to 10:00p.m. and make no sales you get paid nothing, zero, nada. If you make a sale, you get paid. That’s the deal.
I loved that job! In fact, I did it for 3 1/2 years. I was promoted to supervisor a few months after I started. A year or so later, I was relocated to Boston, Massachusetts (at our own personal expense). Next came a promotion to area manager. By that time the company did pay me a small salary, i.e., $10,800 per year plus a higher commission, and a percentage on every sale made by every salesman that I hired and trained. Two years after I got to Boston I had about fifty salesman working out of my offices in Boston, Beverly, Cape Cod and Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut. By the time I was age 25 my office was #2 of 50 offices in total sales volume. I was recognized by the company, appointed to the Board of Directors. I was making big money and spending it as fast as it came in. In other words, I (we) were getting nowhere fast.
Sandy and I got married in 1968. A few months after we were married, she finished nursing school. When she passed the Boards we thought we were on easy street. We bought a new car. Moved into a new apartment. Then the move to Boston. Craig was born there, then came Brian. We were blessed with two healthy boys, but my long hours of work and lack of financial security was taking a toll. By 1972, I was ready to move back to Saint Louis and start over. My career has been a roller coaster ride ever since.
Sandy and I were fortunate to have six healthy children. All of whom are bright, entrepreneurial hard-working individuals. Each of them have struggled through obstacles. They have pulled themselves up when things were difficult. While the path they are on is still uphill, I have confidence that they will each prevail. Each in their own way. Because each of them have similar characteristics. Each are independent, yet when it comes to family they are interdependent. Each are strong-willed, determined, dreamers, doers. They’ll make it on their own, I’m sure. But, if they need help, they know they don’t have to go far to find it.
I mentioned my roller coaster ride career. I have been very fortunate on that ride, more highs than lows. I’ve been blessed with interesting work. I have been presented with opportunities to give back, to be of benefit to others. I’ve come across many “words to live by” these past 40 years. Here are a few keepers.
1. A man doesn’t drown by falling in the water, he drowns by staying there.
2. Both success and failure are largely the result of habit.
3. Self mastery is the hardest job you will ever tackle.
4. The system neither recognizes nor tolerates getting without giving.
5.”If you think you can or if you think you can’t you are exactly right.” (Henry Ford)
6. “It isn’t where you’re coming from, it’s where you are going that counts.” (Ella Fitzgerald)
7. Never dwell on what you have lost instead look at what you have left.
8. Positive self expectancy….be an incurable optimist…optimism is the key to good health and a happy life.
9. “Know thyself, and to your own self be true.” (Henry David Thoreau)
10. Commit your works to the Lord and your plan will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
It is human nature to dream big dreams. It is common to wish for the best. It is a natural thing to have high hopes even when struggle prevails. It is also human nature, common, or even natural, to “give up” on occasion, or to become discouraged and confused.
The world-famous spiritual author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) seems to be the perfect role model for those who are confused and searching–which, at some point or another, means just about all of us. Merton’s life divides neatly into two halves. The first 27 years is spent as a typical man of the world. The second 27 years he spent in a monastery. Merton entered Gethsemane on December 10, 1941, at age 27. On December 10, 1968, 27 years later to the day, as he journeyed far from his monastic home in order to contribute to East-West spiritual dialogue, he died in Bangkok, Thailand, from accidental electrocution.
Thomas Merton says “there is no faith without doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it.” Struggle is unavoidable. Be persistant, get through it.
Finally, I leave this monthly writing with one of my favorite findings. I discovered this prayer from a little girl named Nora in the book, Children’s Letters to God. She writes, “I don’t feel alone since I found out about you.”