The third installment of my column regarding impactful life experiences involves a series of events as seen from two different individuals’ perspectives and how each of those perspectives provided a unique "teaching moment".
My parents were polar opposites. As discussed in a prior article, my mom was classy, refined, and dignified.
My dad, on the other hand, is a real character. Growing up, you never knew what adventure he might embark on. My dad was constantly into something new.
In the mid-1970’s, one of his close friends became a private pilot. The next thing I knew (given that time seemingly passes differently when you’re a kid) – at 10 years old, I’m flying across Saginaw Bay with my dad as pilot in an airplane he just bought only to land on a small grass runway somewhere in Michigan’s thumb – narrowly missing (during the landing) a dilapidated house along the runway! Safety? What did I know? I’m sure on some level it was safe!
His airplane bug didn’t end there. In a time long before retail superstores and the internet, my dad decided to create and invest in the world’s largest rubber band powered airplane. It was a sight to behold! With a 5 foot long fuselage, 6 foot wingspan, and a heavy duty rubber band stretching the length of the plane’s body, this thing (made of Styrofoam) could fly in quarter mile circles for up to 3 to 4 minutes. It was the coolest thing. My friends and I loved it! Unfortunately, not enough other people did since its size made it difficult to market, sell, and distribute in a time before the internet. Alas, the company went bankrupt. But, we still have a couple of them hanging around in the garage if anyone is interested!
I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood. It’s a fairly genteel place with nicely manicured lawns and picket fences where boredom tends to be the biggest challenge for the local police. Against that backdrop, my dad has always had a passion for cars. One day, unbeknownst to anyone, he comes driving down the street in a red 1948 Dodge fire truck (the total package of course with hoses, pumps, and ladders) with sirens and lights blaring! Apparently, he had just bought the thing and decided (much to the neighbors’ chagrin) to bring it home and park it in the driveway for the next year as he polished every surface on the truck. My friends and I would get rides through the neighborhood hanging off the back. Again, my friends and I thought it was great, but not everyone else was so amused. Thankfully, a guy who owned a Christmas tree farm saw the truck in the driveway, thought it would be a great way to water his trees, and took the truck off my dad’s hands!
Throughout all of these adventures (and more I might add), my dad always found a way to have fun, while my mom always maintained her sense of humor.
The lessons that I learned from watching these two interact were two-fold: a zest for life is key to keeping you energized and motivated, while maintaining a sense of humor helps you hit the curve balls life may throw at you.
Professionally, the same lessons pertain. Being energized and motivated is essential to long-term development and growth throughout one’s career. It prevents intellectual stagnation. A sense of humor is also critical. Life (including professional engagements) rarely goes as scripted. When a matter does not go as planned, a sense of humor allows us the opportunity to catch our breath before developing a plan to “hit the curve ball” that has been thrown.
If you’ve recently been thrown a curve ball, give me a call and let’s develop a plan to deal with it.