As we rise on Christmas morn and gather round the tree
May we remember those who serve to keep us free
So that we may embrace our family and friends
And rejoice in the season of Jesus… Amen.
My Grandpa was a cabbage and lettuce farmer and for many years as a young curious girl, I watched him work and helped him harvest the crops. There is nothing else he would have rather done. It was in his bones. I asked him one day if I could take a turn driving ‘Ole Blue’ as he called his rusty and reliable tractor. He responded, “Have you been paying attention? Yes Sir.”
Pulling his hankerchief from his pocket, he wiped the sweat off his brow, stepped down and said, “Well, get up there and give it a go.”
Like my Grandpa, many of us feel driven by a purpose or calling- to start our own business, become a life coach, create a blog, write a book, or get healthy. Or perhaps even wish to master the art of staying calm under pressure. Yep, a few of these are on my list too. So, how do we do this and meet with success?
There are four key factors in building bridges and accomplishing our goals:
1. Know the leaders/competitors
Seek out and study those in the industry and in life who have thrown themselves In the Arena and become champions in their field. What skill sets, resources and connections do they possess?
2. Be their customer/follower
Listen to their story. Pay attention to the characteristics and behaviors of those you wish to emulate. Demonstrate loyalty to their product and service and reciprocity is sure to follow.
3. Be their partner
True leaders want to see and help others succeed. What will your contributions be in this relationship? How can you help build them up?
4. Create your own niche
Be authentically You. Focus on your unique talents, skills, traits and passions . This is one of the most important tools needed in building bridges in both our professional and personal lives.
Here are a few of the leaders in their respective industries that I follow and partner with who encourage, motivate and greatly inspire me to step In the Arena in accomplishing my goals and reaching my dreams.
*Steven Pressfield– author of The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Legend of Bagger Vance- made into a major motion film starring Will Smith and Matt Damon. Pressfield offers invaluable wisdom and great insight on beating Resistance often disguised as our Muse.
*David Scott Mann–
Founder of Lead Strong – leadership coaching, author, real estate investor , mentor and veteran- Lt. Colonel(ret), Army Special Forces Green Beret. Scott’s expertise and skills extend well beyond the battlefield; training others to connect, succeed and leave deep tracks in this world through the power of storytelling. An Elite Leader like no other.
*Danny Ray Jr.– Contributing writer- Life Hack, and creator of Dream Big, Dream Often . Danny is a visionary and community leader both on and offline with a seemingly inexhaustible reserve for helping others recognize and reach their dreams. A dedicated servant and advocate for those whose lives have been impacted by Multiple Scerlosis. The world could use a few more Danny’s.
“Pay attention and give it a go” Grandpa
Everyday I wake up and get to hug my babies is a beautiful day. Everyday, I get to kiss them on the head as they drift off to sleep is a wonderful night.
Seek first to understand then to be understood
“Can you really afford to go on vacation with the kids with all your bills and such?” says a well-intentioned friend.
My first thought was to respond with- “Well, it’s really none of your business”- however, this was a perfect opportunity to create a touchpoint with someone.
A few years ago, I made a commitment to myself and my kids that each year, I would take them on a family vacation. As a divorced Momma, with two kids and yes, some financial strains brought about over the last two years from my son’s medical condition and surgery- has required that I sacrifice in some areas of my life & work my tail off to save and honor this promise.
Are there other areas in my life in which I have dropped the commitment ball and failed to show up… Yep… I’m sure of it.
It really boils down to what our true priorities in life are and what we CHOOSE to commit to. For some, it may be living a super healthy lifestyle|financial wealth|relationship with spouse or rescuing injured animals.
Ever see the movie Family Vacation? Clark Griswold was ALL in- albeit with a few bumps in the road-when it came to getting his family across country for good times at Wally World!
There is no room for passivity or complacency for those who are truly committed to change, growth and accomplishing their goals.
I value this precious and fleeting time with my kiddos. As the years pass on and they get older, I hope that they too will come to understand that not everything will be handed to them- I must step aside- allow them to struggle, commit and work for what they want.
Time spent with those you love and care about is one of the greatest gifts of all.
“Can you really afford to go on vacation with the kids?”
I can’t afford not to.
After fours years of memorizing lines, countless costume changes, and friendships formed, Pat took to the stage of Pamlico HS for the last time. He often took on roles that would envoke barreling laughter and cheers from the audience. As we have all come to experience, laughter brings great cures for what ails us. “Good times” he recalls in playing a precarious kid named Thor in the play The Nerd written by playwright Larry
Shue. Certainly, what’s not to love playing a terror of a kid stomping about a bowl full of potato salad atop the dinner table? Good times, indeed.
As the curtain drew closed on his high school acting days, another one opened in the form of a full acting scholarship to UNC. He had raw talent and others took notice. This was the Golden ticket for a kid who grew up in a modest rural community along the coast of Carolina.
Pat’s future path of sell out crowds and standing under the lights of stardom quickly dissipated as his father, a Vietnam Army veteran began to plant the seeds of service. Visions of a new kind of costume filled his green eyes- that of United States Marine. “I liked the uniform” he proclaimed. Albeit the true reason for signing his name on the line wouldn’t be revealed for years to come.
At seventeen as with
most– all young recruits hoping to earn their Eagle, Globe and Anchor, they stand upon the yellow footprints with great certainty that life is about to change hoping they don’t crap their pants before the day is done.
At the age of twenty-four, Pat was deployed to Iraq and found he now stood on a different kind of stage in the war torn cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. A far cry and worlds away from the quaint coastal town where the smell of bonfires and fishin’ filled his nights and days. There are no words of comfort nor empathy that can be expressed to one who is exposed to such carnage, hatred and injustice unless you are among the quietly brave souls who pledge their lives for their brothers to their left and to their right and for the country they have vowed to defend.
Yet in this place far removed from all Pat had ever known, his sense of purpose and belonging was revealed. As is the case with all men, they are born to provide, protect and die if they must for their family. It is how all societies judge and determine their worth. It is the scale by which they measure themselves as worthy Men- their legacy written.
There is no distinction as a sheepdog between those whose blood runs through their veins and that of Brother who runs the miles and stands shoulder to shoulder with them in the fight. Sgt. McQueary affectionately known as Mac Dougle made the nights in the sandbox bearable. Many twisted jokes and shuffling of the cards were shared. On the day Mac was killed by an IED, the stage lights of which Pat stood under, began to dim.
Once stateside, Pat became a proud father to a healthy boy in a rocky marriage- survivor’s guilt still ever present by his side. He pressed on and immersed himself into his new role as a Recruiter. It was a challenging role but one he had committed to play. On top of his game professionally, his personal life began to crumble. He and his wife made the decision to legally separate and she moved back north with their son. The loneliness- filled with booze and other transgressions. The pinnacle of despair came in 2011 when his Dad in stoic fashion passed away after a lengthy illness.
Honor, Courage and Commitment–the core values by which all Marines are defined and most importantly it was the lens in which Pat’s father saw him. He died with his soul at ease knowing that his son had become a better man than he.
Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up.
Pat’s career with the Marines came to an “other than honorable” end amongst allegations of adultery; demoted to Lance Corporal and discharged before his 30th birthday. The pivotal moment came knocking when it was time to turn in his uniform.
“It was the hardest day of my life and is my burden to bear.”
Pat now has a second young son with his girlfriend. The laughter he once shared on stage is all but gone. His days are filled with social isolation, taking odd jobs to make ends meet and pay child support for his first born son he rarely sees. Therapy up to this point has not been effective. While well intentioned, the counselors can’t relate. He is “going through the motions” as he proclaims while heading off to school.
On rare occasions, he will meet up with an Army buddy of his which offers a brief respite from the challenges he faces on a daily basis. His girlfriend bears much of the financial burden of the daily living expenses as he often shells out what money he has for a cupboard full of anti- anxiety and depression medications. With the exception of the local university where he attends classes, he feels there is little support for veterans transitioning back into civilian life.
He dreams and strives to provide a good life for his family, of belonging and serving a purpose higher than himself. His scars run deep but carries on.
There is a disconnect among those in the community of which these young veterans live and work. Their service to our communities and country must continue. They possess unique skills as Leaders that must be utilized in keeping this nation and our neighborhoods strong. They must hear from all of us that they are valued in spite of their flaws.
We must educate our children of their sacrifices to this country. We must call upon our business leaders to offer jobs and opportunities to become entrepreneurs. We must call out corrupt organizations and politicians who wish to use veterans for their own personal gains.
When asked about his relationship with his young son Gavin, his face lit up for the first time in our conversation. “I hope that one day, my children will read this and be proud of me.”
And when the curtain closes at the end of his days, his soul will be at ease, knowing his boys have become better men than he.
“This too shall pass…”
I hear my Momma say. Throughout my lifetime, I have heard the sweet, gentle voice of my Mother imparting her wise words to so many in the darkest of times and in moments where life couldn’t get any better. And while these words are not of her own creation, they are to me and to all who’ve been blessed with her sage advice over the years. It is a reminder that the hard times will pass(sometimes painfully like a kidney stone as she often jokes) and that we must carry on. It is a reminder that pure happiness is often discovered in the briefest of moments and that we should embrace this bliss while we can.
As a teen, I would simply dismiss these words of truth- “She doesn’t understand.” Oh but she does. She was a single Mother of three and worked two jobs to make ends meet. She lost a daughter to cancer a few years back and carried on- as a registered nurse, she helped to deliver one of her grandchildren and held hands with patients as they took their last breath embracing the beauty and sadness of it all. She whispered, “this too shall pass” on my wedding day and again during my divorce. With a teenage daughter of my own now, helping to guide and let her create her own path, I speak my Mother’s words…
My selfless and loving Momma is 85 years old today. She still works as a part-time RN nurse and only recently retired from full-time shifts. She sits along the river bank fishing with my children – knowing- “this too shall pass.”
The difficult times and the good times will always pass; embrace them both and know that each will teach you.
What words of wisdom do you hear from a loved one?
With recent MRI results coming back on my son, we were disappointed to say the least. It takes a few days to process the possibility of him having brain surgery for the second time. What he and I won’t do however, is sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and do nothing. We have come to understand that there are certain characteristics that most or all mentally strong people utilize when hard times fall their way.
It is often in the worst of times that we discover the scars we have endured are our strengths| the miles we’ve run are our determination to never quit| the difficult situations we face are opportunities to find the positives| and walking through our fears is how we develop the courage to carry on~