I’ve a confession: my high school career did not contain anything to brag about. I did not make good grades, in fact, I barely graduated. I was not motivated, smart, happy, and maybe I wasn’t even nice or friendly. I did the bare minimum to get by.
After high school, I bounced around between jobs, attended the local community college where I finally graduated. I tried to go to Morehead State University, but I left there after one semester flunking at least some classes. During this time I was always trying to get better gainful employment, but mostly didn’t do well for myself. I even tried a small business that also failed, not because it was a bad business, but because I did not have the tools to allow it to succeed. There’s not a lot from years 18-24 that I’m proud of, because I just coasted along. I had no idea what success was, how to get there, nor did not have any direction in my life.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I was a dirt bag, because I wasn’t. I didn’t do drugs or get a face tattoo, I was never arrested. To the contrary, I tried hard not to do those things, and I’m thankful for that. You see, I was trying really hard – I was (and still am) a really hard worker. I thought that I should get a college degree, but this is the same guy who barely passed high school – so I didn’t even know how to do that. Even with that goal in mind, I didn’t have an ambition, a dream that college would fulfill.
At 25 I joined the Navy, which changed the course of my life. Since 25, I’ve mostly done well for myself. In the last 10 years, the trajectory of my life has changed drastically for the better, but it’s been the culmination of a lot of hard work, one day at a time. Taking a moment to reflect, I wish I knew at 18 (or 8) what I know now. I wish that I had direction, someone who was successful to lead and teach me. As much as the adults in my life loved me (and I was surrounded by lots and lots of love), I didn’t have anyone around who was successful in their life who had the time to teach me how to also be successful.
Nobody is born with the innate knowledge of what it takes to work your way up on the job ladder and how to build and maintain your credit. Boys like me had to stumble their way through it, and a few made it through on the other side and became successful. But that success wasn’t through who I was or knowledge I attained. Mostly, it was through one person or another being nice, giving me a chance, and coaching me through the best way they knew how.
One such man was J.B. Finlay who was the director at the Huntington VA Medical Center. I met him while doing an internship that was required for me to graduate with my BS degree from Ohio University. I am grateful for the kindness that he showed me, for giving me a window into his success. Another was a professor at Ohio University, his name was William Rau. In his classes I learned how to be a good student. He counseled me on a career, and was perhaps the first teacher who treated me like I was or could be smart. Another gentleman, Curt Justice was an incredibly smart business man, a hard worker and would give anyone the shirt off of his back. He taught me that owning a business meant you could do all of the jobs in the business, and that fear did no service to the businessman. If he had to jump out of a airplane as part of his business, he would jump then figure out how he would land. He also taught me a great deal about faith and God. James Shallard worked at a little company called AppRiver, and he saw a skill set of a young man and thought those skills could be put to work on his software development team. He gave me a chance, and plenty of time to grow into a position, and to him, I’m grateful because he gave me my foot in the door that would reveal a great passion in working with technology.
There were others along the way, and there will be more I think. Today I strive to teach my four boys the lessons I’ve attained over the course of my life. Almost all of them were hard lessons. My goal is to give them the guidance that I lacked so that they can make better, more informed, decisions. They are my legacy, but there are other boys out there who need my guidance, my knowledge, and need to see my success. Perhaps there’s a young man out there who hasn’t seen success, and doesn’t have direction, and is fighting the invisible man, much like I was. You can’t win a fight against an opponent you know nothing about, and that pretty much sums up what I was doing as a young man. I think in the weeks, months and years to come, I’ll try to find this young man, and lift him up like those men who helped me.
In today’s world, good men do not have a high value placed upon them. With all the talk of toxic masculinity, one thing has been forgotten – good, successful men know how to teach boys how to be good, successful men. It has been my life’s experience that there is a serious shortage of good men in this nation willing to share this knowledge. We need good men more than ever to teach, mentor, coach and lift up our boys. In spite of being very busy in my own deeds, I have a new goal to teach and help raise up young men.