“What’s this?” Aleck asked as we walked into an old barn. The two of us were up early taking a walk to explore while visiting my parents on the coast a few weeks ago. “It’s an old wood stove” I answered. “Ohhh Dad…There’s a sign with your name on it! Cool where did they get that!!” Aleck asked with a huge smile on his face. “Uhhh that…uhh…well my friend Shane…he…he gave me that street name sign” I answered(somehow leaving out how scary obtaining that sign was…and how we were almost arrested were it not for our Ninja/Navy SEAL/Special Ops get-away skills…ok…so maybe the police officer was cold…and tired…and just didn’t feel like looking for a few dumb kids holding an “ANTHONY RD” sign…covered in briars…in a ditch). We wiped off the sign…I snapped a picture of him holding it…and just as I lowered my phone… a jar on the barn wall caught my eye. I picked it up and shook it. The sound of the screws, nuts, bolts, and washers clanging against the jar brought a smile to my face. I picked up another…and then another…and in the last one I picked out the longest bolt I could find and began stirring all the metal as if I was making a special pot of soup. “What do all of these mean?” asked Aleck. The answer to his curiosity…is the inspiration for this blog post…and I’ll tell you the story I told him as we sat on the old wood stove(with a little more substance of course…as I had 9 hours to think about it on our drive home).
Flashback 34 years ago when I was a boy living in a trailer park. A boy whose only goal on a normal Saturday morning was to get up before anyone in the trailer…get dressed…sneak out…and pedal away on my bike to meet my friend Stevie to find whatever adventure was waiting for us. Sounds easy right? Well…it would’ve been except I had the father who LOOOVVVEEED to do work on things…on anything… around the house and yard on his day off…and the father who normally woke up at 4:30am during the week…which means 6am was sleeping in for him…which means…I had a 99.9% chance of…NOOOT…having my skinny little legs pedal me away to freedom and a world of no responsibility…did I say 99.9%? Let’s go ahead and make that a 100% chance of hearing “Anthony…get some breakfast. We have chores to do today. Lots of work…and I’m gonna need your help. Let’s go.” Looking back, I don’t know if he really had as much of a work plan…as he did a plan to make sure I worked(I have written about this as well…and I am extremely grateful my Dad made me work…I will share with you in a future post). Let me give you a few examples of projects we may have tackled on any given Saturday…that way I can get my message to you a little easier. Examples: Cutting grass(easy)…Cleaning(moderate to impossible…depending on his level of Drill Sergeantness for the day)…Sealing the trailer roof seams with tar(moderate…depending on time of year…but always messy)…filling in holes in the yard our black lab Lady would dig(easy)…washing cars(easy)…working on cars/trucks/boats…vacuum cleaner…washing machine…lawnmower…or ANNNYYYYTTHHIIINNNG with parts(nightmare…usually…for me)…Why?…Can you guess?…That’s right – they all have parts….and what holds parts together?…EXACTLY – screws, clamps, nuts, bolts, belts, hoses, washers, etc… Some of you still may not have put together why this was a nightmare for me…Let me give you an example: “Anthony hold this…put this over there…you turn this and I’ll hold this” my Dad would say. And I was good with that…and then it would never fail…the dreaded assignment would come as my Dad would hold out his large scraped up, worn, greasy fist…not to give me a fist bump and permission to hop on my BMX bike…no…he had something in his hand…and so with his other hand he would grab my chicken leg sized wrist, raise my arm, and turn my hand…palm up… placing it directly under his closed fist. “Son…I need you to go get…2 Phillips head machine screws, 1 shoulder bolt, 2 set screws, 4 heavy hexes, 1 slotted nut, 5 wing nuts, 2 internal tooth lock washers, 1 dock washer, 1 fender washer, 2 brads, 6 masonry nails, 5- 3 1/2 inch flooring nails, a piece of duct tape, a wire nut…yellow, a roll of Teflon tape,…annnnd a rake.”…and while he spoke and transferred pieces of his inventory list like a giant crane pouring a cascading waterfall of metal into my little hand…I could feel my head start to sweat…his words turning into Charlie Brown teacher sounds…until I hear “Oh…and son…make sure they aren’t broken like the ones in your hand.” In my mind I’m thinking…”Whhhhaaaattt thhhe…why don’t you just send me to the backyard to find four leaf clovers…it’s the same thing…this isn’t fair…he can take a hike..”….annnd all those thoughts finally came out in these words…”Ok…Yes sir.” Sooooo….where was I to find all these things?…Well…my father had a shed…and in this shed was…you guessed it…jars and jars and buckets and flower pots and jars and buckets of….allll these wonderful pieces and parts. I’m not talking about a Bob Vila, Tim Allen Home Improvement, Martha Stewart, Pinterest neatly organized tool shed…where similiar pieces are stored together….allll these jars, buckets, compartments, etc…were full of anything and everything…all mixed together.
As I sat on the wood stove stirring the jar with a long bolt, I told Aleck what his Paw Paw used to make me do. “It was hard…but it taught me a few things” I explained. I’ll share 5 things that could…and did happen after I slid the metal shed door open and began my search. More importantly, I’ll explain how these 5 things and shaking, stirring, and picking through jars reminds me of a few important choices we can make in this life.
1. Not working hard…Faking it : In this case I would step in…pull the door…sit down…and do NOTHING. Maybe I would kick a coffee can of nails…or slide a bucket across the floor…just to make some noise in an effort to make my father think I was doing what I was supposed to be doing…but really…I did nothing. Probably because I wanted to be doing something else…or he had yelled at me…or I was tired…or I was just being stubborn…I would keep my eye on the path to the shed and scurry into action as my father ran out of time and patience and made his way to check on things. This case always ended up in a “Go…I’ll do it myself “ from my father. I would tell him I tried and tried…but he knew…and I was dismissed. Lesson: You WILL be dismissed if you choose this scenario in life. People know…Teachers, Bosses, Counselors, Children, Husbands, Wives, Parents, Police Officers, Grandparents, Doctors, Nurses…All People…They know when you are doing NOTHING…and faking it. This is a selfish, spoiled, ungrateful, and stagnant place to be…Do Not do this…It isn’t right and you will not grow…and you will be dismissed…I guarantee it.
“Laziness is a secret ingredient that goes into failure. But it’s only kept a secret from the person who fails.” – Robert Half
2. Not working hard…finding the right thing : In this case…I would go in…pull out a bucket and see what I was looking for…right on top. I call this luck. Lesson: This scenario can be positive if it’s you…but negative and frustrating in certain cases if it isn’t you. We all deserve a little luck right?…or we think we do…and when it happens we celebrate. But what happens if we’re working our butts off and it’s the person beside us that gets lucky…never lifting a finger or while making bad choices? I’ll give you an example: A few years ago I trained several athletes from a local high school. At the time many stories about rampant pot smoking by athletes in this school were circulating. One afternoon an athlete pulled me to the side and said “Anthony…I don’t get it…I am killing myself in here and in practice. You see me…I lift…eat correctly…I work hard…and (he named another athlete) smokes pot every day…every day…doesn’t work out…ever…and he is faster than almost everyone in this state…it sucks.” ….and you know what?…it does suck…I explained to him the value of hard work…doing things right…character and integrity…and to NEVER compare himself to another…that what matters is how he handles himself…that the way to reach his potential was to continue being the person he was with the work ethic he had…and that the pot smoking athlete could not live up to his potential at that time because of the choices he was making. The VERY next day…Michael Phelps was on every newspaper front page, every tv show, every radio station…for being at a party…smoking pot…someone snapped a picture of him. I remember coming home and telling Amy how hopeless I felt. Here I was telling these young people to treat their bodies as temples…to strive to do what’s right…and the absolute best…most athletic…#1 amazing athlete in the WORLD is pictured with a big bong in his hands smoking pot…a guy whose conditioning is key to performance…a guy who has parents and children looking up to him as a star swimmer and picture of health for the USA…a guy you would think would make better choices. But you know what…the lesson remains the same…Do what’s right and work hard. If you get lucky…great…but don’t rely on luck…It isn’t the norm…Work. If someone else gets lucky…great. If someone else rides their talent while being an out of touch opinionated jerk(like many athletes and entertainers)…if they make tons of money while making horrible life decisions…oh well… It has nothing to do with you. Focus on who you want to be…and how you want to live…and work for it.
“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
3.Working hard…not finding anything: This is the scenario where you work hard and come up short. It’s bad because it sometimes ended the same way scenario 1 ended up “Go…I’ll do it myself.” Only I really had worked hard. Have you ever been here in your life? Worked hard in your job…but just haven’t reached the position or pay you desire….or in a relationship…worked hard but just can’t seem to meet “the one”…or in the classroom…studied and studied but just can’t get the material…you struggle with every test…or worked hard for your kids…and you don’t even get a single thank you…It’s hard…but I love this scenario…I do. Lesson: Patience. As I often say to myself and my clients…”Be Quiet…Work Hard…and Be Patient.” Sometimes we’re not ready for the gifts we are to receive…sometimes we face obstacles that are designed to slow us down…until we are ready.
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” – John Quincy Adams
4. Working hard…finding the wrong thing : In this case I would go in…stir, shift, pick over everything I could…sweating and working as hard as I could to find what I was looking for…and then thinking I found it…pick it out and sprint it to my father…where he would say “Not it.” This is a tough one. Lesson: Do not give up. This is the one that wears you down mentally. It is such a let down to work hard…and get an undesired outcome. This is the one that makes people give up. We must remember that we grow through our struggles…and working hard for “nothing” when you think you have “it”…is a struggle. This is the bad marriage…the inability to have children…the sickness hitting the healthy person…the being looked over for the promotion…the house being sold out from under your “guaranteed” offer…the employee stealing your technology and opening his/her own business…the client making you design plans and walking away…finding out the friend you’ve helped and trusted is talking about you behind your back…the child you’ve tried to help continuing to steal from you to support his/her addictive behavior…the father or mother that refuses to see your worth…even after all these years…the loved one who takes his/her own life…the loved one whose life is taken from you and your family by someone else…or by sickness…you do the right things…you work hard…you do…but the “wrong” things happen…these are the things that make you want to…give up. Do not give up. Lift your head…continue to work and do the right things…and be courageous.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
5. Working hard…finding the right thing : This is the best case scenario…I would go in…start working super hard…and I’m sure many times I was close to giving up before I found what I was looking for…but this is the case where I kept stirring and searching and searching and searching…I would pick out the correct pieces…then sprint back with a victorious report for my Dad. This…oh this…is where I got what every boy in the world desires from his father…a “Good job.” … pat on the back…a slight smile…and if you’re lucky maybe a half hug. Am I right men? There is nothing better in this world you can get from your Dad. Lesson: Hard work pays off. The reward can be amazing. This is why you never give up. Even when tired…when you want to be somewhere else…doing something else…or doing nothing…when you are weary…teary…exhausted and at the end…Do not give up…because there is a reward and you will see it.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9
And isn’t it funny how after all these years I found that jar on an old barn wall while playing with my own son? And isn’t it amazing how his curiosity and questions about why I had to look in cans, buckets, and jars for pieces and parts made me think about all you just read? Like I said, I don’t know if my father had a design in the things he made me do…heck…I think most of us are just trying to get by…and not harm or damage our kids…sometimes we as fathers don’t know…we don’t have all the right answers or exact way things should be done…but it’s ok…because if we provide the jars and cans with all the right pieces in there…somewhere…we can provide the love, guidance, prayers, teachings, values, pats on the back, watchful eyes, winks, and smiles to help our children stir and pick through the wrong things until they can do it themselves…reap the rewards…and then do it for their own children. Lastly, Fathers we are watched by our children…what we say…what we do matters…Don’t forget to give them a “Good job”…and a kiss goodnight…whether they are already asleep or not… God Bless -Anthony