My grandfather told me when I was a young boy to be humble. He said, if I ever began to get full of myself to go outside on a clear night when the moon was absent and look up at the stars to gain perspective.
When I was born, my family didn’t have much money. My dad worked for a trucking company where he started as a management trainee on the dock. My dad’s father (the man who told me to look at the stars) was a high school science teacher and football coach and didn’t make much money. But, my grandfather told me he decided to teach as opposed to going into business, because he felt he could make a difference in people’s lives. My parents seemed to look down on that decision to some extent. They thought he chose that profession because he experienced the Great Depression and teaching was a more secure path. After all, why would one chose to make less money if one could make more in business?
At a very young age, prior to third grade, I lived in a nice little house in a nice little neighborhood in Ohio. Kids played outside and there was a small forest behind the homes. Our house was decorated modestly and filled with family photos and things that symbolized something about our life. Everything seemed to make sense.
Time moved on and my dad progressed rapidly up the ranks. When I hit second grade we moved to California due to my dad’s promotion. He was promoted to the second in command for a large Fortune 500 company. Eventually he got the top spot and we moved to a really nice house. This was the house that was backed up against a beautiful nature preserve that I discussed in my previous post “Enigma”.
Along with my dad’s success came noticeable changes in my parents and what decorated the house. The family photos and meaningful things were replaced by modern art-work and decorations that matched the paint, carpet, or furniture. The meaningful things were stored away or hung downstairs in dark hallways or the laundry room or bathrooms. My parents began to travel often, go to events, and wear nicer clothes. I could see that they began to act and think like they had arrived. I used to talk to my grandfather about how strange they are behaving and how I didn’t like the feel of the house. I told him it felt more like a cold museum than a home. He agreed.
Eventually I went off to college that wasn’t too far from my parents. I could visit them on a weekend or during breaks. While I was in college, my dad was let go by the board of directors. Apparently, his decision to buy a large corporation took too long to integrate and turnaround the financial performance.
During my visits after this major event occurred, I saw my dad spending hours slumped in a chair watching TV. Here was a powerful strong man who had lots of money, yet there he sat, utterly deflated, depressed, lifeless, surrounded by meaningless decorative art and things. He spent decades of his energy, passion, and time in an entity that one day decided he was no longer needed.
I asked myself why doesn’t he go enjoy the fruits of his labor and travel, write, read, or whatever he may find of interest. He has no economic barriers to pursue something that he may be passionate about. But there he sat, in that same chair, slumped over watching TV.
And it was at this point that I realized his dad might have never told him to go outside on a clear night when the moon was absent and look up at the stars to gain perspective. And if he did, perhaps my dad simply ignored his advice.