I was chatting with Kim Kelling at WFSU yesterday on their “Voices That Inspire” segment. It’s a solid feature on homegrown talent. I don’t know how inspiring I was, but we had a few laughs and shared a cool moment.
As I left, I reviewed what we had just discussed on the air and brainstormed topics for a talk at the Capital City Country Club with my friend Jay Revell. What should I talk about that won’t bore people to tears?
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Something from the WFSU segment? Another technical conference? Maybe cyber security? Branding? Or how about life lessons? The survey says: Life lessons from my humble and sometimes hilarious 48 years on earth.
Why not and how about something like this…
Life lesson: obey the law
First, in the 80s (6th grade or so) my grandma would take me to the Merritt fireworks show outside of Dothan, Alabama (I was living in LA at the time) on sunday. I was loading bottle rockets, M-80s, Roman candles, all the goods. After our neighborhood fireworks wars ended, I had the brilliant idea of selling the leftovers at school.
Margins were strong, cost of goods sold was low because Nana paid for everything, so a gross dollar of bottle rockets I would sell for $10 on the Houston Academy black market. Business was booming for about a month. Then the principal understood (family friend Michael Bailey) and advised me not to do this, it was frowned upon, borderline illegal, he said. Noted. Life lesson, obey the law.
Life lesson: be kind
Second lesson that year, a Japanese exchange student came to school, Sammy Ishiyama, unable to speak English. Mrs. Tanner (teacher) took me aside and asked if he could follow me, every day, lunch, PE class, class, everything, until he learned his way? I hesitated because it didn’t sound like a cool move, but I said yes.
This kid turned out to be much cooler than me and he became one of my best friends. Life lesson, be nice, help someone when given the chance.
Life lesson: smile in defeat
Fast forward to my 16th birthday at Leonardo’s on Monroe Street here in Tallahassee. Mom had invited all my friends over for dinner and Ashley, my high school girlfriend, smuggled me there for the surprise. It was awesome.
However, there was a large gift box on the table that I was staring at all the time. Did mom play the big box trick, with a smaller box in that one, then a smaller box in it? Like an anniversary version of the Russian Matryoshka dolls with the keys to a Mitsubishi 3000 GT in it?
I excitedly gathered around the box with all my friends from high school, Charlie, Jay, Ashley, Ron, Cristina, Devon, Spencer, etc. and to my surprise, it was a leaf blower. Just a leaf blower, mom said I could start a yard cleaning business and there was my ticket for a car. Life lesson? Smile, even in defeat. Mom has pulled out the ultimate gag gift and thinks it’s probably time for revenge for mom this upcoming birthday season.
Life lesson: try harder
Next step in life, the University of Florida. Due to a variety of factors, including a rigorous social life and an exciting football season, I scored a rather incredible 1.0 for a GPA in my freshman year.
The only benefit is that I doubled the GPAs of my two best friends. We will call them Joe Smith (.5) and Ryan Edward (.8) to protect their reputations and feelings. For me, Dad told me to join the army, work in one of his warehouses, or raise your grades. I chose option 3. Life lesson, try harder. I had a learning disability to overcome, I was going to find out, but the diploma and graduation finally came through.
Life lesson: chasing dreams
Then I worked in the music industry or, as Nana called it, Ratt Poison. This means that rock ‘n’ roll is the work of the devil. She never recovered from going to see the bands Ratt and Poison at the peak of 80s metal at the Dothan Civic Center years earlier. She called TV shows she didn’t like Ratt/Poison, it was hilarious.
I loved Nana and my time in the entertainment industry. To this day, I still have a gold record on the wall to commemorate that time of managing and traveling with various bands. Life lesson, chase those dreams.
Life lesson: keep trucking
Until our days. I started at Aegis 16 years ago as an account manager and was named CEO six years ago. Thank you to everyone who participated in my little trip, it was awesome. I was also able to marry the girl of my dreams just over ten years ago.
What a journey. The life lesson? I know there have been hard times for me (for all of us) but in the end, keep on rolling, insert East Bound and Down/Smokey and Bandit lyrics here.
Whatever phase of life you find yourself in, be it bad or good, the lessons mentioned here – try harder, smile, don’t break the law, be a good person and follow those dreams – will make move things in the right direction.
Thank you, Kim, as that concludes my Voices of Inspiration chatter. Thank you, Jay, for the invitation to speak at your lunch, and thank you, Mom, for the leaf blower.
Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, author of Professionally Distanced and host of the Biz & Tech podcast. You can reach him at [email protected]
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