In 2004, I was thirty-three years old and just lost my father to suicide. That next year, I went through a period where I was trying to find myself and, in doing so, made a pilgrimage to visit my grandparents and other family who moved to Florida in recent years. I reconnected with my mom’s mom and stepfather (whom I know as “Grandmom and Grandpop Peterson”), my uncle Dave Smith and his family there in Panama City, in the Florida panhandle. As my Uncle Dave put it, “This is L.A. Lower Alabama.” This trip was exactly what I needed and I was able to recharge my batteries and become centered again. I learned a lot about myself during that time. Not only did I refresh my interest in being a better man, but I also came home wanting to become a Freemason like Grandpop and Uncle Dave. During the trip, I learned that Dave was Master of his Lodge and Grandpop said becoming a Mason was the best thing he ever did. That pretty much sealed it for me. I’m going to be a Mason. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered where your next meal was coming from? Or where you’ll be sleeping next month? If you haven’t, you may not be a member of the contingent who can understand this blog. If you can’t relate, please do us both a favor and tune out now. If you are still here, and can think as deeply as required, let me fill you in on why I believe what I do.
I was born in South Jersey in 1970 and my mother committed suicide right after my eleventh birthday. I spent more than two decades trying to make sense of it until my father does the same. I guess to follow her down. I don’t know. But all I know is that, back in 2004, I was a man in his early thirties with major issues. Again, no pity. Just journey. Continue reading
As children, and even adults, we follow our fathers’ footsteps and look to them for answers. “What would Dad do?” or “Let me ask Dad.” are common things that may go through one’s mind. Everyone who knew my father tells me how great he was. He excelled at everything he did. His personality was bigger than life and he was kind. He faced adversity with a rare combination of ferocity and excitement. Until he didn’t. At fifty-five years old my father, my hero, left this planet on his own accord. No. He didn’t spring for tickets aboard SpaceX. He drank a bottle of tequila and swapped an aspirin for a bullet.
I know I promised this to be a business lesson and I assure you I am getting there. Many success coaches tell you to mimic the habits of successful people. While I do not disagree, it is important to be selective with which habits you follow. The author of Ecclesiastes was one of the wisest men in all of the land yet he had made every mistake a man could make. How could this be? If he is so wise, and his wisdom so valuable, how can he be this flawed? Because that’s reality.
At thirty-four years old I found myself looking at a roadmap of only two decades with a not-so-happy ending. I was in the same career path as my father. My business was doing quite well and it was similar to his. His industry peers were also mine. Heck. I look like him and my waistline was headed in his direction. I was all set until things started going downhill. I was a husband and a business owner with a lot of pressures. What now? I started by telling myself that I needed to figure out what Dad would do. It took me a few months to realize that wasn’t going to work.
When I was seven, my dad taught me to ride a bicycle. I was scared to pedal without his hand on the seat. One day, I looked back to see he was far behind and I was pedaling just fine. It has been eight years since Dad let go of that bicycle and I’m still doing just fine. We search our lives for heroes and father figures. Many heroic figures chose to end their own lives with alcohol and a bullet including Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Junior Seau, Kurt Cobain, Don Cornelius, Vincent van Gogh, Freddie Prinze, Richard Jeni and Jeret Peterson.
Heroes are like drugs. They make you feel like you can do anything. Until they don’t. Listen carefully. There is no one better fit to manage your life than you. There is no one stronger than you. So put on those shoes and stand the hell up straight. It’s time to be your own hero.
Now I’m going to drink my coffee.