My father-in-law has always embodied all of the things that are important, not just in business but in life. Integrity, fairness, determination, and an unfailing devotion to doing what needed to be done.
Last week, we went to visit him to celebrate his 92nd birthday. I have always seen him as a tower of strength. But somehow, this time the word that came to mind was perseverance. We were outside and he was moving a garden hose from one fruit tree to another. He used his cane to hook the end of the hose and lift it up so that he did not have to bend over. Then he slowly dragged it across a quarter of an acre paying close attention to each step and every movement, making sure that he would not trip or miss a step, the whole time keeping one eye out for Herman, the red-tailed hawk that lives in the big cottonwood tree across the road that he nursed through adolescence after it fell from the nest.
This was the first time I ever saw him as "old. He is all sinew and bone, bent and gnarly, ignoring the pain served up by his arthritic joints. But he is driven by a sprit that simply will not acquiesce to the ravages of age. He has a pacemaker. We all thought that he would take it easy after he got the pacemaker. But there was no way he was going to do that. He broke his hip a few years back and we all thought that he would be an invalid after that. But before hardly any time at all had elapsed, he was back on his feet and out in the yard attacking the weeds that were invading his flower beds.
One might wonder what this has to do with the business of woodworking or with business at all. But looking at him out there stubbornly wrestling with the challenges of life, I realized that this is how we must be if we want to survive in business.
Every day presents its challenges. We have to be strong enough in sprit to accept the challenges and meet them head on. It would be so easy for my father-in-law to take a pass. He has lived a full life, raised a family of seven kids, run a successful ranching operation, traveled the world, endured heart trouble and broken bones, saw his life mate into the next world after nursing her through eight years of Parkinson's, "been there" for 40-plus grand children and great grand children, never forgetting a birthday. If there ever was a man who would be entitled to sit down, this would be the man. But he sits only long enough to recover his strength from the last task so that he can get back up and take on the next. Unless there's a hockey game on.