If I Only Knew ...
If I knew then what I know now...
I would have traveled the exact same road in both my personal and professional lives. I certainly could have avoided some of those bumps and ruts along the way -- and there were some detours that I should have used -- but I always got to where I wanted to go.
I'm the kind of person who never looks back with those sorrowful expressions of, "What I could have or should have done," or "What could have been," because I always have done the best I could with every situation I encountered. Naturally there were some mistakes, and sometimes poor judgement, but most of my decisions were solid and fruitful, which more than compensated for the errors whenever they occurred.
As Frank Sinatra's song, "My Way," says, "I chewed it up and spit it out." I always called it "Water over the dam."
If you have read my book, "Born To Build," you understand that my craftmanship and problem-solving ability is in my genes. I was definitely "born to build" and was lucky enough to be in the right place (family) at the right time.
My Pap was a contractor who started in this business in 1918 and raised 13 children through the Depression and World War II. Being ninth in that family gave me a fantastic set of family values and also priceless human relations training for working with, for and over other employees.
Possibly the most useful lessons gained from living and working during those tough times was the importance of time and money. We could not afford to waste either. This is among the most critical messages that I consistently try to communicate and pass on to my own family, my readers, clients and working associates.
My Green & Gold mentoring programs are part of this effort to communicate some of that working-economically-and-efficiently wisdom from other senior citizens to our younger workers. We all believed a man should put in a hard day of work and go to bed tired, and proud of what he had accomplished that day.
But my lessons and learning only started during the Depression and World War II. They continue to this day.
Life Of LearningI was married at age 19 and raised eight children. Many people feel that was far too young to accept that much responsibility and miss out on dating and hanging out with my buddies. But what I know now completely agrees with that decision.
Being young enough to work and play side-by-side with my own children and grandchildren for all these years has been such a blessing that I certainly would not even think about changing what I did then. I like hanging out with my own kin.
Possibly one of the biggest uncertain decisions my wife and I made together was in 1972 when we moved our family from Latrobe, Pa., to Orlando, Fla. We were living "high on the hog" as executive vice president of our successful family business, and then gambled on establishing a management consulting business. We still had seven children to put through school and finance their college education.
We struggled for a few years, but we made it work. There is no doubt that, if I could go back in time, I would have made some changes involving our personal lives, as well as made a few tweaks as I established my consulting career. But I relied on that old quote from the 1934 sermon of Reinhold Niebuhr:
- "O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed, and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
During those early World War II years, I did not suffer or starve, but we all did work diligently to survive and enjoyed what little we had. We learned to appreciate what we had rather than always expect something more or something better -- anything that is expected is never fully appreciated.
No RegretsOne of the best lessons I learned was to share with and help other people. In my family, we were taught that you cannot take without giving something back. I've gone out of my way in every business relationship, or with my friends and relatives, to help everybody I could.
My primary objective for leaving our company and beginning my consulting career was to give something back to this great, competitive construction industry that has been so generous to me. Conducting seminars, convention programs and writing these columns provides an opportunity for me to share what I know now with thousands of America's builders. I hope they can successfully travel this same road and avoid most of those bumps and ruts.
Along with a great deal of happiness, my life has been visited with trials and tribulations. But, in spite of them, I always made it fun. A smile is contagious, and when it's fun for you it is enjoyable for all those around you.
If I knew then what I know now, I'd do it all over again!