One year ago today marks the start of an adventure that changed my life. As a career focused HR executive making a great salary and living in Atlanta, GA, I did something crazy. I somehow convinced my wife, toddler, and new born baby that we needed a bit more excitement in our lives… As if we didn’t have enough stress already. Once my wife was onboard with me, I called up her dad in Dayton, OH to ask him a question that would change us all forever.
ME: “Tom, what would you think about selling your company to me? We will move from Atlanta to Dayton as soon as possible.”
TOM: “I like the idea. Why don’t you come up here next week, check things out, and see if you are still interested.”
Road trip! My daughter and I set off on an 8 hour drive. How exciting? We are buying a business. Of course, to anyone who has ever started or purchased a business, you probably have a good idea of what the next year truly entailed. The blog posts to follow will tell the stories of some of our challenges, victories, emotions, insecurities, peace and flat out grace periods. But, for today’s post I want to rewind an additional 25 years to a moment in life that I will never forget.
At 8 years old, standing on an elementary school football field during recess, a friend leaned over to me and asked, “What is your favorite football team?” I had nothing. I didn’t even know much about football. He confidently told me the Dallas Cowboys were his team. Keep in mind, these were their glory years with Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin. That year I became obsessed with the team of superstars. I remember thinking that I could build a team of football superstars. All I needed was people. Without much effort, I gathered all the neighborhood kids together, divided us into five teams of two, created playbooks, organized practices, launched a season, playoffs, and a Super Bowl. We played every day. In the sun. In the rain. In the snow. With broken legs and skinned up knees. It was so fun, and we were only eight years old. My childhood has taught me and continues to teach me quite a bit.
Your natural childhood self tells a lot about who you were designed to be.
At 8 years old, I built teams to do cool things and have fun doing it. Guess what? It did not stop at eight. From starting bands in high school, organizing entrepreneur groups in college, managing HR teams in corporations, to now purchasing a business in 2017, building teams is in my blood. It’s what makes me happy. Think back to what you did as a kid so naturally. It is probably what makes you happy too. “Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called ‘All the Things That Could Go Wrong.’” – Marianne Williamson.
Your job does not define you.
I was not a football player playing with football superstars. I was just a kid bringing other kids together to play a game. About 5 years ago I tried starting a different business. It was a consulting business consisting of one employee, me. It failed. Miserably. Not one customer paid. Looking back on that stressful year, many things went wrong. One lesson stands out the most though. I thought what would make me successful at business was the product/service offered by my business. The problem is that I am not much of a sales person when I do not have a team to sell. Take a guy that likes to naturally build teams, place him in a room all by himself, and tell him to sell. Failure was inevitable. My dad came to visit me at one of my lowest points. We sat at a restaurant table enjoying the breeze and wings while I explained to him all the great things I could do for organizations if they would just buy my service.
His response: “You're arrogant. You think that what you are good is something you are just okay at doing.”
Wow. Brutal. Knife to the heart. How could a father say that to a son? He continued though, reminding me of my childhood and the countless times I didn’t even have to try to bring people together, it just naturally happened. The specific task I knew how to perform so well in that business was not what defined me. I bet if you evaluate your job today too, what makes you a success is not the job itself. And, if you are unhappy at work, it might be that you are not doing what you naturally know how to do so well.
Pass it on.
The picture above was taken on the initial road trip to buy the businesses I own today. My daughter was three. I was thirty-three. We are two different people at two very different points in our life, but we have one thing in common. We were both designed to play a part in a story bigger than anything we could ever imagine. Our designs are great. No job title or salary will ever be greater. Now that I know that, it is my job to teach her the same thing, just like my dad taught me five years ago at a restaurant while I was failing at business. When you can pinpoint the natural thing you have always been good at in life, you will find happiness that can never be taken away from you. It is in you. I can confidently say that.
As a business owner, my job is clearer now than ever before. I bring people together to do cool things and have fun doing it. At Evans Electric and E2Green, we do more than just electricity and lighting. Every day each team member serves our customer through their unique designs and talents. And, we have fun doing it!
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