Growing up in the Midwest, I came from a family where I am the youngest of 3. On the weekends, when I wasn’t playing in a soccer or baseball game, our family would go to my grandma and grandpa’s pool and swim. My grandparents had 24 grandkids from 6 sons and everyone would go to the pool if they had nothing else going on, so it was always packed with family.
My grandpa was a business owner his whole life. He owned everything from a pub to a contracting company and finally ended his career as a general contractor. He was the guy everyone went to because you just felt good about yourself when you were around him. His motto in life was “Happy Days” because according to him, if you are not enjoying your life, you are doing something wrong.
When I was 16, I had a chance to interview him for a class project I was assigned. I knew he was a WWII veteran but he never discussed it. That interview still has an impact on me today.
I knew he flew planes for the army but what I did not know is he also would run top secret classified missions. These were volunteer only and involved going deep in to enemy territory to either drop special forces paratroopers or gathering intel. During one flight his plane was shot down and he parachuted into the jungle. Using a map, compass and some coins for trade, he followed a river and 3 days later emerged from the jungle and got back to his company. One week after that, he was on another one of these flights.
He was awarded several of the highest honors including the both the bronze and silver star and the distinguished service cross. What he told me after that story still impacts me today. “You can overcome anything with the right map and compass.”
In 2003 he was hospitalized after a fall and could not communicate except he could squeeze your hand. Each on of us had a chance to say our good byes and we know he heard us because we all got a hand squeeze when we were done. He passed the following morning but he left behind quite a legacy to us.
We only have so much time on this planet and the biggest legacy we can leave is to make a difference for someone else. I get to do that plenty in my personal life but at Braintrust, I also get to help business owners ensure their “legacy” (their business) can be all it was intended to be. Happy Days may not be every day, but helping owners experience more of them is deeply satisfying.
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