I had a mentor when I first got into this business, an elderly man with an almost saintly reputation for not only production, but a strict code of honor and integrity. His name was Dan Williams. One day, which according to the date at the top of the yellow pad would have been February 1st, 1989, Dan sat down with me and challenged me to write out three sets of goals. He asked me to divide them into three columns. The first were short term goals, things I wanted to accomplish over the next year. He wanted me to stretch myself, to make it a goal that I had a decent chance of hitting, but which would require a lot of effort. Then he asked me to write out my mid-term goals. These were different, these required some vision. He wanted me to try and imagine what I wanted my life to look like in ten years. He wanted me to write out difficult, life-stretching stuff. He told me to not be afraid to dream a little. Finally, he told me to write out my long term goals. For these, he asked me to dream a lot, to imagine the possibilities.
I won't bore you with all the details, because some of them were embarrassing, to be honest. Twenty seven years ago, I didn't have much in the way of confidence in my future. My goals were flimsy things, the sort of goals someone who was afraid of the future might come up with. In my defense, I was struggling in a brutal business that is insanely difficult to break into. I had a toddler at home and Pam was seven months pregnant with Patrick. I was in debt with a 12.5% mortgage with two college loans outstanding. I knew that there was a chance that Pam would want to retire from her teaching job after Patrick was born, making us a one income household. Frankly, I was afraid of the future. Of course, I would never have admitted such a thing to Pam or anyone else. But I couldn't fool Dan. He told me that one day I would look at my list and laugh. He was right.
I tell this story, because despite the laugh it gave me at my own expense...one thing stood out from my list of long term goals...."I would like to be able to take my family to a house on a lake in Maine for an entire month."
Honestly, I had forgotten all about the list. I didn't remember writing it. I did remember how Dan always was getting on me about setting the bar too low, for limiting myself with the tyranny of low expectations. "If you don't reach for great things, you'll always be stuck with the...ok." It wasn't smooth like something Zig Ziglar would say, but I still remember it 27 years later, so that counts for something.
So, in a couple of days Pam and I will head to a house on a lake in Maine for an entire month.
God Bless America, and God bless men like Dan Williams.