The critical doer strives to develop strength of character as diligently as strength of talent.
Growing up on a farm gives a unique perspective in that you get to watch your father make a living. As you work side by side doing hard work, you get an inside look at the man’s character more so than the traditional life of saying good-bye to dad and watching him go work someplace else.
One day, my dad and I were in the field working and we broke some bolts on one of the farm implements. I vividly remember this being an imposition as there was something I wanted to do, most likely something ridiculous as young boys are prone to do, and having to stop to make repairs was a major inconvenience.
To repair the implement, we needed to drive about 5 miles to a country store that had a small hardware selection. When we arrived at the store, I made a beeline for the hardware while my dad made a beeline to talk, or “josh and slosh” as we call it in the country, with whomever was there. Now my dad was one of those larger than life characters who knew everybody and no amount of work was more important than the relationships he had with the other members of the community. As you can tell, that gene had not yet awoken in me and I just wanted to get back to work as quickly as possible so I could move onto whatever ridiculous activity it was I had planned.
The bolts we needed cost $1.88. My dad placed $2.00 on the counter but the store owner, who shared my dad’s zest for life, was distracted enough that his normal calculator brain failed him and he gave my dad 88 cents in change rather than 12 cents. The difference was 76 cents.
After what seemed like an eternity in “boy time”, we got in the truck and headed back to the farm. My dad tossed the change into the ash tray of the truck (all vehicles had them back then), but as we approached the field he stopped and turned around. I asked dad what he was doing and he told me had had received an incorrect amount of change and we had to go back. Taking a peek, I realized the change was wrong and pointed out that we actually had more than we were supposed to get; what a bonus!
Upon hearing that, papa pulled the truck over to the side of the road and in a defining moment between us asked simply “son, what is your name worth; would you really sell your name for 76 cents?” All I could answer was “no papa, I wouldn’t”. After all these years, I still won’t.
John Maxwell famously said that people buy into a leader before they buy into an idea. The price of buying into my papa as a leader was 76 cents. That day, I knew beyond any doubt everything he was trying to teach me about character was real. I can’t say as I always agreed with every single thing he did, but without reservation I followed my father wherever he led because integrity…the value of our family name…was more important than earning a living.
The critical doer strives to develop strength of character as diligently as strength of talent. Through strength of character, my father did two important things that day. He strengthened a business and personal relationship that made possible an even greater range of opportunities. He also made a generational impact upon a son, and I’ve passed the same lesson along to my three children. That’s not a bad legacy, all for the price of 76 cents.
I challenge you to find the small opportunities that engender trust and have a lasting impact upon others. You’ll quickly find others want to engage with you both professionally and personally, opening a new world of possibilities for the critical doer to make things happen.