Papa’s Story

Papa’s Story

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.


Poem “Your Name”

Updated: November 17, 2014 — 3:17 am


  1. I really enjoyed the story of your father it’s very powerful, and something I can relate to. After losing my father a year and a half ago I realized even with his death he had the opportunity to teach me one last life lesson. I am fourth generation from German immigrants that passed through Ellis Island in 1897. Prior to me all were laborers, whether coal miners or steel workers. It’s from this family background and the way my father raised me that I developed my work ethic. The belief was always to work hard and get a secure job and you would be alright. Yet, he worked hard all his life, followed the rules, and the industrial world he knew his whole life passed him by, and the pension he worked for vanished to pennies on the dollar. So he worked harder on the docks of a trucking company during the day, and as a security guard at night for so many years, refusing to purchase anything unless it was absolutely necessary. Only to have the bankers on Wall Street gamble his 401K into oblivion in 2008 when he wanted to retire… So he kept working, finally retiring in Dec 2013, and died May 2013… This was a pivotal point for me, all his lessons of hard work were valid… The mistake that plagued my family for generations was the belief that a secure job really existed, and I realized that I had followed the same path to an extent, getting comfortable in the Air Force after so many years… I had to change my priorities, so working hard became secondary to creating value… The hard work stays with the job, and is easily replaceable with another person. Yet the value you create for the organization increases your value also, you become less replaceable and is transferable as you move through your career… That was my father’s last lesson.

    1. Jody, what a powerful and inspiring story…I really appreciate you sharing it. Your father was a doer and he taught you well. Thanks again. hw

  2. Makes me think of my dad. He always said, you count time with heartbeats: When they beat for God, for man, for duty and for service. Good words to pass along… I do miss my dad.

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