President & CEO, Steve James shares his “why” and his thoughts on how we can all make a difference.
As I am sitting here going over my speech for the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, I thought maybe I would share those same thoughts with you. The Chamber is reading the book, “Find Your Why” by David Mead and Peter Docker. It is a practical approach in discovering your purpose. The format they use is:
For me, the first part is easy. I’ve known my why since I was 6. It’s the last part that has taken me over 50 years to hone making it more impactful. Why 6 you ask? It’s my first recollection of knowing what I wanted to do with my life. As a 6-year-old, I had no voice in my family. I was the baby. I was the youngest of 4 children by a lot. My sisters are 13 and 9 years older than me and my brother is 12. My dad was 50 when he had me and my mom was 40. I know, I’ve heard it a thousand times, the OOPS baby. Well, that may be so, but my mom and I had a secret. I was the last chance she had to get it right and I helped her fulfill her destiny. My dad, on the other hand, was my hero. I didn’t really understand what a brilliant man he was until after he passed. As I have looked back on my life, I realize all the lessons he has taught me without me even knowing it. You see, my dad left school after the 8th grade and went to work picking cotton in the fields of Missouri. Growing up, we were rich poor. I say that as we didn’t know we were poor because we had everything we wanted. We lived in a nice house, had an in-ground swimming pool and a 2-acre garden that paid for the pool and other things. All this and my dad never had a single job that paid over $12,000 a year. But he never just had a single job, he was working all the time but always had time to play a game of catch or cards with me. He made things look effortlessly. So back to when I was 6, I was a shy, timid toe-headed blond. But I was a looker for 6! My dad loaded up my wagon with vegetables and sent me through the neighborhood selling them. That was pure genius, all the housewives’ buying vegetables from a cute little boy. I made at least $50 every day. In fact, some of you know the story that I met my wife selling those vegetables. Her mom didn’t have change one day. She invited me in, and my wife was playing with her easy bake oven and made me a cake. It was love at first bite! But that is another story. My dad gave me confidence and allowed me to add value to the family. It was then I knew it was my destiny to carry on his legacy. I got to spend 45 years with him before he passed, and my adoration grew for him every day. He’s been gone 13 years now and people still talk about what a kind great man he was. His why was, “to bring joy to others so that his memory would last beyond his life. The sad thing is that was limited to the people that he knew. My challenge has then been how can I expand that reach to have a greater impact. So, my Why statement is to help other leaders become better leaders so that my and my father’s legacy can last for generations to come.
I was fortunate that I worked for General Motors for 27 years. In that span, I had 22 different assignments worked in 4 states was associated with 14 plants and 9 different headquarter departments. I still have co-workers today that said I was the best Controller they ever worked with because I balanced the right thing for the company and for the employees. I came to Frank Miller and got involved with the John Maxwell team. I then became involved in the YMCA, the RCU, Aaron Black and the UC Schools, Rolland Abraham and the Winchester Schools, the Eastern Indiana Work Development and then Katie Lash and the Eastern Indiana Schools. I have great influence and I say that not to brag. I am not involved with any of these organizations because I’m smart or the CEO of Frank Miller Lumber Company. It’s because I care and am willing to roll up my shirts sleeves and help any way that I can. That is my challenge for you. To make a difference, all we must do is show up and care. Together we can make that happen.