"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me."
quote from Jim Valvano is so appropriate on the Father's Day weekend. So many times over my career I gave my Dad reason to question my wanderlust approach to explore new and bold territory in a professional career. I managed my career in a way completely different than he did. Different than nearly all post-Depression, pre-WWII "Silent Generation" men. He managed his career with certainty and focus. I lived mine with reckless abandon by comparison. So many times I knew he was shaking his head in disbelief on the other end of the phone. I was the cause of his sleepless nights although he never spoke about them. He believed in me.
This story is a flashback, actually two flashbacks. This Father's Day weekend I couldn't resist reposting this article with some updates along the way, including a rattlesnake attack during an unthinkable feat, taking Dad up and down an Arizona mountain in his 81st year. I hope you find 5 minutes to read........
"Five Leadership Lessons of My Father"
Dads impart lessons to children in ways that aren't always obvious. In reality, they teach lessons in life through their actions and leadership. Today, I was reminded of a day when my father left me with five important life lessons.
In the spring of 2010, my son and I planned on hiking up to the top of Daisy Mountain just to the north of Anthem AZ. We have been up a few times and have a game plan that when we push ourselves (son Ryan always says afterwards “Dad, that sucked”) we can round trip the summit in just under 2 hours. It’s demanding in terms of physical endurance, stamina, and mental acuity. One misstep and you've got a life flight off the mountain.
It was this warm April morning that Mom convinces Dad that at 74 years old, he’s not going to have many more chances to go to the top of Daisy Mountain so this is the year. He's gotta join son and grandson to the top. I’ve got a couple of reservations about it but Dad is still athletic and in good shape so we round-up youngest brother Marc and we plan our route to the top.
Dad grabs a walking stick, put a hat on his head, grabs a water bottle and off we go on a beautiful 80 degree desert morning. The terrain at the base is mostly flat with a slight incline but literally the first mile of the 3 miles up is walking on a two-track dirt path. Dad is asking questions about the route and plan, making sure we have thought out not just the next step, but the 12,000 steps that follow.
Lesson One: Always Have A Plan
Make sure you have a plan and know where you are headed. You don't need to be perfect but you better be directionally right. As it's been said with the 5P's "proper planning prevents poor performance'.
This is the part of a hike that the biggest worry is a snake or stepping in burro crap. You keep looking at the top of Daisy Mountain and find yourself saying “it doesn’t look like we are getting any closer” for about the first 20-30 minutes. Dad’s confidence builds. The trail after that first mile begins to change and so does the tone of the hike from the 74 year old. I start getting a sense that the tune goes from “hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to…” to “ok, time to bear down, focus on the goal”
After 45 minutes or so, the footing gets a bit more tricky, especially for Dad but he’s an athlete, he’s got balance, he’s going to take his time and keep going. Every once in a while, we stop so Pops can catch his breath but within an hour or so. we can see the flag at the summit of Daisy Mountain. It was a bittersweet moment for Dad. It’s cool that he can see the flag and know that he’s getting closer but it’s also just a speck in the distance and we have another 500 or so vertical feet to hike up.
Lesson Two: In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure
Son Ryan who runs cross-country and plays lacrosse as a sophomore in high school, has no problem racing to the next peak with this uncle Marc right behind him. I’m staying with Dad as he watches his footing and slowly ascends the last few hundred feet of the mountain. As one would expect on a crystal clear day, the view of Anthem and the surrounding area is amazing.
At last, the final push up is steep and you arrive out of breath for sure, Your heart starts to race as the flag at the summit gets closer and closer. As you reach the top, you are completely winded but the feeling of accomplishment overtakes you and you forget about the fact that your calves are on fire, your heart is pounding out of your chest, and your lungs are burning. You made it! We made it! Dad made it! Three generations ranging from 14 to 74 year old stand on the top of Daisy Mountain. Viva la McNamara!!
Lesson Three: Take Time To Recognize Your Accomplishments
Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments but remember it's not the end of the journey, it's only a transition to the next chapter.
Ok, so fun over. Now we have to get down and the old man’s legs are tired. We climbed up the west face of the mountain and we decide to go down the longer but less steep east face. This is where footing is critical and you have to keep your wits about you. I know as I just about-face planted into a 20 foot saguaro half way down. Dad definitely is a bit freaked out and he slowwwwly moved down the mountain. His knees and ankles are swelling and becoming more and more sore as he goes.
Lesson Four: Always Be Humble
Life is a roundtrip and be humble on the way up because it can be a long painful journey on the way down.
So how cool was that?! Three generations trek up and down Daisy Mountain one March morning. It wouldn’t have happen had Mom not been the inspiration and challenge all of us to make sure that before my Dad got a day older, he was going to say “I was at the top of Daisy Mountain”. Dad, you’re awesome!
Lesson Five: Great Things Don't Happen without the Love, Encouragement and Support of others.
Our greatest rewards and accomplishments always come with the love, encouragement and support of others.
These aren't the only lessons I've learned from my Father. He has taught me how to be kind and thoughtful of others. He taught me to do the right things right, and doing things the right way is the only way. He has demonstrated that when you put quality in everything you do, everything you touch will be better for it. This is my Father's Day tribute to the nicest man I know and all those other fathers that are there, 24/7 making a difference in the lives of their sons and daughters.
Update Six Years Later ....... Dad in tow and Rattlesnake!!!
Dad is now 80 years old and he did it again this weekend. Made the 6 miles round trip, took slightly longer and not without some blood, sweat and tears, but certainly he can hold his head high accomplishing something people 1/4 of his age rarely even attempt. It was not the prettiest thing to see but we did marvel when we encountered a woman and her teenage daughter who had stopped 3/4 of the way up. They refused to go further, until.......they see an 80 year old man coming down the mountain after reaching the summit.
If I was to add anything to this post that resembled another lesson, it would be that grit and perseverance can be the difference between success and failure, maybe even life and death at the top of a warm Arizona desert mountain. This 81st year is much different than his 75th year hiking to the top. This year I'm pulling Dad up the hill. He's grabbed two walking sticks that are tucked under my arms and I'm towing him up the last 1/4 of a mile. Just like the days that he threw me on his shoulders as a toddler, it was now my turn.
After an hour and forty five minutes of ascent, the summit is within 100 yards and then ........pppsssssssshhhh. Yep, my foot is 18 inches away from a now coiled up and ready to strike western diamondback rattlesnake. As I damn near pushed my Dad off the mountain in retreat, he calmly starts for a large rock. My intent is flight, his intent is fight. Calmer heads ultimately prevail and we work our way across some nasty terrain to avoid an encounter and a bite that would result in a life-flight off the mountain.
Even at 80 years old, he's got going to give up an inch. So proud of you Dad!
About Mike McNamara:
Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.
Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed the pro bono consulting and coaching organization The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing career and business consulting services to large underserved and unserved markets. Today as Founder | CEO of TalentBlvd he coaches a number of high profile media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.
Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House - St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.