The best part of my childhood days…
Running to meet my grandfather after work…
As a young boy in rural Alabama, I ran to meet my grandfather in the front yard every day. The dust would rise as he traveled down the long farm road, returning from his job as an Alabama Power Company (APCO) electrician. From his black dome lunch box he would hand me a treat and tell me about his day as we walked together toward the house. I loved and respected him, but knew at a young age I wanted more. I wanted out of this small town, to find success in the real world.
At the age of 14, I wrote a list of life goals with a clear plan to achieve them and time frames for each. It was from this list I found the drive and determination to endure painful years of climbing the ladder of success. One of the major milestones, which defined success in my mind, was planted at my thirtieth birthday. Well, 1 year late, I achieved that goal. It was bittersweet…a heartbreaking epiphany. I had focused so long on achieving this artificially set mark that I no longer had direction or drive. What do I do now? For what goal do I strive? What is my purpose?
Back to my grandfather. He worked the same job for 43 years, a loyal member of IBEW Local 136. In his later years of employment, the company offered him a supervisor position. Apparently, he had received this offer before. With it came a nice office, a significant raise and an easier life. He declined, and then climbed back into the manhole on 5th avenue of Birmingham, Alabama, the next day. At the time, this was even more of a motivator for me wanting out of my hometown. I did not want to work the same job for 43 years.
As the years passed, I realized although my goals set at an early age proved me well; my core definition of success was flawed. Societal precedence had shaped my definition of success around money and titled position. Purpose, in actuality, was found in the quest to achieve them.
It is with a heavy heart I say my grandfather passed a few years back. We were fortunate in that, in the two years before his death, I was assigned to an Air Force base close to him. We spent time together just like the fairytale ending of a good movie… discussing life, dreams, successes and failures.
Living a life of purpose is
what makes you successful,
not money or fame.
He routinely reminded me to not be sad for him on his deathbed because he was successful in life. For 43 years he worked a job he loved. He loved it because he kept the city powered. Without him, and those like him, Alabama Power could not deliver electricity critical for business, homes and life. He then revealed his reason for not taking the promotion all those years back. He had felt that, in serving the role of supervisor and spending the majority of his time at headquarters, his professional life would lose purpose. “Now, those jobs are important and I respect those who do them, but I needed to be in the manholes splicing cables and throwing breakers…that is what I was meant to do and for 43 years I was incredibly good at it.” Living a life of purpose is what makes you successful, not money or fame.
With tears welling in my eyes, I tell you my grandfather (whom I called Paw-Paw) peacefully passed in his sleep a few years back after a successful 70+-year life. My hope is that he knew not only how successful he was in life, but what a positive influence he had on my life. He taught me to ensure purpose in everything I did. Purpose is the first leg of the Tripod, which defines success for me. Regardless of financial gain, if your life does not serve a purpose…as defined by you…then your Tripod of Success will not stand after you pass from this world.