This past June, I walked the streets of Nicollet aware of an extraordinary flurry of activity. Garages were cleaned and decorated, tents and tables popped up on lawns, and harried parents conveying carloads of provisions looked as if they were mounting a major relief effort. The same was occurring all over America as families prepared for that all-important day in a son or daughter’s life: high school graduation.
Graduation is one of those pivotal times when dreams, ambitions and plans for attaining that perfect career all come together. Yet, if life has taught me anything, it’s that there are more things in this world outside of our control than within. Where a person ends up is as much a matter of good luck, bad luck or just plain dumb luck as it is planning.
I’ve never thought of myself as lucky. The only things I remember ever winning were a plastic beer sign, a bottle of cheap sherry and the first draft lottery of the Vietnam War. My birth date was actually drawn tenth, but that was close enough to first place to win all-expense-paid trips to such exotic locations as Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, and Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
At the time, I couldn’t think of one good thing to say about the olive drab existence of army life. Yet, if not for the random act of someone pulling a number from a tumbler, I would in all likelihood be a teacher. Not a bad profession, but in retrospect, not the right choice for me.
The luck of the draw put me on a path that didn’t appear anywhere on my road map in 1969.
This past month, I attended my 40-year high school class reunion. I am biased, but I think the Mankato West class of ‘68 was exceptional. It was endowed with tremendous talent, and despite the terrible uncertainty of the times, filled with idealism and driven to achieve.
I made the rounds, mentally erasing wrinkles and gray hair in search of the people I once knew so well. Many, like myself, had been blown off their intended course, but it was gratifying to learn what they had done with their lives and how well the enthusiasm and optimism of my class had held up after so many years.
Our impact on the world may not be as great as we once imagined, but we’ve made our contributions. My classmates represent a diversity of professions that touch virtually every aspect of life.
As I surveyed the class of ‘68, I realized I was seeing a reflection of the people who opened doors for me when I went into business. People who had risen to positions of authority and were nearing the end of their careers. I wrote that I am not lucky, but I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with many senior businesspeople who did more for my business than any carefully drawn out plan.
We all set out to make a mark for ourselves, but ultimately, our greatest contribution may be acting as facilitator for those who will take our place. By making the most of the cards we’re dealt, we keep the ball rolling and give each successive graduating class its own shot at improving the world.
This issue of CBM kicks off our annual search for Business Person of the Year. Do you know someone who deserves to be recognized for his or her contributions? Please visit our nomination page to enter.
Have a profitable day,