by Kenneth Justice
~My father died in 2008 after a very short bout with cancer. The following year was very traumatic for me as I had never really dealt with death in such an up close and personal way; is death every easy?
My dad was an accomplished small business owner and one of the small companies that I run here in the Midwest happens to be a business he started many years ago.
All of that brings me to this past weekend and a seminar I spoke at in Cleveland, Ohio; all of the people present were business associates of my father. People I had met years ago as a children, some of whom I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years.
Many of them had very kind words to say about my father and I was very touched.
I didn’t ask for a fee to speak at this seminar.
Some people might argue that in business you should always ‘get what you can get; ‘this is a capitalistic country and we should never work for free!” some might argue.
Well, this seminar over the weekend wasn’t about money for me; it was about my father.
This particular conference was an extension of a seminar concept that my dad had created 20 years ago; you see my dad wanted to help small business owners so he began organizing yearly seminars with speakers, tutorials, workshops, etc. that were entirely free for anyone to come; my dad was the type of person that wanted to help everyone. He had been a first time business owner once and he wanted to share the wisdom what he had learned….and he never asked for any money in doing so.
When I got the call about Cleveland and was asked to speak……I was asked how much money I would need to do the trip;
But how could I ask for money?
My father would never have done so.
You see, in our country we don’t place a lot of emphasis on ‘the family name’.
When we go out into the world after graduating high school, most of us don’t really think, “I am representing my parents and our family name and it’s important that my conduct is becoming of that responsibility”
That way of thinking is pretty old fashioned….and in many ways it is otherworldly; it comes from era’s long dead. Europe, Africa, Asia….those are the types of countries long-ago that taught their younger generations the importance of ‘the family name‘.
In many ways I’m not actually very old fashioned at all; in fact some people think I’m a little too ‘new fashioned’ or too progressive for their tastes; but I suppose that involves a little bit of perspective.
However you count it though, I greatly value my father’s legacy in the business world and the level of integrity and ethics he practiced; my dad earned significantly less than the majority of his employees. He cared quite a bit for his employee’s well being; it was of the highest levels of care for employees by management I’ve ever seen.
Speaking at the seminar over the weekend gave me ample time to reflect on my father’s legacy and what it meant to me.
I don’t want to over-estimate who my father was; sure….he wasn’t perfect. In fact, he was far from perfect in many ways.
But I don’t want to get lost in looking at his imperfections. I don’t want to become blind to his good qualities because of the bad ones.
And as much as I believe in the concept of individuality; the idea that we each need to make our stamp on the world. I don’t want to forget the positive element of representing our family name.
We live in a day and age where a lot of things are getting blurred.
A lot of people feel disenfranchised from each other
A lot of people feel disenfranchised from their company
A lot of people feel disenfranchised from their their country
To put it more simply; a lot of things in the Western World just don’t make very much sense anymore.
The individualistic nature of Western Society is both our blessing….and our curse
Somehow we need to find that delicate balance in the middle; that place between radical individuality and radical conformity where we are able to embrace our own individually unique gifts while at the same time remembering who we are as members of our country and families.
Time for another cup of coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society