Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

A Portrait of a Life well Lived

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will likely tell you I am a creature of habit. A typical work day begins with cups of coffee, looking through email, scanning the headlines of various news sites before I turn to social media and catch up with the unfiltered discussions of the day.

Last Friday was a day like many others as I perused Face Book, looking over the rants on I77, comments on the new Beach at Ramsey, and upcoming events over the weekend. I also took note of the birthdays and sent notices to those who were celebrating their special day.

That night was the annual Symphony at McGuire and for those of you who went, you may recall the brief intermission taken to allow for the bad weather to pass.  I took that opportunity to check out Face Book on my phone and there, among the many posts, was one which said that Donna Mitchell was losing her fight with cancer. She was one of those who I had written happy birthday earlier that morning.

It was perhaps fortunate that the darkness had fallen on McGuire as the symphony began to play again. It hid the anguish on my face and the tears which filled my eyes.

I wasn’t particularly close to Donna or her sister Tabetha, though both are chamber members. They joined a couple of years ago with their business Cork & Canvas and celebrated their ribbon cutting at the Chamber.

Donna Pic for Cluttered DeskIt was on a January night last year that the two ladies sauntered up to my table at a Lake Norman restaurant and presented me with a cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Donna explained they were celebrating Donna’s daughter’s birthday. It was something they did each year to remember Destin who passed away in a tragic car accident a few years ago.

Last fall, I read a post on Face Book from Donna as she shared they had found cancer and she was being treated at Novant here in Huntersville.  I asked Tabetha would it be okay to drop by and she indicated Donna would love it.

When I poked my head into the room, Donna was hooked up to an IV Machine. She apologized for how she looked as the chemo had taken a toll on her long locks of golden hair. But what I saw was the radiant smile that I remembered each time that we had met.

We spent the next hour talking about the highs and lows of life. Her low – the tragic death of her daughter. The pain of losing a child and the grief she carried. She had stopped painting, a gift she inherited from her father. But it was the love of her sister Tabetha who encouraged her to move to the lake and start a business with her that filled her life again.

Donna’s love of painting and Tabetha’s entrepreneurial spirit launched the Cork and Canvas painting parties as the two sisters helped people around the lake find their hidden talents.

Then the unexpected – the unwelcomed thief who steals moments and brings pain – cancer.

I followed Donna’s ordeal mostly through her posts on Face Book. When I recently read she was at Wake Forest and undergoing treatment, I thought about stopping by on my visits to Raleigh. But like so many of us, time also seemed to get in the way.  Maybe next time!

On June 1st, I read a post where she spoke of her challenge and how much she appreciated the support of so many. I sent her a personal email encouraging her and reminding her she was in our prayers. She thanked me and then sent the little Smiley Face emoticon. That was our last chat and looking back, I cannot help but think how appropriate.  It’s the smile I do remember the most.

The painter’s hands are resting now. Her canvass is complete. A life filled with the bright bold colors of love in the lives she touched and the light pastels that spoke to her lows. Donna was a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter… and yes a painter. Her illness cut short our time together but it left a portrait not of an unfinished life, but a bright splendid painting of triumph over adversity and the realization to seize every moment with broad bold strokes.

Our last words at Novant was for her to get better so she could teach me to paint. Looking back on that moment, I realize she taught me much more than that. It was really a lesson in how to live.

Advertisements

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Special Message to the Membership from 2016 Chamber Chair Callan Bryan

 

Callan BryanLake Norman Chamber Members:

2016 is off to a great start for business in our region and I am excited about what lies ahead for our Chamber during my tenure as your 2016 Chamber Chairman of the Board of Directors. As we are charting the course for the future of our Chamber, I believe it is important to understand the foundation of our strong organization.

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce was chartered by the State of North Carolina in June 1989 as the North Mecklenburg Chamber of Commerce and whose stated purpose is “The advancement of the civic, commercial, industrial, and agricultural interests of the North Mecklenburg area, and the surrounding territory; the promotion of the general welfare and prosperity of the North Mecklenburg area and its surrounding territory, and the stimulation of public sentiment to these ends…”

In addition, our Charter Bylaws under which the Chamber was incorporated, defined our area: (Article I section 3) “The Lake Norman area shall include the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and the greater Lake Norman area.” To this end, our Chamber has, since its inception, included a Town Board Representative from each of the three North Mecklenburg Towns.

Could Founding Chairman John Cherry have created chambers of commerce in each town rather than a more united regional chamber? Yes, he could have. However, Mr. Cherry and the founding members realized our business members could achieve a great deal more working together than individually. This regional model and approach has significantly benefited our businesses and served our communities in a unified way during a period of extraordinary growth.

As you may know, The Lake Norman Chamber was recently recognized for its impressive community service and business related programs and events by being named Chamber of The Year for North and South Carolina.  Our award winning level of regional service will continue as we fulfill our mission of unparalleled representation of the businesses of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and the greater Lake Norman region.

Our Chamber is committed to maintaining its role in the fabric and growth of the Huntersville community and the Lake Norman area.  We are the Huntersville Chamber, we are the Cornelius Chamber, we are the Davidson Chamber, we are the Chamber for our neighboring lake communities, and we have been for almost 30 years. We are your Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Callan H. Bryan

2016 Chairman of the Board of Directors

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Driving Home Your Point

Garden

Granddaddy Russell in his garden

Yesterday on a Face Book Page called I77 Animal House, I was taken to task by an anonymous poster who said my constant criticism of Governor Pat McCrory and his reluctance to cancel the I77 Cintra Contract was in a word “Disrespectful.” While it is true the Governor can, with a stroke of the pen, cancel this very bad deal, he has been steadfast in his refusal to listen to the Lake Norman Town Boards, State Legislative Officials, and more importantly the voters who sent him to Raleigh in the first place.

While our chamber of commerce and business leaders have made the case why this is bad for business, now the NC Justice Department is investigating the company who was awarded the contract by NCDOT.

I have served the Lake Norman Chamber as its executive for twenty years with the primary objective of leaving this community and region better than I found it. Unfortunately the Chamber’s earlier support of this P3 Project, and my very real insistence we had to go along with this bad plan, was a mistake. Settling for the lessor of two bad deals still leaves you with a bad deal.

One wonders whether the anonymous poster is just caught up in partisanship and will go to any lengths to toe the party line or was she one of the former elected or community leaders who pushed this project through and now cringes at the notion she too may have to admit a grave mistake.

Ironically, in deriding me for my position she said in her post, “Your granddaddy would be proud.”

Anyone who has followed my career knows I like to write and many of those stories and articles have included stories about my Grandfather Russell who lost his battle with Alzheimer’s more than a decade ago.

I loved working in the garden with granddaddy. From the time I was a little boy, he had me digging post holes and then chogging the dirt.  No matter how deep I dug those holes, he always insisted just a little deeper.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my father down at the farm, watching the cows that would graze close to our white picket fence. We had to tear down the fence that granddaddy built and replace it with a plastic version that can better withstand the elements.  But looking at the fence, I couldn’t help but recall one Saturday afternoon I was helping granddaddy repair the old one.

As we toiled that hot afternoon making repairs, I shared with my grandfather problems I was having managing the staff of an office furniture company. We had all agreed on sales goals and for a while things ran smoothly.  But after a few months, our sales staff settled back into old routines and performance declined.

After listening to me vent, granddaddy stopped his hammering, took off his old work gloves, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked at me for a second, gathering his thoughts, before he asked me to take a nail and strike it on the head as hard as I could into a board.

I did as he asked.  He then asked me to take the claw of the hammer and pull the nail out. Once again, I did as he directed, finding it a fairly easy task as the nail was driven in just so far.

Granddaddy then asked me to take a new nail and drive it repeatedly into the board until the head was flush with the board. Upon completing the task he asked me to remove that nail as I had the other.

I could not.  The nail was flush with the board and there was no leverage to remove the nail. My grandfather in his wisdom explained just as I drove that nail in repeatedly, you sometime have to drive your point home with colleagues, staff… and sometimes a stubborn Governor.

Some might call it disrespectful to question the foolishness of a fifty year bad deal.  People can certainly draw their own conclusions.  I prefer to look at it as fulfilling a promise I made to the businesses and citizens of Lake Norman. I will do everything I can in the time I have left at this chamber of commerce to leave my community and region a better place than I found it.

And to that end, I will on every occasion I have, drive home the point – Toll Lanes at Lake Norman are bad for our citizens, bad for our communities, and bad for business.

Would Granddaddy Russell be proud? He didn’t quit until the job was done and neither will I.

Bill Russell

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Leadership Lessons, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

SPECIAL BUSINESS BRIEFING: The Business of Tolls – Myths, Misinformation and Mayhem

tollsThe Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will hold two separate special business briefings on Tuesday August 11th and Tuesday August 18th from 6:30 to 8 pm at The Galway Hooker Irish Pub located at 17044 Kenton Dr. in Cornelius. While the chamber of commerce would like to encourage local business owners and managers to attend, the special business briefings are open to the public. Chamber leaders will be joined by Mecklenburg County Board Commissioner Jim Puckett as they cite the business and economic implications of the proposed Toll Lane plan on the Lake Norman economy.

The Chamber initially took a firm stance that the widening of I-77 from exit 36 to just below exit 23 was critical to the overall economic health of the region. Bill Russell, president of the chamber and an ex-officio board member of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission, points out that local elected and business leaders were presented with the option of widening I-77 through tolling or waiting 20 years or more for the project to be funded with general purpose lanes.  “We did not think putting off relief for 20 years was an option,” he said.  “However, it would now seem the proposed HOT Lanes will not relieve congestion – it actually guarantees it!”

Past Chamber Chair John Hettwer agrees, “Like many business owners in the last few years, I was battling through the recession, building my business, and confident our elected leadership was looking out for all of us.  Unfortunately, they were being given misleading information by the NCDOT, and we now find ourselves in a fight for the economic and business vitality of our region.”

Jim Puckett, Mecklenburg County Commissioner for District #1 has been a longtime opponent of the toll project.  “I- 77 is the lifeline of North Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties and the current design and tolling plans will have a devastating impact on the future of our region and economic development going forward.  With the current ill-conceived plan contracted to last 50 years NOW is the time for the business community to push for a better solution. “

Chamber leaders hope to use the meetings to further educate businesses and citizens on the impact of tolling at the lake and plans to move forward.  Russell said he hopes citizens and business owners will attend one of the two meetings and encourage their friends and neighbors to attend. “I know a great many elected leaders, including our governor, say it’s far too late to stop this project now.  Perhaps so, but on the other hand it’s simply never too late to do the right thing.”

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Proposed Superstreet for Cornelius (NC) May Not Be Such A Super Idea”

Russell thoughts 1“Left turns are bad!” That is the foundation of the “Superstreet” concept which the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has recommended for Cornelius between Jetton Road and Sam Furr Road. With a Superstreet design, instead of waiting for oncoming traffic to clear to make a left, or using a traditional traffic signals, all vehicles are re-routed to dedicated left lanes. These vehicles then make U-turns at a designated distance and circle back to reach a planned destination.

I am convinced that it is not a street that makes a town or a region super. But rather, it is the people and the businesses who bring life and passion to that community that make it so.

For over 10 years, town staff, elected officials, citizens, and local business leaders have examined transportation plans for West Catawba Avenue. The Superstreet design was first suggested to the town by NCDOT when the first part of this road was widened in 2005. At that time, Cornelius town officials and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce lobbied NCDOT for a hybrid version of the Superstreet design. We insisted on adding traditional intersections with left hand turns to foster economic and business vitality. Over the recommendations of NCDOT, more left turn lanes were also added (five in total).

During the last few months, the town has encouraged the businesses and residents of our community to weigh in on the most recent Superstreet recommendation by the NCDOT. Planning sessions have examined drawings and computer simulations showing how the Superstreet concept would work. There seems to be no doubt that the recommended Superstreet design can move greater volumes of traffic more efficiently, safely, and quickly through Cornelius.

That said, I am not convinced this traffic pattern is in the best interest of our community. Recently Commissioner Jim Duke pointed out that the Superstreet design does not fit the character of Cornelius. Others have suggested that the section of West Catawba Avenue, from Jetton Road to Sam Furr Road, does not yet have a distinct character. It is important to consider that what exists today is not what will be there tomorrow. Business and residential development continues to evolve and there is so much potential for the future.superstreet

While Hwy 115 serves as a main street for Cornelius and Davidson, West Catawba Avenue is “Main Street Lake Norman.”  It is the main artery pulsating through the heart of the Lake Norman region.  Just as Cornelius town and business leaders fought for the consensus and compromise a decade ago to protect the economic vitality of West Catawba Avenue during its initial expansion, it is imperative for the future of Cornelius and the Lake Norman region that we do so again today.

You cannot load character into a computer simulation. It cannot be drawn into a blueprint, nor does it show up in traffic counts. But you can see it in the faces and feel it in the hearts of the people who live and work here.  It’s what makes our lake towns more than super and the reason we call Lake Norman home.

W.E.” Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

President and CEO

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Norman Citizen For the Record: Lake Norman – We’re sexy and we know it

The following column appeared in the July 9, 2014 issue of the Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper (For the Record page 39).

Lake Norman at sunset

Lake Norman at sunset

In the last few weeks, Motovo.com, a real estate website, ranked the Lake Norman town of Cornelius as the fourth sexiest community in the nation and Huntersville as the seventh most exciting town in North Carolina.

In addition, Ashley Madison (ashleymadison.com), an online dating service that caters to people already in relationships, says Huntersville leads its rankings of the “Most Unfaithful Neighborhoods” in the Charlotte area. The rankings were based on the percentage of membership from respective ZIP codes in the region.

My first take on reading the Ashley Madison statistic was astonishment.  First, that there was a website that encouraged that type of behavior. Second, I was not aware the Town of Huntersville was a neighborhood of Charlotte. But I suppose when you have sexy and exciting folks living near each other, it stands to reason they might be susceptible to temptation.

At my last check, there are approximately 500,000 words in the English language and there are 100,000 or so adjectives.  I suspect over the summer, we’re liable to hear quite a few more accolades from these online websites.  Perhaps Davidson will earn the “Most Educated” and Mooresville will be declared the “Fastest City” with all of its race shops and drivers who reside in the region.

All that said, the adjectives sexy and exciting are not lost on the business community.  At the Lake Norman Chamber’s June “Lunch and Learn” event, we had the opportunity to hear from the owners of our outstanding Small Businesses of the Year.  The one word that continued to resonate with the three business owners — Dr. John Ballas, Armin Desch and Penny Benkeser — was “passion.”

Ballas, owner of Ballas Chiropractic in Huntersville pointed out that to succeed, you must create a plan of action and hire employees to get it done.  Ballas said, “Hire people and associates who share your vision and passion.”  Penny Benkeser, whose business Servpro of Northwest Charlotte has grown 400 percent in 18 months, pointed out, “Don’t limit your benchmarks to your market or region.  Look across the board — across the nation and find the very best.  Use those examples as your benchmark and surpass them!”

June Lunch & Learn with   Armin Desch, Dr. John Ballas  and Penny Benkeser

June Lunch & Learn with Armin Desch, Dr. John Ballas and Penny Benkeser

Desch shared that the secret to his business success started with his employees. He reminded us all, “Treat your people special and they will in turn treat your customers special.”

Ballas Chiropractic was named the Small Business of the Year in large part because of Ballas’ hiring practices. “My dad gave me great advice,” he said. “Treat people with respect and empower your people.  I hire slow, fire fast, train hard — and manage soft.”

“Take your time to hire the right people,” he continued. “Give employees every opportunity to perform their job, but if they do not meet expected levels of performance, move them out. … Train your folks hard and then get out of their way.”

When all three of our Small Business of the Year finalists were asked if they had any final thoughts about success to share, John, Armin and Penny looked at each other and agreed, “It all keeps going back to passion.”

Maybe Motovo.com is on to something.  Some think of us as exciting.  Others might find us sexy. But one thing for sure — in the Lake Norman region, we’re passionate about business.

Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and greater Lake Norman region.

 

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cub Scout Pack #19 Visits Historic Hugh Torrance House and Store

Torance House Bears October 2013 013

Pack 19, Cub Scouts visited the Hugh Torrance House and Store in Huntersville to gain knowledge and insight into the history of the north Mecklenburg Community. The store, located at 8231 Gilead Road, is North Carolina’s oldest standing store and residence and one of Mecklenburg County’s few surviving 18th century structures.  The tour of the historic Huntersville home was led by Torrance Board Chairman and Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell.  The pack, whose sponsor is Huntersville Presbyterian Church, is comprised of third graders.  The unit was established in 1945.  Anyone wishing more information about the historic attraction, or wish to coordinate a group tour, contact Bill Russell at 704-892-1922 or e-mail russell@lakenorman.org.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Lake Norman / North Mecklenburg History | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vote Yes for the Bonds

CMS Bonds On November 5th, voters in Mecklenburg County will consider approving $290 million for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and $210 million for Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC).  In Cornelius, voters there will also decide $20.4 million for transportation, parks and recreation, and town center bonds.

In addition to the County and Cornelius bonds, a political issue shaping this election which has gripped our community and region over the last several months is how do we fund the widening of I-77?  The current DOT plan would use HOT or toll lanes in partnership with a private company (P3 Partnership).  While details are still being worked out, even those in local and state government wrestle with the notion of tolls.

Attending our local candidate forums, it is abundantly clear many elected and business leaders are torn between a practical reality –  the need to widen our most critical transportation artery as soon as possible and  declining revenues to fund those improvements.  While we can debate whether there are adequate funds to create General Purpose Lanes instead of High Occupancy Toll lanes, there can be no question that our past elected state and transportation leaders did a poor job of forecasting the future.

There are no fingers of blame here. Remember, those same leaders were elected by their constituents.  So in essence, we have only ourselves to blame.  In a very real sense, we are left with few alternatives as we pay dearly for not having planned adequately in the past for our current and future infrastructure needs.

On November 5th, we have an opportunity to invest in the future when voters go to the polls.  The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce encourages our citizens to invest in public education and our community college system. A successful economy requires a skilled workforce capable of operating and managing industries and businesses where we exercise a competitive advantage over other regions and states.  Our public education and community college system is the foundation of our economic development efforts.

Cornelius citizens will have an additional opportunity to shape their future as they consider bonds which will make road improvements, sidewalk enhancements, finance improvements to town parks, and redevelop the town center.

The recent toll debate has led to much second guessing and a look back on what we might have done differently.   I am reminded of a quote from Victor Hugo in Les Miserables,”Nothing is more imminent than the impossible . . . what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.”

Let’s all hope looking back from the days ahead, we don’t regret the community and region we could have been simply because we didn’t take time to be informed and take advantage of our right to vote on election day.   Make an investment in our community and region and Vote Yes for the Bonds!    

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region. For more information on the Bonds visit www.VoteYesforBonds.com

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Created to bring energy to the region – Lake Norman has powered a community

SailboatThis summer, celebrations are ongoing designating the fifty-year history of Lake Norman.  The first ground breaking for Lake Norman took place in 1959. It took four years to complete the Cowan’s Ford Dam and another two years to fill the lake.  But the story of Lake Norman actually began much earlier with the Native Americans.

     The Catawba Indians were the first to settle in our region. They referred to the Catawba River as “The Great River.” Years later, when early European settlers moved to the area, they brought diseases to which the native Indians had no resistance. These diseases nearly wiped out the entire Catawba Tribe. Once numbering 5,000, the Catawbas soon dwindled to less than 400 people. Later, early Colonists slowed the advance of General Cornwallis on grounds surrounding Cowan’s Ford, laying the foundation for later victories that helped gained America her victory from the British Crown.

     In the early 1890’s, the world’s largest hydroelectric plant began transmitting power from Niagara Falls to nearby Buffalo, NY. Local tobacco magnate James B. Duke and his brother Ben took note that electric power could be the key to their future if they could only harness the power of the Catawba River so they began to buy up land along the Catawba River basin. 

     About that time, the Duke brothers were introduced to Dr. W. Gill Wylie and a young engineer named William Lee.  Wylie and the Duke brothers came together to form the Catawba Power Company.  One can only imagine the excitement as Wylie, Lee, and the Dukes planned to bring electric power to our region.  Huddled around the table in their board room, could they have possibly envisioned what their collective dream would mean to the lake communities we know today?

     The creation of Lake Norman was not without sacrifice as homes, farms, and entire towns would be flooded to make way for the lake.  The Village of Long Island, once a thriving textile town with three mills, would end up under water as would countless other businesses and structures including the old Hwy 150 bridge.

     In 1957, Bill Lee (the son of William S. Lee) began the feasibility study for what would become Duke Energy Company’s final dam on the Catawba River.  This dam would create the largest lake in the Carolinas – our Lake Norman.

     Now, more than a hundred years later, entrepreneurs are still huddled around tables planning their future.  Some with just a dream and a Visa card as they discuss creating a new business. And like their counterparts of a hundred years ago, sacrifices must inevitably be made along the way.

     Corporations are moving to the lake.  Our proximity to Charlotte, transportation infrastructure, and skilled workforce make the area a great place to do business. But make no mistake – it’s the lake that lures them here.  Lake Norman is not just a majestic body of water – it’s a lifestyle like no other.Horizon

     The lake is more than 520 miles of shoreline covering 32,500 acres.  It is the spirit of the Catawba Indians who settled here first and who recognized then, that God had already been here.  It’s the colonial settlers who stood up to tyranny providing “a hornet’s nest” of rebellion.  It’s the dreams that spoke boldly of intentions and the actions which were bigger than the dreams.

     What began as a vision to power a business has become an energy that surges through time, touching lives, and leaving a legacy of leadership.  Lake Norman was created to bring energy to the Charlotte region and. fifty years later, its wake has powered a community.    

 

W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

 

Bill Russell is the President & CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with 950 business members serving the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region. For more information on the history of Lake Norman, check out Lake Norman Reflections by Bill and Diana Gleasner.

 

 

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Lake Norman / North Mecklenburg History | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Father’s Gift

Dad, his long time friend Harold Ramsey, and myself at a Carolina Baseball game.  Baseball is one of dad's passions!

Dad, his long time friend Harold Ramsey, and myself at a Carolina Baseball game. Baseball is one of dad’s passions!

Pope John XXII once said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at the induction of the National Honor Society at Lake Norman Charter School.  I spoke to many of the parents there, who beamed at the success of their sons and daughters.  Having parents that are involved with their children, serving as mentors, and showering them with love are the greatest gifts you can give a child.

My brother, sister and I had parents who did just that.  Father’s Day is a chance to say thank you – thank you for picking me up when I was down.   That no matter what crushing blow I felt, I would always get past it.

A dad shakes his head at your mistakes, hoping you learn, as he takes your hand, and pulls you up.  He’s there to teach you life’s lessons…and in my case, sometimes over and over again.

Billy on board dynamite - 1965

Billy on board dynamite – 1965

I was born and raised in Rock Hill (SC) and my father’s family owned a farm where he still lives.  When I was five, my parents purchased me a black and white pony that I appropriately named – “Dynamite.”  That little fellow lived up to his billing as he seemed to take great delight in throwing me time and time again.  Dad, simply picked me up and put me back on the horse, sternly counseling me, “You have to show him you’re not afraid.  You have to show him who’s the real boss.”

Between sniffles I pointed out I was afraid and there was no doubt…he was the real boss.  But dad simply sat me back up in the saddle, put the reigns tightly in my little hands and off we went. In truth, just about anywhere that pony really wanted to go which was usually to the barn!   Many including mom and Grandmamma Russell were not real happy with dad’s insistence.

Looking back though, I’m not sure who suffered more – my backside or dad’s ears.  Mama really took dad to task and to this day, none of us have forgotten those Sunday afternoons with “Billy breaking Dynamite.”   “But at the end of the day, it was an important lesson.  Life will throw you time and time again, but you have to get back up in the saddle, hold on tight, and ride the  rough out of it.  It’s okay to be a little afraid but never, ever give up.

Dad was there when I lost my first election running for president of my college fraternity.  He shared the first time he too had lost an election, but the next time out, he won his race.  He pointed out that in retrospect, he was perhaps a better leader learning from the earlier setback.  And once again, he was right.

Dad was there to help with my homework. He tried so hard to help me master the ground ball.  He tied my first tie and walked down the aisle with me the first time I said “I do.”  Mom and dad both were there to hold me when my world seemed dark and stood on stage years later when the world was so right.

Former North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano, a life lesson himself, said of his dad, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

And perhaps the greatest gift a child can give to his or her parents is simply to say, “l love you both!  Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”  And while I’m at it – I love you too mom, both of you!!!

Bill Jr.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Leadership Lessons, Personal | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment