Hello and good day!
Last night at 3am I woke up completely and there wasn't a drop of tiredness in me. I don't know why I hadn't realized it before the middle of the night last night, but it is clear to me now.
My oldest son isn't a little boy anymore.
The thought was so strange and alarming that I climbed out of bed, put on warm clothing, and walked through our neighborhood at night to look at the lake in front of our house.
I felt I needed fresh air to recover from the sudden tightening in my throat and chest that made it hard for me to breathe.
It was dark and cold and quiet except for frogs croaking.
Down the road, I came to the only streetlight in our part of the neighborhood, an orange lantern tied around a Douglas fir. When you walk by that tree at night, you pass through an orange cloud of light, and then re-enter black darkness on the other side.
Soon there is a clearing that looks out over the lake, and I could see the lake in the moonlight. The wind blew small waves and moon beams shined on the crests of the ripples.
Yellow porchlights mounted on roofs behind lakefront houses lit wide bright circles on the water.
I breathed in through my nose and felt the cold air on my face.
I rubbed my forehead and cheeks vigorously, trying to shock myself out of the thought pattern I was stuck in.
All I kept thinking was that I should have been better.
I should have been better.
I should have been better.
New business owners and new parents are the same in a way.
You don't have any idea what on God's green earth you are doing in the beginning.
They give you a baby and you take it home.
You can read books about parenting, but theory and practice aren't the same.
They tell you how you ought to be when a little boy throws a temper tantrum in the grocery store.
But it's hard to be rational and remember what you read when you are tired from a long day, and all those shoppers are looking at you.
You can read books about business too, but that doesn't tell you how it feels to make a hundred sales calls and not get a single positive response.
The books say to keep your head up and judge yourself based on your activity not your results.
What the books can't make lucid is how bad and scary it feels when you see a lot of money going out and none coming in for an extended period of time.
And you dread that you might let down those who depend on you and believe in you.
My boy is a good boy and I've been the best dad I know how to be. But when you are unskilled, your best isn't very good.
That's an unfortunate reality, isn't it?
I still remember the first time I ever played basketball. I was in second grade at an afterschool daycare.
We were all out there on the blacktop and I was on the sideline watching older kids play. To me it looked like a piece of cake.
Nobody explained the rules to me though.
One of the counselors was officiating the game and he had a whistle in his mouth.
I took the inbound pass, dribbled once, and then held the ball. Instead of passing, I dribbled again, and the counselor blew his whistle at me.
"That's a turnover. Double dribbling," he yelled from down the court.
The other players on the team looked at me with scorn. "Come on man. Do it right," they said.
Four years later, I was the best player in school.
The difference of course is that double dribbling on a basketball court in second grade means nothing.
Raising a human being is singular. All anybody has is their life.
Parents are given control over the life of their first born even though we are rank amateurs at raising up human beings. You get one shot at their childhood, and whatever happens is baked in forever.
Even business isn't that cutthroat. Customers will give you a second chance if they see you are sincere.
If one cacao harvest is bad, we can redeem ourselves on the next one.
It isn't so determinative.
I look back and I know exactly what I could have done better.
Not that I was bad, especially since I'd never done it before, but I could be perfect with a second shot.
I wish I could go back and do it again, for his sake.
He is already big and only getting bigger. I have to sneak up on him and surprise him and jump out from behind a corner to give him a hug. He avoids my embraces instinctively, not from malice.
As I stood there looking at the water, rubbing my face, growing colder with each passing moment, I stumbled upon a thought that helped fill the terrible emptiness I was feeling.
If I learn from the mistakes I've made, I can do a really good job now.
If you are in business and you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, you won't be around very long.
If you are a parent and you keep making the same mistakes, you get to keep being a parent. It is a very strange state of affairs.
Peace came over me and I walked back home, in through the door, up the foyer stairs, into the living room, up the living room stairs and into the bedroom.
Into bed and under the covers.
My eyes closed and sleep overtook me.
My only option now is to be the best I can be.
The reason I am sharing something so personal is because I am fairly sure that every parent goes through this experience when their children grow up.
Every company is made up of people who go through this stuff.
A company is nothing more than a collection of people.
Cacao farmers go through it.
It cuts across geography and cultures.
I like the idea that our customers know they are dealing with real folks over here, not some nameless, faceless entity.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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