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Smith & Mormon - Part 3

Hello and good day!

I've been exploring how early experiences shape the outlook of successful adults. It seems to me that most people who hold themselves to a high standard in their work were taught to do so by a mentor.

Maybe it was a coach or a teacher or a boss or a parent. For the majority of people I know, it was somebody other than their parents. Your parents can't fire you and most won't put you out of the house, so the consequences of not living up to a parent's expectations aren't as severe.

A boss can fire you and a coach can bench you or kick you off the team. Also, your kids live with you, and they see your flaws as well as your strengths. This takes some of the shine off your authority, whereas a very strong coach might have a messy house, but the players never get to see it, so their personal sloppiness doesn't tarnish their professional status.

In the long run, we tend to become our parents and I believe that lessons taught by our parents manifest themselves naturally somewhere in our thirties or forties. But if your parents were absentee, or not hard workers, and didn't teach you any good lessons, you'll be in dire need of a mentor.

Here at Fortunato Chocolate, we consider it a blessing and a serious responsibility to be a first employer for some of our team members. We can show them how to do good, hard, conscientious work in a way that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

My brother Brian had his transformative experience in the army. This was the first step in making him one of the preeminent cacao processing experts in the world. Few people I know strive for and execute at a higher standard than my brother.

His philosophy on life is a big part of why our chocolate tastes as good as it does.

In particular, there were a couple of army drill sergeants who acted as accidental professors in helping Brian develop his penchant for high quality, meticulous, detailed work.

I wrote about sergeant Smith yesterday. Smith was a short, thick, high-strung man, who yelled his every word and dramatically punished soldiers for even the slightest irregularity.

Smith's counterpart was drill sergeant Mormon. Mormon was tall and more matter of fact. He wasn't soft by any means, but his style was different. Instead of screaming and yelling, he tended to forgo theatrics and hysterics and cut straight to the chase.

In the previous installment of this series, my brother Brian had begun receiving care packages from our great Aunt Opal. When she heard that Brian had enrolled in the army and was about to go through basic training, she promised to send a care package with fresh baked cookies every two weeks.

Two weeks into basic training, the first package showed up and Smith all but confiscated the cookies as contraband. Brian was called into Smith's office, read the riot act, and then forced to stand at attention while Smith and four other soldiers ate Brian's cookies right in front of him.

Two weeks after that first incident, the next care package arrived. When Aunt Opal made a promise, she always lived up to it. If she promised to send cookies every two weeks, you could count on it.

This time, Brian was in the mess hall. He was eating lunch with a few buddies when Mormon's assistant approached the table. "Drill sergeant Mormon wants to see you right this minute private Horsley," said the messenger.

Brian already knew what this was all about. He was a fast learner who had come to realize that if he kept his head down and worked hard, made his bed every day, did his drills without complaining, and in general paid attention to the details such that all his i's were dotted and his t's were crossed, he'd get along just fine.

The drill sergeants almost never singled him out. It had only happened that once with the cookies two weeks prior and now, exactly two weeks later, it would happen again.

Brian walked across the hot, sandy fort in camouflage pants, brown boots, and a tucked in white short sleeved shirt. He entered Mormon's office, a small, clapboard wood office attached to the barracks, with a small desk in the middle, no windows, and a chalkboard on the wall. The room did not breathe, and hot air stood still in it suffocating occupants after a few short minutes.

Mormon sat, leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head, his long legs extended up and his feet on the desk.

Brian walked in and stood at attention. Mormon swung his long legs off the desk and stood up to walk slowly towards Brian. Brian continued to look straight ahead, not making eye contact until he was given permission to speak. Mormon liked to make his charges feel his size and presence.

He walked over and stood right next to Brian, off to one side, his chest just about grazing Brian's shoulder. Mormon towered over Brian and Brian could feel Mormon's hot breath on the side of his face and he could smell Mormon, who had been sitting in that suffocating office for God only knows how long.

Mormon didn't say anything for many seconds, he just breathed on Brian and let Brian feel him there. Finally, he spoke in a deep country southern accent.

"Private Horsley, looks like you got more contraband boy," said Mormon. "Smith told me about the cookies Private Horsley. Said they were mighty good too. Cookies are contraband Horsley. Why does your aunt insist on sending contraband to the fort Horsley?"

"I don't know drill sergeant!" said Brian. "Get over there and tear that box open boy," said Mormon. "Yes, drill sergeant!" said Brian. The box that had been packed lovingly by our 88-year-old Aunt Opal was on the edge of the desk.

Brian walked towards the desk and Mormon followed closely behind. Mormon stood right behind Brian, breathing on him and looking over his shoulder, as Brian tore the box open. "Contraband Horsley. Get back to attention boy," said Mormon.

"Yes, drill sergeant!" said Brian. He went back to the center of the room and stood at attention, looking straight forward. One by one, Mormon opened up every bag in the box and took a single cookie out of each bag. He walked back over towards Brian with a handful of cookies and resumed his position on Brian's side, towering over Brian and breathing on him.

"Let's see what we've got Horsley," said Mormon. Mormon started to eat one of the cookies, chewing loudly and spilling crumbs onto Brian's shoulder.

Brian didn't make a single move. "Peanut butter Horsley. I'm keeping these," said Mormon. He finished the peanut butter cookie and then moved onto the next one.

"Sugar cookie with M&Ms Horsley. Hot damn Horsley! Your auntie sure can cook. These are mine too Horsley," said Mormon. He continued to chew obnoxiously, standing on Brian's side, and spilling crumbs all over Brian's shoulder.

It went on like this until Mormon had sampled one of each cookie. Brian was covered in cookie crumbs by the end of the sampling. In the end, Mormon decided to confiscate all but one of the bags. He handed the box with the one bag to Brian and left the rest of the bags on his desk. Brian stood at attention holding the box.

"Dismissed Private Horsley. And remember that all contraband is subject to confiscation. Get out of my face private Horsley," said Mormon. Brian went back to the mess hall with his box and eventually continued on with his day.

Some version of this continued to play out every two weeks while Brian was in basic training. But that was the only time he drew the attention of his superiors.

Here is the lesson he learned from the experience. Some things cannot be controlled. If your 88-year-old aunt sends you cookies every two weeks and your drill sergeants want to steal them, there is nothing you can do about it.

There are some crap sandwiches in life that you just have to eat.

However, there are many things that we can control. And Brian learned how to not suffer unnecessarily.

He became very astute at taking care of every little detail that was his to take care of. If he was going to get in trouble, it wouldn't be because he failed to do his part.

After the Army, Brian went on to be a straight A student in college and found success in every professional endeavor he engaged in.

He thanks the army and drill sergeants Smith and Mormon for their hard taught lessons.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!