It was the first time I’d actually met John and his wife, Linda. I sat on their large, soft, living-room couch as I stared at the giant, stone fireplace, crackling with birch wood. It’s massive, black, steel mantle, hand-made by a close friend, hung just above the highest flames. The western North Carolina evening was cool in late Spring. The fire was fitting. We had arrived at their home with it’s massive wrap-around porch, snuggled deep in the piney woods of the Smoky Mountains, just after 8 p.m. and after an afternoon flight from Dallas.
I looked up at the home’s 29 foot ceiling, then around the large room. I realized the kitchen, dining room and living room were all one massive space. There was no television anywhere to be seen. I immediately appreciated the lack of distraction as soft music played in the background, wine was poured, and I was mentally available to engage in the movie-like atmosphere.
John had, seemingly, been very successful in the many entrepreneurial activities he had pursued throughout his 60 years of adventure. But I knew OF HIM only through one of his businesses much earlier in both of our lives.
He reminded me, as I sunk deeper into his comfortable couch while Linda poured more wine, of that business he had helped start with friends from Texas in the late 90's. Though I had never met John to the day, it was this business that eventually led me to the life I live today, Jennifer and our 4 children.
I had attended a small conference in White Plains, NY. I remember listening to John’s business partners (he wasn’t in attendance) share and promote their product. I remember feeling the relaxation of one of his business partners' voices while he spoke. John’s partner’s Texas accent felt like running water for a Kansas farm kid living in the hussle of the east coast. Following the presentation, I would ask him for his business card.
Years later and after having left the east coast after watching the Twin Towers fall, I discovered that business card and called the number looking for work. In short, I ended up working in Texas with another business John’s partner owned.
A few years after I moved to Texas and began working, a close friend asked me to attend a birthday party of some old college friends of his. Not knowing anyone, I reluctantly agreed to go.
We rang the doorbell, the birthday girl’s father answered and opened the door. I noticed a young lady leaning against the kitchen counter, dressed in a flowered top and dark jeans. Everything else became a blur. I’ve spent the last 17 years with this same young lady while becoming the mother of our 4 children and my lifelong, best friend.
As I sat on that couch in the North Carolina home of what many would consider a failed businessman early in life, I shared with him, "had it not been for you and that business, that conference and that presentation, that business card, the twin towers, my departure from the east coast and the phone call to Texas, that friend and that birthday party ... I wouldn't have found my best friend or be able to call our four children my own.
I’ll never consider anything a failure if the process is true, genuine and authentic ... regardless of any specific financial outcome. I will never understand every aspect, every result of the process that any business or person provided. Good intention never leads to failure. It may not end up like thought it should. But in John's case, his business was the catalyst in helping me create what I would consider a very rich life with the friends and family I love.
I thanked him. We ate. Drank another glass of wine and departed.
When in doubt, especially during these challenging times, I encourage you to recognize the view we are given is microscopic. Generally speaking, we know only a portion of the larger picture being painted by a very Grand Artist.
Brian Manhart is the president and CEO of Lone Oak Ranch and Retreat and Camp Kiowa on the outskirts of Gainesville. He is also the executive director of the North Central Texas College Foundation, active on the Lindsay Board of Education and the St. Peter’s Church council, a religious education teacher and an organizational coach, writer and speaker.