3 Lessons from an 84 Year Old Entrepreneur

Yesterday my Dad celebrated 84 years of living. Being the only son of seven children he was his father’s pride and joy. My Grandfather envisioned Dad working the farm with him. Dad on the other hand, envisioned nothing of the kind. He said a loud YES to the live he envisioned, which meant a lot of NO’s along the way to ensure his picture of success.

Dad, a true entrepreneur at heart, defied the odds his entire life.  He said ‘NO’ to the family business; with a wife and six kids at home he said ‘NO’ to employment and started his own business; with a greater vision in mind he said ‘NO’ to the cold white north and moved to Tennessee to start a new business; when it became apparent he and his business partner had different values he said ‘NO’ to the partnership and bought him out; when the economy turned down he said ‘NO’ to layoffs and built homes in anticipation of buyers so he could keep his greatest assets, his employees; when he hit 65, and again at 75, and still at 84 he says, ‘NO’ to retirement.

He still pinches himself because he can’t believe he gets paid to do his hobby (live his dream).  I have no doubt that my Dad has mastered the art of living as described by L.P. Jacks.

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between

his work and his play;  his labor and his leisure;  

his mind and his body; his education and his recreation.  

He hardly knows which is which.  

He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing,

and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. 

To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

I have been blessed to have an incredible role model of what to say ‘NO’ to and what to say an absolute ‘Yes’ to.  I asked him when he looks at his entire life, 84 years of living, what is he most proud of and this is what he shared.

 1)    I have been married to the love of my life (my Mom) for 65 years.

2)    All six of my children turned out terrific and live a good life.

3)    I always did the best I could do with what I had, I never took a free handout (ie no unemployment) and I consistently gave more value than what I was paid.

He could have chosen the businesses he created, the number of families he helped, the incredible homes he built, or even the assisted living home and senior apartments he build when in his 70’s to say ‘YES’ to a small town community in need.  As I reflected on what he shared, I smiled, it really was not a surprise what he is most proud of and wants us to really “get”.

As one of six children, witnesses to a great deal of his life, we were never confused by what he valued. He is not a man of a lot of words and he didn’t need to be.  His life reflects who he is, man of great character, a man of honor whose word you could take to the bank, and a man whose wisdom is worth sharing.

1)    Honor and respect your wife. She comes before the children because when they are grown and gone he wants her to want to be by his side.

2)    Honor and respect each other, if you can’t do that for each other whom else will?

3)    Give your best at all times and everyone contributes.


His life is evidence these three work. He created a legacy that we have chosen to carry on ours.

He has mastered the art of living a life that matters most, by valuing who matters most to him.

He pursued his vision of excellence in all he did and in who he is.

Will you?