It was a warm night and a yellow glow from the streetlight above illuminated his face.
He looked at me and nonchalantly said something like, “Let them laugh. I’ll finish in time.”
I will never forget that night, even though I don’t know the exact date or year. I don’t remember what we were wearing, shorts and t-shirts, I’m guessing. And, even at the moment, the conversation didn’t really stand out. It was just a comment in passing.
But, his message was imprinted on my mind and my heart and, obviously, my soul that ordinary night.
My dad grew up in rural Alabama and had an upbringing like many of his peers. His father was a farmer and entrepreneur, owning his own building company for a time until his health kept him from it. My grandmother worked in town for a while at the Polar Bar and was famous among her sons’ friends for her skills in the kitchen.
My dad grew up working hard on his parents’ farm. From the stories he has told me over the years, his childhood was a happy one. He and his 2 brothers grew into men that any parents would be proud of.
One of my best memories as a girl involves running. I have been a runner for almost as long as I can remember. I believe this bone-deep need to run comes from my dad. Not because he is a runner today…but because my sister and I spent so much time training with him years ago.
He joined the National Guard at 18 years old. Each year, he and his fellow guardsmen were expected to pass a physical fitness test. As a part of the test, they were required to run 2 miles in a specified time.
Several months before the test date each year, my father would begin his training regiment. Guess who was invited along!
My sister and I loved our time at night running and walking with him.
Because of knee issues (trophies from a great high-school football career), he knew running 2 miles nonstop was out of the question for him. Being determined, though, he devised a plan—walk at a brisk pace for 140 steps and jog for 140 steps. Then, repeat. Until 2 miles had been covered. And he literally counted his steps and walked briskly!
One night he jokingly commented that the young bucks would be laughing at him again this year. At the moment, I thought nothing about the remark until that night in bed. In the quiet of my room with the soft hum of the fan in the background, it bothered me that someone was laughing at my father. No girl wants that for her dad. She wants everyone to see him as a hero.
The next night as we trained, I told him that I was mad some people would laugh at him. His response and demeanor that night…I have never forgotten it.
He looked casually at me and said, “I don’t care if they laugh, Rach. I will finish in time.”
Those are probably not his exact words, but they’re close. They stuck.
My dad went on to explain that every year the young guys started off as if it was a 100-meter dash. Huffing and puffing and with no plan on how to actually finish 2 miles. So, around the mile mark, he often passed (comfortably!) most of them…using his walk and run method.
My dad’s confidence in his plan, his training, and, ultimately, in himself struck me that night as we stood talking. He didn’t care if someone laughed. He knew what he needed to do to succeed.
If that were the only incident of my dad’s unwavering confidence in himself and in his goals, I probably wouldn’t be writing. But…of course, there's more.
See, he returned to college after flunking out. He met my mom in 1973 on a blind date, fell in love with this beautiful brown-eyed, brown-haired teacher, and realized he wanted more for himself and for her. Others questioned him. Why would you want to go to college? He put his head back, politely answered that he wanted to further himself, and headed off to school.
He worked at night and took college courses during the day. It was not an easy road, but he came through with flying colors (except for one totaled car when he fell asleep at the wheel. He wasn’t getting much sleep those days!)
In 2012, he set out to complete a century, which is a 100-mile bike ride. For years, he rode a recumbent bike in his exercise room but decided to head outside after watching the rest of us ride away on weekends. After several years of doing the bike portion of sprint triathlons, he wanted another challenge. He, my husband, and my brother-in-law picked a century to ride. Not just any, though. The toughest in Alabama—The Cheaha Challenge. It climbs 10,000 feet over Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama. He ramped up his riding, spending hours on the road, often alone, in prep for the century.
In his small hometown, bike shorts aren’t the typical attire. His “tight shorts” were the focus of lots of conversations with his friends. He would laugh with them for a bit. Then, clap their shoulders and jovially remark, “Didn’t I see you at the football games this past season, cheering for 11 teenage boys in tight pants?” His little jest usually made his point, and the conversation moved on to other topics.
The next day he was out riding again…in his bike shorts and with a few more fans.
He finished that century in one piece and with some funny stories about pickle juice and mustard packets.
Today, at the age of 66, my father is building a dream home for him and my mother. He is doing most of the work himself to save money. Many people have questioned him. Why do you want to build a house yourself? Are you physically able? Can you not just be content?
Sure, it may bother him some that others laugh at him or question his motives. But the important thing…he doesn’t let that stop him.
Be A Doer.
Let me be clear.
My dad is not just a dreamer. He is a planner, thinker, talker, pray-er, builder, questioner, and yes, a dreamer…but mostly a doer.
He dreams, sets goals, creates plans, executes those plans, fails some, wins some, gets laughed at, laughs with his doubters, moves on…and does.
That is my point. Be a doer. Don’t let the fear of others laughing at your goals keep you from planning, thinking, talking, praying, building, questioning, dreaming, and, ultimately, doing.
To Close, I Encourage You...
I encourage you to notice the natural entrepreneurs in your life—the dreamers who are go getters.
That conversation with my dad under the streetlight has always stood out to me. But it wasn’t until I started pursuing this whole entrepreneurial thing that I realized what an impact it had on me. Like it was lying dormant for 30 years, waiting for me to give it its due.
Perhaps, those in your life aren’t starting a business. Yet, they have not let their fears or comparisons to others stop them from pursuing a dream. Notice those people. Give them their dues. Take notes. My dad has never owned a business of his own (and doesn’t want to). But…he knows a thing or two about setting a goal, developing a plan, and then adamantly pursuing it, even when others doubt him.
Sadly, I realize that not every child has or will have a father such as mine. I also realize you may have been one of those children without a loving father figure. And, for that, I can’t begin to express my sadness for you.
I know, though, God gave you this entrepreneurial spirit for a reason…if for no other purpose than to be another’s inspiration and testament of what it means to pursue a dream, even when others say it can’t be done.
So lastly I charge you to be a model entrepreneur. Others—young and old—are watching, some quietly in awe and some loudly in doubt, but nevertheless they’re watching.
Let your actions, my friend, speak much, much louder than others’ words.
Ask and rely on your Heavenly Father for a quiet, yet strong confidence in your plan, your follow through, and, ultimately, in yourself.
And, in the sentiments of my dad, don’t care if others laugh. You’ll finish in your time.
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