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In my younger days, my salary was of utmost importance to me. My goal when I first graduated from college was to make $100,000 a year. It was a shallow goal, and I am ashamed to admit that that was my sole focus.
I had these visions that by making $100,000, I could take luxurious vacations, drive fancy cars and own a luxurious house. I thought these things would bring me happiness. Truthfully, I had probably watched too many MTV cribs episodes.
While I can afford a lot more material items today, I opt for substance over flashy things.
This Twitter post really resonated with me recently.
As you get older, you really just want to be surrounded by good people. People that are good for you, good to you, and good for your soul.
— Chance The Rapper (@ChanceFrom79th) September 8, 2017
A Generous Offer
This past weekend, a former co-worker “John” had an extra ticket and invited me to a Virginia Tech football game. He is 30 years older than I am, and honestly I didn’t know him very well. The only thing we really knew about each other was that we both shared a mutual love for Virginia Tech football.
We were at a function earlier this summer, and John invited me to go to the first game of the season. While I was honored that he would think to invite me, I politely blew him off. I was nervous at the thought of going to a game with someone I didn’t know well. As an introvert and a bit of a control freak, spending that much time with a virtual stranger feels like punishment.
However, for the game this past weekend, John was insistent that I come. He shared with me that one of his friends had committed suicide earlier this year. John planned to take his friend’s two teenage sons to that particular game. He thought that it would be nice to have another guy in the group who was a bit younger and more relatable to the boys.
I thought it over. I figured if there was any way that I could help John with being part of the healing process for these two boys, count me in.
Admittedly, I was apprehensive about spending 16 hours with John. Between the car ride down- 8+ hours round-trip, along with lunch and dinner, I kept reminding myself that if I could help the boys out in any way, it would totally be worth it.
Gearing Up for the Game
I arrived to John’s house bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8 am on that Saturday morning. He was putting down the top of his Jeep and asked me if I would help cover his car with Hokie magnet and flags. I could already sense that this was going to be an epically fun day. The dread that I had been feeling up until that point was melting away.
Since I had never driven in a Jeep for an extended period of time, I was really looking forward to that aspect. It was a bit chilly at that time of morning, so thankfully I brought a sweatshirt. So the top was down, sweatshirt on, and the heater and seat warmers were in full effect. Shockingly though, I got sunburned on the ride down, even though I was freezing.
Seriously, how does that happen?
Getting To Know Each Other
We had about two hours until we reached the town where the two boys lived. We spent those two hours getting to know each other a bit better after some good, old-fashioned small talk.
Before getting into his Jeep, this is what I knew about John before we left. I knew his name, that he graduated from Virginia Teach with an engineering degree, that he is a diehard VT Hokies fan, that he drives an awesome four-door Jeep, and that he loves to bike and ski. That’s what I’ve gathered about him over the years. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve “known” him for over 10 years, yet that is all I really knew about him.
Well, I learned a whole lot more about him on that drive.
His Work and Life
It turns out that John is currently the president of his company and is also the largest shareholder in the company. Talk about stealth wealth. He basically alluded to being worth tens of millions of dollars, yet he had never let on with a hint of extravagance.
On top of that, he has such a big heart. He belongs to the Virginia Tech Hokie Club, which allows him to purchase ten tickets each year. He usually uses only two tickets for his wife and himself, and then he gives away eight of the remaining tickets to deserving people each game. Oh, and being in the Hokie Club is not cheap. He pays $10,000 per year to belong to it.
Investing in the Next Generation
John and his wife never had any children, so they dote on their nephews and godchildren. He has given each one of them a vehicle for college and has guided them over the years to find their footing.
He mentioned that he had a lot of people pour into him while he was growing up. In turn, he wants to be able to have a similar impact on others since he is in the position to be able to do so.
When we arrived to pick up the two teenage boys, they were beyond excited and completely decked out in Virginia Tech gear. John and I immediately started to share with them everything that they could expect.
If you’ve never been to Hokies home game, here is a glimpse:
It’s an electric atmosphere. It’s one thing to describe it and another to be there to witness it live.
Our Football Experience
When we arrived, the boys couldn’t get into the stadium quick enough to look around. Having never been a stadium of that size, seating 66,000 people, they were awestruck by how big it was. They were eager for the game to start to experience what we had described.
Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” started to play. The boys did not hesitate to start jumping up and down as the crowd became rowdy. Virginia Tech ended up playing very well. I’m sure a Virginia Tech win helped solidify some lasting memories for the boys.
On our drive home, John highlighted to the boys what they would need to do in order to go to Virginia Tech, or any other good college for that matter. He shared some advice that I thought was great.
College Life Lessons
He said that in college, you learn three things.
- You learn how to manage your time in order to study and succeed in school.
- You learn how to manage difficult relationships, sometimes between roommates or other friends that you make.
- Finally, you learn what makes you happy, without the guidance of your parents.
He said that you need to achieve all three of these things in order to graduate college as a well-rounded person, not just the first in order to obtain a degree.
John then mentioned a quote he heard from Jim Rohn. “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.”
He encouraged the boys to seek out good people to surround themselves with. After all, bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). After we dropped the boys off, John turned to me and confessed that he hoped if they took nothing else away from that day, that they would remember that quote from Jim Rohn.
Humility in a High Position
Even though John is the president and the largest shareholder of the company, he doesn’t receive the highest salary in the office. He said that he is humble enough to take a smaller paycheck and chooses to surround himself with hardworking people who deserve higher paychecks.
He shared that when his co-workers do well, he, in turn, does well. The more money people make around him, the more money he ends up making. Essentially, their success ends up being his success.
To John, life is much more than making money. It’s about spending time with people that you enjoy and making memories with those who make you better. While those boys may not have captured everything that John said, I certainly was listening, and much of it unexpectedly resonated with me.