I recently lost my grandfather. He was a hero to me, and as the title indicates, my first minimalist management mentor. I doubt he had even heard of minimalism, to him it was just how a person was supposed to live. He was a child of The Great Depression, but he didn’t live out of a fear of scarcity. He lived out of abundance. I aim to live a life marked by the same three things I saw in him. Purpose, fellowship, and faith.
It appears to me that my grandfather had a clear overarching purpose…to make life better for others. This drove his business and philanthropic decisions. He was passionate about anything he pursued. He started several small businesses and put in the time and energy to make them successful. These businesses focused on his passion areas of agriculture, hunting and fishing, and community. He designed and manufactured products in response to needs he discovered in his daily life. He was always saying, “There has to be a better…”. He would then try to build that better. Most of his contraptions never made it to market, but they often made it to a neighboring farm or a friend’s home. Lives were made better.
His marketing tactics were community based. He largely marketed his products through county and state fairs. He loved traveling to fairs big or small. He built relationships with people across the midwest and would probably tell you that these relationships were as much the “profit” from these businesses as the cash that ended up in the bank.
Grandpa was passionate about helping people and developing community well beyond “business”. He was generous, maybe to a fault…if that is even possible, not sure it is. He and my grandmother enjoyed supporting children and communities in Central America. They were always “adopting” children from that part of the world. They would maintain correspondence and help to provide for their needs. They also loved to travel to get their hands dirty alongside the people of these communities. My grandfather was very “handy” and he especially enjoyed putting those skills to good use. As usual, he was way ahead of popular understanding. He was working to help people get clean water way before Matt Damon made it cool. This is one of the reasons a good chunk of any money I make off of this blog will go to water.org.
He passionately served his lifelong home of Gladbrook Iowa. His passion for this place bordered on the absurd if viewed through the lens of a modern “big city” existence. This was most apparent when he and a buddy decided that if they built an absolutely gigantic, maybe record breaking, ear of corn for the annual Corn Carnival they might attract people to their small town…or at least earn it some attention. He was happy to put in the time and money to make this happen. He loved his community!
It is just as important that he understood who he was not. If a potential activity didn’t align with his purpose and/or passions, he didn’t dedicate time to it. Time is precious, he understood that and now so do I.
If you ask people about my grandfather fishing will inevitably come up. He loved to fish. I believe one of the primary things he loved about fishing was the fellowship it enabled. Fellowship isn’t just exchanging pleasantries in some church basement or community hall. Fellowship is about building and fostering a community of shared interests. Grandpa loved to be around people who shared his interests. Yes, he loved to catch the “big one” but he really enjoyed trading stories with his friends and family while floating on a lake or ocean wetting a line. These are the times with him I most enjoyed. I learned much from him sitting on his boat and what I learned went way beyond how to tie a clinch knot.
My grandfather lived out a quiet faith. I am not sure I ever heard him “evangelize” and he certainly wasn’t a bible thumper. But it was clear that he was a man of faith because of how he invested his time, talents, and other resources. He was truly stewarding what God had blessed him with. He understood that he was blessed and he wanted to share those blessings with others. I am sure he did more for people than I will ever know, but I know he did a lot and I only hope I can live out my faith half as well as he did his.
The final point I will note about what I realized while reflecting on my grandfather is that life is not easily categorized. Our beliefs drive our purpose (assuming we have discerned one), and in turn our relationships. We are whole people all of the time and we need to manage accordingly. As I have noted in other posts, Minimalist Management is not just about what we do at work. We are “managing” in all areas of our lives at all times. How about we strive to manage well?
I adored my grandfather and will miss him for the rest of my life. I owe him more than I could ever express in a blog post. I hope and pray that I can influence people the way he influenced me. Don’t overlook the amazing people who are already in your life. A mentor doesn’t have to be someone new you seek out. She or he might be right in front of you.
Who is your mentor?
Who are you mentoring?
Yep, he built his mower on a car frame…I recall it being a Chevy Cavalier.
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