How do you get a street named after you when you weren’t a city “father”, a major philanthropist, a company founder, a celebrity, or the person who once lived on the developed land?
Put another way, how does an “ordinary” man get a street named after him (and another street named after his grandson)?
I am becoming obsessed with the stories of people who aren’t famous but make a significant impact on people and communities. Fortunately for me, I grew up with an uncle who was just such an “ordinary” man.
This is a story of Denny Darnold, a not-so-ordinary man, and four lessons we can learn from the way he lived his remarkable life.
Until a couple years back when you Googled “Darnold”, you didn’t get many results…the Darnolds aren’t exactly the Rockefellers or Kardashians (thank God). Of course, distant cousin Sam recently elevated our Google prominence and taught people how to pronounce our name.
We Darnolds aren’t generally headline seekers, we are more folks who sit on the end of docks with our grandchildren. Thanks to Uncle Denny (and of course my Father), I understand the beauty and power in a humble strength approach to living though their example.
Lessons on Living From Denny Darnold
1. Live With Great Integrity
While eulogizing my Uncle the Mayor of Hudson Wisconsin listed Denny’s many accomplishment and awards (see a nice story about Denny’s accomplishments here). However he also emphasized one word, integrity. I think he said it ten times. And for good reason…integrity, and care for family, were the values most enacted in Denny’s life.
The Mayor told a story about a man who interacted with Denny on a regular basis professionally. That man told the Mayor upon my Uncle’s recent retirement that he was happy Denny was retiring because he could now buy Denny a beer.
He was a city planner and he wouldn’t allow vendors, contractors, etc to even buy him a beer because he feared it would mar his reputation for integrity!!!
The Mayor also told a story about the only time he saw my Uncle lose his temper. You guessed it, someone challenged Denny’s integrity.
Denny understood that in his role, one of public service, he must never be seen as beholden to anyone but the citizens. He knew that if his loyalty to the people was clear he could be effective for them and that he and his family would never be embarrassed by some negative story that would come to light.
“A Man of Integrity”
I believe we are all called to live with great integrity. Claim the right values and align your actions with those claimed values!
2. Value Function Over Form
I drive a Honda Accord because of my uncles (Tom factored in here as well) and I probably will until Honda messes up their value proposition.
In my opinion, the only reason to own something is because it meets a need (broadly defined). If an attribute of a thing doesn’t cause it to better meet a need, why pay for it. The logo doesn’t add tangible value…only symbolic value. Some needs are met by symbolic value…not very many of mine.
Denny modeled this for me at an early age.
Buy Function Not Form
I remember when Denny first saw me pull up in my Accord. He was proud! At the time I found this strange. Now I believe he saw this as a sign that I had grown into a man who valued the important things. In his view (and mine), Honda Accords have the features you need and they function efficiently…they just run. The things that are important in a conveyance for an office worker.
Honda has become the symbol for me – contradiction intended – of valuing function over form.
3. Have and Share Personal Passions
Denny was a man of many passions.
Denny was a childhood athletic prodigy in a tiny town in Southwest Iowa. He loved the communal nature of sports. He played golf almost literally until the day he died. Many golf buddies came to his funeral and were some of the most sorrow filled non-family members in attendance.
He used his passions as means to build relationships. He was on the shy side so I believe that having connections to people through common interests was especially important to him.
Denny and I both went to Iowa State and he loved to follow Creighton basketball as well. He and I connected through these common interests. But more importantly, we connected early in my life through golf. This is odd because I don’t think we played more than a few rounds together in my entire life. I only remember one.
We connected because he brought me along as a caddy. I went to visit him for about a week most every summer and he would take me along to some tournament. I did nothing but hurt his chances of winning. I know for a fact that he was distracted because of me during a match play final (match play is where two players are going head to head). However, he never got angry with me and had me caddy for him again the next year and the next.
I loved this in real time and in hindsight this was amazing! I learned so much about how to relate to people at these tournaments and I bonded with my Uncle.
I wasn’t the only one who experienced this.
Denny bonded with his in-laws by becoming a huge Packers fan when he moved to Wisconsin.
Denny bonded with his father in-law through fishing.
And most importantly, he bonded with his children through their interests. He coached their youth sports and shared his love of art most especially with his son.
Don’t be selfish about your passions. Use the energy they provide to build relationships and influence others.
4. Be a Person of Few Words
Meaning > Multitude
I am still trying to live this lesson.
My Uncle lived with a humble strength that allowed him to make an huge difference in the world.
The people of Hudson valued the way he lived his life as much or more than the zoning decisions he recommended.
I believe humble strength is how an “ordinary” man gets a street named after him whether it be literal or metaphorical.
I think we all need to be mentored by these “ordinary” people through their stories. I aim to tell these stories in a way that helps others grow. I wrote about my Grandfather in “My First Minimalist Management Mentor” and I am proud and humbled to pay tribute to my Uncle Denny in this post. He was a remarkable man!
He is one of the many additional people I should have discussed in my TedX talk if it weren’t for that pesky time limitation.
Who are your “ordinary people” and what life lessons can you learn from them?
I love it because it is rapid fire. Seven speakers, seven minutes each, seven unique leadership focused subjects.
I thought it would be helpful to share some of my take aways from this powerful evening. My take aways are not specifically attributable to any one speaker, they are themes that emerged across speakers.
1. Context Matters
A theme that emerged across nearly every speaker was that context matters. First, you as a leader need to find or create a context for yourself where you can utilize your strengths…you need to find fit. If not, finding success will be especially difficult. It is already difficult enough to lead (a bonus theme/take away).
Second, you need to create a context for your people where they can find success. They need to understand what winning means for your organization (e.g. business, not-for-profit, family, team) and need to know how to help the organization win.
2. How You Communicate Matters
It appears to me that many people believe that simply sharing information equals communicating well…not so.
You need to communicate for effect. What is the outcome you desire from your communication? What do you want people to take away? What is the headline you would want to read in the morning regarding your situation?
You need to communicate with the proper tone. Sometimes you need to be dead serious, sometimes humor is appropriate. However, when you use humor you must be thoughtful about it. What is the goal of the humor? Will humor help or harm?
3. Authenticity Matters
Be authentic and allow your people to do the same.
“Covering” at work is very harmful to self and to employees! The act of covering up your true self is exhausting and will lead to under performance and burnout. You need to hire great people and let them bring their whole self to work. You as a leader need to do the same. If not, you will suffer and eventually your people will see through the act.
4. A Learning Orientation Matters
Learning occurs in many ways, the key is that you strive to learn.
You learn through research. You dig until you understand the truth of the matter and the root cause. In doing so you can fix the true problem and avoid reoccurrence.
You learn through experience. Be ambitious, take risks, don’t be afraid to try new things so you can learn and grow.
You learn by seeking and listening to feedback. You need to utilize your strengths, but you also need to understand your areas for future growth. What news tools do you need to acquire?
5. Connections Matter
Leaders need to see and create connections.
You need to understand how the work gets done through your people. Who works with whom to create value. You need to help those folks set aside their self interests so that your organization can flourish.
You also need to understand who should be connected in order to create or seize new opportunity. Understand the people in your world so you can introduce those who will work well together.
6. Nurturing Talent Matters
Great leaders nurture talent.
You need to understand how to best pour into your people. You need to help them develop skills that will benefit the organization, but you also need to enable people to develop and live out their passions (family, community, hobbies) beyond your organization.
That said, you must also fill your own cup. What do you need to grow? What interest do you need to pursue? Which loved one do you need to spend time with? Your cup must remain full in order to be able to pour into other’s cups.
7. Community Matters Can Be Organizational Matters
You need not sacrifice organizational outcomes to help the community. Find the intersection of interests. How can you meet an organizational goal while also meeting a community need?
Understanding the needs of those around you is the key. When you understand people’s true needs you will know how to effectively help and can determine how to align organizational interests.
In the end, by connecting community and organization both those you lead and the community will benefit.
It was a fantastic event and I hope this post conveys a bit of the wisdom that was shared. Make sure to check it out in person next year!
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I find that back to school season is a great time to reflect. Mostly because I can’t think until my kids are back in school. Heading into this particular summer break I felt particularly fried. I was busy all summer, but didn’t feel productive. Maybe you can relate.
When the kids headed back to school I reflected on the summer. I tried to make sense of my lack of measurable output. I barely wrote at all. I kept the balls in the air at work, but didn’t really score many goals.
I truly came to terms with the fact that my progress stalled. I bet you have felt this way a time or two.
I realized I never really took a summer break this year. We took some long weekends that were sandwiched between work travel, the daily grind, and youth sports, but I never really took the time I needed to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.
That was a big mistake!
I came to realize that the sprint I made in the spring left me empty in many ways. I was submitting manuscripts, recording a podcast, trying serve my team, teaching a new course, and delivering a TEDx talk. In many ways last spring culminated in a mountain top moment for me. But we all know the problem with being on a mountain top…
My metaphorical finals week left me drained despite earning good grades.
For those of us who are parents, teachers, coaches, etc we can all see this in the children and young adults around us. They lose focus, their tempers get shorter, they make more mistakes…just like all of us when we run out of juice. If you can’t relate, congratulations, you are super human.
I needed a summer vacation to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus.
At the beginning of any good summer vacation – whether it is a week, a month, or the whole summer – you just need to relax. Kids need to swim, run through sprinklers, play games, watch movies, and eat ice cream with their friends.
I personally need some serious kayak time, preferably with fishing involved. I need a few good camp fires with my wife and friends…and of course a few beverages help the cause.
What do you need to relax?
Unless you give yourself some time to decompress you won’t release the pressure that has built up. This will eventually lead to an explosion!
However, summer break cannot just be about decompressing if we are going to use it as a time of growth and refreshment. We can’t live on ice cream alone…some of you might debate me on this point.
As we begin to release pressure we need to take time to strengthen ourselves through nutrition and exercise in order to thrive in our next. Many of us, myself included, can get into some bad eating habits when we are stretched too thin. Don’t even get me started on my exercise routine when I am in the worst phases of the grind.
Kids eat and exercise naturally as long as we provide a conducive environment. The key for them and us is the conducive environment.
Breaks allow us the opportunity to focus on what we need to strengthen our bodies and to reclaim healthy habits.
What habit do you need to reclaim/start to strengthen your body? What needs to change in your environment to keep your body strong?
Physical nourishment isn’t all we need refresh, recharge, and refocus.
At the end of my last sprint my mind was a pile of goo suited for little more than Candy Crush and running errands…
Fortunately breaks allow us time to feed our minds what they need to grow. Our brains are especially receptive when not cluttered with the day to day.
What do you need to learn? Do you need inspiration? Do you need to dream?
Books, documentaries, the theatre, lectures, podcasts, and conversations with thought partners can all provide what we need. We must use our breaks to learn and grow as thinkers and dreamers.
I find that campfires are catalysts for great conversations.
As a Jesus follower I also need breaks to help me get back in touch with my creator and God’s creation. I need time to reconnect with Jesus and to reflect on what he wants for my life.
I often neglect prayer, study, and reflection when I get busy. Although busyness is not an excuse, once I am out of the habit I need time to get refocused. Without reconnecting, refreshing, and refocusing spiritually I don’t feel well directed to move forward.
What do you need to do to reconnect and refresh your soul?
We all need breaks to relax, refresh, recharge, and refocus, but then we need to return.
Refueling is a waste if you aren’t going to burn that fuel. By the end of summer I can always tell that it is time for my kids to go back to school. They are stir crazy, bouncing off the walls, focusing their energy poorly…it is time for them to get back to work.
The same is true for us. I believe we are all called to work while on this earth. We should refresh, recharge, and refocus with the aim of returning to serve our people.
If you want to understand Minimalist Management living and leading, this blog, and to a large degree…me… give this a quick watch. I hope it is helpful to you. The key themes are purpose, mentorship, self-reflection, faith, gratitude, wisdom, leadership and of course minimalism. I am honored to have shared the TEDx stage with so many amazing people. Check out tedxcreightonu.com!
I don’t know about you but I get drained. When the battery is running low I lose my focus on my purpose and I am more likely to do things out of line with my values. We all need energy to move forward.
At the conclusion of a recent work trip I had my Uber driver drop me off at a favorite spot on my way from my hotel to the airport. I was there for about an hour and a half, then headed to the airport. It made all the difference in the world…battery was charged and (or because) I connected with God through God’s creation.
I would encourage you to try to replicate this. Find an hour to stop, reflect, and recharge. You might not be going right by LaJolla. But I bet there is a great park near your path home. Give it a try. I bet you will find it helpful.
Don’t pretend you have it all together. Others will learn from your humanity. Be open to letting others learn from your weaknesses. Let people learn along with you.
People who know Father well, myself included, were astonished and blessed by his openness in this video. We grew.
This is what elevated him to hero status for me. I have many heroes and he is now among the people who have shown me God in a way that sets them apart.
Recognize God’s Presence In Daily Life
See God in all things…and all people. Treat all things and people as God’s creations. When you live this way you can’t help but strive to love other people for who they are and you can’t help but strive to treat God’s earth and its creatures with respect.
You catch a glimpse in this video, but I, and thousands of others, are blessed to see him live this out daily.
Live Like You Won’t Die, But Knowing You Will
Live life in love for one another and don’t worry about the afterlife. Love this life and live it to its fullest in service to God. Do this by finding your purpose and striving to live it out.
But remember, while service to God in this life is how we are called to live…it is only the beginning. The fullness of the gospel is living well on earth and remembering our eternity in Christ.
Thank you God for letting me live for a while around Father Hauser. I know you will enjoy your time with him when he arrives home.
Yes, I am thankful for my faith, family, friends, work, etc. But, this year I am uniquely thankful for people in my life that serve as mentors…whether they know they are my mentors or not.
Uncle Ron loves people and he loves the outdoors. He marvels at, and values, God’s creations. Ron is a careful steward of his resources, but will generously invest in the people and activities he values. He appears tireless, but knows how to relax. Ron cares deeply.
Nicole may love people more actively than anyone I know. She constantly invests in growth, whether it is her own or the people she values. She energetically moves forward while honoring the experiences and people that fueled her growth. Nicole is brave.
Bill reflects. He takes intentional action. Bill is willing to climb down into the muck to help people. He loves the people he serves, but takes the time and space he needs to refuel. He points to Jesus.
The Jesuits at Creighton love people where they find them. They are for and with others. The hate injustice and take action. They learn. They teach. They know how to have a good time. The serve for the greater glory of God.
During this natural time of reflection these mentors leapt to the front of my mind. Having them is a blessing for which I am thankful, but doing something with the wisdom I gain from them is up to me.
These people live and have inspired the values of The Minimalist Manager and I think of at least one of them daily. They inspire me and often serve as a guide through life.
Who inspires you?
Who serves as a guide?
What will you do with the gifts they have given you?
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.