One day I went on a walk with my dad. Some of you have issues with your fathers but I don’t. My father is a player, a lover, a best friend. He may be a half a foot too short, but women love my dad. He knows how to treat a lady. When you are around my father you can’t help but feel special. He has that effect on people.
Once, years ago, some friends went on a road trip and unbeknownst to me they showed up at my parents place. My parents had no idea they were coming. An hour or so after their arrival they called me… from the hot tub. At that very moment my father was bringing them a cheese platter and sparkling apple juice. That’s my pop. He loves people and it shows.
He has always been my biggest fan. If I was even indicted for killing someone my dad would probably visit my jail cell and tell me “they had it coming”. His loyalty has no limits. He was the man who taught me about loyalty. My children know the word too. Family is everything.
That walk was many years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. Through strained emotions my dad asked me, “whatever happened to your self-esteem? I always knew you to be the most confident person I have known. You believed you could do anything, and you usually did.” At the time I had no insightful answer for him. It has been years since that conversation and I am only now beginning to understand what was happening to me during those years of my life.
I started out as a winner. I believed in ‘me’. But when one or a few of the most important people in your life remind you constantly how much of a loser you are, when you know every day you don’t measure up, when you have artificial constraints placed upon you, you begin to die inside. Some of you know what I am saying. You have people in your life who are disappointed in you as well. They remind you that you don’t measure up. They judge you and reprimand you and rate your performance. And slowly and little by little you succumb to their criticisms.
I have been rereading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”. He is my favorite author, this month. Gladwell contends that there is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Every successful person has a series of seemingly insignificant advantages – from the month they were born to the place where they happen to go to school. Gates was no accident. Neither was Einstein. Each of these individuals had something stacked in their favor, some winning edge. A significant majority of successful hockey players, for example, were born early in the year. They were more advanced, got more breaks, more ice time, better grooming. He makes a strong case.
My dad and mom instilled in me a sense of value. It is hard to under-estimate the impact that has had in my life. Both my parents were from humble beginnings and had no shortage of people reminding them that they were losers. Neither of my parents came from advantage. My father was an orphan. But somehow, for some reason, they invented the myth that I carry to this day. Though my relatives were a bunch of cattle thieves and alcoholics I grew up believing that to be a “Williams” was something special, almost magical.
I am thankful to my parents for their investment in my life. I have tried to follow their example and instill in my own children a sense of pride in their family and their worth. It’s easy to do, they’re awesome. My boys were raised to think being a Williams was like winning the lottery. As young kids they couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to be a Williams. My young son recently had a son of his own and every time we get together one of us will remind five month old Angus Scott that he is a Williams, that he can do anything.
In a world that reminds us on a daily basis we don’t measure up I am thankful that, from my youth, I was told I was special. It is a legacy I am proud of. And why wouldn’t I be… I’m a Williams.