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Leadership Lessons—Expect the Best

Last week I wrote about Bill Prior—founder of Kinetico. His “Celebration of Life” service was amazing. Three of his children told stories about him, as did his brother and a few others.

One of the stories reflected on the time he got fired from his job. The unbelievable part is that it was his own family’s company! When it happened Bill made the comment, immediately when this happened, that it would be the best thing that ever happened to him.

And it was. That failure propelled Bill to invent the non-electric, demand, Kinetico water softener that revolutionized an industry and changed the future for so many friends who worked with Bill. He expected the best. Always. As an inventor he looked at setbacks simply as motivation for finding a different way to succeed with his projects. Again, he taught me to look for solutions—and not to focus on the problems.

The 500 plus of us that were at his service were reminded of so many things as we reminisced. It felt like going to a high school reunion, 40 years after graduation, and seeing old (and I mean old) friends.

The stories we told about working together, and working with Bill, brought back so many smiles. We discussed how he always overcame adversity and was focused on working with people who wanted to have a better future. We also discussed his amazing attitude in the face of adversity. A lesson I experienced up close and personal just a few days later.

My mother-in-law is 86 and father-in-law is 87. They are starting to show their age. My sister-in-law, Micki, who is in the medical field was in Florida visiting mom and dad a week ago. My wife, Mary Kay received a 2 a.m. call from Mick. A few hours earlier, mom had decided to walk into the bathroom without her walker. In her haste mom walked right into the door jamb and severely cut her head. She bled profusely to the point that she wouldn’t have survived had Micki not been then there. Micki said that mom needed nine staples in her skull to stop the bleeding and they were rushing her to another hospital in Orlando for further testing. While closing the wound a lesion on the brain was discovered—almost a sure sign of brain cancer.

On Monday a MRI revealed a mass on the side of the brain. Surgery was scheduled for Wednesday night and all of my wife’s siblings knew they had to be there. Mom had survived cancer two years ago and we were all sure it had reappeared—this time in the brain.

By Tuesday evening all six of mom’s kids were in Orlando—traveling in from six different states. As always mom was making jokes and had this amazing attitude.

The four-hour surgery was Wednesday night. Privately each of us planned for a funeral instead of a very successful surgery. My daughter, Jae, who has her own business performing EEGs at several hospitals in Tampa, has spent years learning about the brain. She joined us at the hospital and wasn’t worried—which was comforting.

Jae was correct—all went well! By Sunday night mom returned home feeling great. My wife and her sisters have said that mom has nine lives, and mom, once again, proved it.

I thought of the lesson that Bill had taught me when he recounted how getting fired from his family business was the best thing that ever happened to him. Had mom not walked into the door jamb we would have never found out that she had a mass on the brain. Had Micki not been there visiting she would have bled to death when she did walk into the door jamb.

A series of unplanned events had saved her life. Mary Kay and I were reminded, once again, that our future isn’t in our own hands and we have to continue to have faith. We prayed for a miracle. We got several of them!

Obviously, I still have a long way to go to become the leader I aspire to be.

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