On June 3rd, my Dad – Marvin Lewis McCarthy – would have turned one-hundred seven years old. He passed away in 2006 at the age of ninety-one. My favorite photo of him is down below. It hangs in my bedroom.
In addition to being a great Dad, he was also a great leader. Today I’d like to honor him for his birthday and share four principles from his life that I think we can all benefit from.
Dad grew up in Canton, Ohio, along with his parents, Suzie and Billy, and his younger brother Dale, whose nickname was “Cowboy.”
In 1932, the family received unwelcome news. Billy suffered from severe asthma. The doctor told him to get to a drier climate immediately, or he would not survive the year.
In response, they decided to move to Phoenix. Dad assumed leadership for this effort since Billy was mostly bedridden.
The timing wasn’t ideal – the Great Depression was in full-force. Nonetheless, Dad and Uncle Dale loaded everything into a Model T Ford. Dad also made a trailer out of an old pickup truck bed.
And off to Arizona they went.
They arrived safely, but couldn’t afford housing. They did, however, have a large army surplus tent from World War I. They picked a spot in the desert, pitched the tent, and that was home for over a year.
Dad was the only one able to work. He cobbled together several jobs, including construction and running a milk delivery truck route.
Thankfully, Billy’s health improved, and a year later he returned to work as a barber. The combined incomes allowed the family to move into a modest home at 11th Street and Thomas.
What’s the lesson? As leaders, we all face challenges, some of which may alter our entire life’s trajectory. At age 16, this is exactly what Dad faced.
Through all this, Dad practiced four principles that I’d like to pass along to you.
First, he lengthened his time horizon. He always held the vision of a better future. He knew why he worked. As leaders, knowing why we lead is vital. Our why becomes our “North Star” when times get tough.
Second, he strengthened his resolve. Once they decided to move, he “put his shoulder to the plow” and never looked back. As he said – “no use complaining, nobody listens anyway.” As leaders, the sooner we embrace and lean into our problems the sooner we can navigate through them.
Third, he took small steps. There was no time for a feasibility study or a detailed Gantt chart. They literally took one day at a time and developed the plan as they traveled.
Fourth, he took care of himself. He had an iron character forged by a loving family, a strong faith, and a rock solid work ethic. He always invested in his inner man no matter what his external circumstances were.
All leaders face times of challenge and crisis – in fact, as leaders, that’s our job!
Invest a few moments in yourself this week and reflect on your current situation. What challenges are you facing? Can you apply one or more of Dad’s principles to help improve the situation?
And how about “Little Marv,” the son? Well… at sixty-two, I still aspire to be the man that Dad was. This doesn’t discourage me. He left some pretty big shoes to fill, after all. In fact, I’m rather thankful for it. It keeps me on my toes.