Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better, and better isn’t good enough if it can be best.
Let me close with a very personal story that I think will bring all this into focus.
Wisdom will come to you in the unlikeliest of sources, a lot of times through failure. When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow.
I’m not worried that you’ll be successful. I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time.
The person that gets up off the canvas and keeps growing, that’s the person that will continue to grow their influence.
Back in the ’70s, to help me make this point, let me introduce you to someone.
I met the finest woman I’d ever met in my life. Mm-hmm… Back in my day, we’d have called her a brick house.
This woman was the finest woman I’d ever seen in my life. There was just one little problem. Back then, ladies didn’t like big old linemen. The Blind Side hadn’t come out yet.
They liked quarterbacks and running back. We’re at this dance, and I find out her name is Trina Williams from Lompoc, California. We’re all dancing and we’re just excited. I decide in the middle of dancing with her that I would ask her for her phone number. Trina was the first …
Trina was the only woman in college who gave me her real telephone number.
The next day, we walked to Baskin and Robbins Ice Cream Parlor. My friends couldn’t believe it. This has been 40 years ago, and my friends still can’t believe it.
We go on a second date and a third date and a fourth date. Mm-hmm…we drive from Chico to Vallejo so that she can meet my parents. My father meets her. My daddy. My hero.
He meets her, pulls me to the side and says, “Is she psycho?”
But anyway, we go together for a year, two years, three years, four years. By now, Trina’s a senior in college. I’m still a freshman, but I’m working some things out. I’m so glad I graduated in four terms, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan.
Now, it’s time to propose, so I talk to her girlfriends, and it’s California. It’s in the ’70s, so it has to be outside, have to have a candle and you have to some chocolate. Listen, I’m from the hood. I had a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine. That’s what I had.
She said, “Yes.” That was the key.
I married the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my … You all ever been to a wedding and even before the wedding starts, you hear this?
“How in the world?”
It was coming from my side of the family. We get married. We have a few children. Our lives are great.
One day, Trina finds a lump in her left breast. Breast cancer.
Six years after that diagnosis, me and my two little boys walked up to Mommy’s casket and, for two years, my heart didn’t beat. If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
If it wasn’t for those two little boys, there would have been no reason for which to go on.
I was completely lost. That was rock bottom.
You know what sustained me? The wisdom of a third-grade dropout, the wisdom of a simple cook.
We’re at the casket. I’d never seen my dad cry, but this time I saw my dad cry. That was his daughter. Trina was his daughter, not his daughter-in-law, and I’m right behind my father about to see her for the last time on this Earth, and my father shared three words with me that changed my life right there at the casket.
It would be the last lesson he would ever teach me. He said, “Son, just stand. You keep standing. You keep stand… No matter how rough the sea, you keep standing, and I’m not talking about just water. You keep standing. No matter what. You don’t give up.”
And as clearly as I’m talking to you today, these were some of her last words to me.
She looked me in the eye and she said, “It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live. What matters to me most is how I live.”
I ask you all one question, a question that I was asked all my life by a third-grade dropout. How are you living?
How are you living?
Every day, ask yourself that question. How you living?
Here’s what a cook would suggest you to live, this way, that you would not judge, that you would show up early, that you’d be kind, that you make sure that that servant’s towel is huge and used, that if you’re going to do something, you do it the right way.
That cook would tell you this, that it’s never wrong to do the right thing, that how you do anything is how you do everything, and in that way, you will grow your influence to make an impact.
In that way, you will honor all those who have gone before you who have invested in you. Look in those unlikeliest places for wisdom.