Being CEO!

When I took on being the CEO of my life in 1997, it was an experience of mixed emotions. Before that conversation with Karla, my reference for success was “the more I can do myself, and the less I ask others to do, the more successful I will be”. Having been raised on one of Houlihan Nursery Company’s growing farms, I learned at an early age that all farmers know how to do everything and do everything themselves. This became the context for my life.

Shortly after my conversation with Karla, I remember ordering groceries to be delivered to my kitchen. Then through conversations with friends, I found a school teacher who needed extra cash to clean my apartment and wash and fold my laundry. Then I asked the dry cleaners to come to the car to pick up and drop off my dry cleaning. Rather than struggle walking with two ski poles with luggage and a briefcase from my parking spot in the airport, I set it up so I could wave to the sky cap at baggage check-in at Hobby Airport and they would walk to the parking structure with a wheelchair and come to my car in one of the handicap parking spots and take me to the ticket counter and then the gate.

For the first time in my life, I experienced a freedom and a sense of no limitations. Since the jobsite was several hundred acres, all contractors had golf carts. Although it was a relatively small inconvenience to walk from the trailer to the cart, I never missed a meeting and was always able to see all three of the projects everyday.

Although this freedom was huge, it also brought some pressing questions that were based upon my old conversation of doing it all myself…. Do I still have value? Am I an inconvenience since I need assistance? Does this mean I won’t be able to have a normal life? This is where the miracles began showing up for me. By being powerful in everyway as a CEO and a leader, I became closer to people in a profound way. I appreciated the struggles that I never noticed before like prejudice or inconsiderate behavior. I regretted that when I was a student at the University of Illinois, which is the most accessible of all college campuses, that I didn’t take the time to appreciate or get to know the many handicapped students who were so courageous during every day of every season in all kinds of challenging situations.

When Mary and I decided to get married I explained to her how I managed things and who did what. Then I asked if she wanted to do any of these things differently I was open. Her response was simply “are you kidding”? Today I remain the CEO of my life, and in 1999, I became the CEO of our life together because it works….

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