My parents got divorced before before I can remember. I grew up with my mom, my sister, and my grandmother in a small New England town. All three of them were very intelligent, strong, and powerful women. Looking back I feel very fortunate to have been raised by such incredible role models. I also had a really awesome dad. He lived and worked about an hour away from us and was the athletic director / golf coach for a small college in Connecticut. In addition to his scheduled visits with my sister and I throughout the year, there was a very special time every spring that my dad and I spent together. It was the college spring break, and it included a trip to Myrtle Beach SC with his golf team. Imagine me as an 10 year old riding in a Connecticut state van packed with a bunch of rowdy, hyped up, college dudes going to Myrtle Beach for a week! I loved those trips.
Looking back, one of the most important lessons I learned during those times was to following your own path in life.
These summer trips consisted of a 13 hour ride to and from South Carolina, a week full of golfing, and staying the nights in some cheap hotel where we played cards and ate crappy take-out food. The guys that I remember most were not the best golfers or the guys who went to bed at my dad's curfew. I remember the ones that would stay up late playing poker with their food per-Diem money. There was drinking, cursing, talking about hooking up with the cart girls at the golf course... and occasionally, sneaking out to "call home" - code for smoking weed. Those are the guys that interested me the most. They didn't play by all my dad's rules and they were definitely having a good time living life! They spoke freely, treated me more like a buddy, and didn't give a shit about what other people thought. They weren't disrespectful or even cocky, they were just marching to their own beat. There was a confidence in their actions, a fearlessness in the way they approached life. Independent, genuine, and real. Those are the guys I admired.
As I've grown older, I remember back to those trips and the way the team interacted with each other, acted around my dad, and how they treated me. The teams were successful. They won several New England golf championships and for more then a decade they competed against the best NCAA division 1 schools from across the nation. They were legit. But more importantly to me, they taught me the value of being yourself. Being genuine, honest, and confident in who you are. They were 'real', and that shined through in their actions. Much like my business life today, what made those teams successful was the synchronization of several different types of individuals, led by a few people who had their own strong personal compass. There were the 'early to sleep, follow the rules' types, and there were the 'others'... I respected and looked up to all of them, but it was the guys marching to their own beat that I admired the most. They were diligent and focused on winning tournaments, but they also had a strong individual presence. They were the leaders on the team, not because they were the best golfers but because they were the most confident in character. They built the team culture.
It's not about going against the grain or purposely being defiant to the rules of life. There are many times I look back and I'm thankful I didn't follow my gut and went with the crowd. But there are also those defining moments in my life when I chose a different path, a non-popular choice. I was true to myself and didn't care what the rest of the world thought of my choices... and it's in those moments that I felt the most alive. So, live passionately, take risks, give freely, love hard, and leave an incredible wake behind you...but most importantly live your own life and be your own individual. It's a beautiful thing, It attracts the right people into your life, and you will never regret your choices. Because although you'll still make mistakes, they will be your mistakes and not mistakes made while trying to be what other people want you to be.