Sunday, January 16, 2011

The man in the mirror

I've been asked about what has made me successful. That can be a daunting question at times. I usually answer with something short and sweet. Today, I want to bear my soul to you and give you some of the story. It all starts with the man in the mirror I see everyday and the fact that he is my worst critic. I believe that their are others out there that suffer from the same critic, if so, please read on.

If you read my post last month, "Impact a life" You will know that I stated there, that I had not shown much ambition or success in my early years. If you recall, I stated that my parents had told my recruiter at the time that I would never make it in the Navy. The truth is, I didn't have too many people cheering for me as a youth. I'm not stating that I didn't want their approval or praise, just stating that I didn't get it. The one person, on the planet, that I wanted more then anyone else to recognize and affirm me was my father.

A little background, my father was a workaholic. He worked his day job and then would come home to work on his 240 acre farm. So, needless to say when he finally arrived at his home, he wasn't much for conversation or  interaction with his family. I never went hungry, homeless or without clothes while under his care. I would also like to say that I would have rather been homeless and hungry if that meant my father would have noticed, encouraged and loved me growing up.

I grew up always looking for ways to elicit his praise or acceptance. Unfortunately, that usually ended up with me making poor decisions or getting into trouble. He seemed to be able to acknowledge that behavior whenever it was warranted. I got the talks about how I needed to do better in school or make better choices.  To be honest, I think that I did poor in school just to get him to talk to me.

The first time I heard my father tell me he was proud of me, was in a letter I received right before I graduated, in the top of my company, from Boot camp in August of 1990. I savored that moment for quite awhile, it spurred me on to graduate with distinction from the Naval Enlisted Submarine school as well. These achievements gave my father something to brag about with his friends and family back in our small community. It was nice, to finally feel like I had made my father  proud of me. His encouragement though, through my adult years, often sounded like this, "That's good, but keep going, you can do better" Needless to say, the feeling of, "He's proud of me" quickly diminished and I was off in pursuit of another award or accolade to garner his approval.

In 2004 I was tested, selected and initiated as a Chief Petty Officer. This was the moment that I would finally realize that I had arrived. Not just for my father, but for me as well. When I asked my father to come to my pinning ceremony he stated that could not. I can't even remember why now, I believe it was something to do with work. I spoke with a family member about it and how mad I was that he wasn't coming. Cause to be honest with you, of all the people that I wanted there, him being there was very important to me. I thought that him seeing my anchors being pinned on my uniform would let him see that I had achieved something that not everyone in the Navy achieves. Especially since he had spent four years in the Navy himself. He would know what it meant for me to be called, "Chief"  The family member I had spoken to called my father and gave him some "Inspiration" to be there. When he arrived unannounced, since he didn't tell anyone he was coming,  I was not happy that he came. It felt as if he had been forced to be there, which I found out later that's exactly what happened.

A year later, my father stopped talking to me and told me I was out of his life. It would remain this way until I agreed with his opinion about a close family member that he had also excommunicated. We haven't spoken since.

Fast forward. (A lot of other crazy stuff to be included in future posts)

It was only recently while I was having a discussion with a close friend about this very subject and they pointed out something that I never really realized. I will never feel successful or good enough due to the fact that I always hear that small voice in my head, "This isn't good enough, you can do more" The golden carrot, if you will. The sad part is, that I continually kept raising the carrot higher causing me to fall deeper into the rabbit hole.  

I realized last year that I have accomplished a lot in my life. I am happily married to the most awesome woman a man could ever ask for and I have four amazing children, all of which make me proud on a daily basis. As if that wasn't enough, I have had a very successful career in the Navy.

Considering my past, it would have been easy for me to give up and quit. I didn't. I turned around a negative thing and now I utilize it properly in the context of truth. I am not the most successful man in the world. But, I am successful to those that matter most to me. Thats all that really matters. When I have to fight the demons inside me, I fight them with the truth of who I am in the eyes of my family and a loving God who has never turned his back on me.

I hope that this bearing of my soul has given you the hope and inspiration to know that you can make a difference in your life and how to deal with your worst critic. When you have times of doubt, look to your successes and relive those moments. Understand, that you do no one any good if you are not willing to be who you were meant to be. Live your life for those that you love and love you in return. Do your best and leave the rest for others to debate.


Becky Robinson said...

Greg, I appreciate you sharing your story here. It took a lot of courage to do so, I'm sure.

I am sure there are many people who will be identify with your story and who will benefit from reading about your experiences. Although the details of my story are different, I identify easily with your desire to gain approval and with your pain in not receiving affirmation from your father. I am glad that you have found comfort in your faith and through other relationships.

Leadership Freak said...

Thanks Greg. One thing your story reminds me of, approval is powerful.

Best to you,


Voices of Leadership said...

Thank you for your kind words. You are inspirational, and I'm glad to know you. Thanks for the comment.

You are correct, to be affirmed by those we love is extremely important. Thank you for your comment and friendship.

djg said...


Fantastic and phonest sharing. Doing so acknowledges the path that got you to where you are today. I am sure at your sharing will help other people.

It is amazing what we do to please other people. Or our need for approval from others. It was a breakthrough for me to realize that I needed to follow my own passions, whether or not they please other people. I also start every week by acknowledging my personal and professional wins from the previous week. It does not matter whether I ever share this list with anyone else. The point is at I acknowlege it to myself. Just as you have acknowledged your wins in this blog posting.



Voices of Leadership said...

Thank you for your kind comment and the time to leave it. I loved your idea of reflecting on last weeks successes. As you mentioned, no one else has to see it, but it is a great reminder to yourself of all that you are capable of. Thanks again.

Best Wishes,

Anonymous said...

This post connects to some things I am working through and making sense of this year... and reminded me of a quote I came across recently:
‎"Perhaps the only way to achieve wholeness is to embrace our own fragility, to acknowledge our weaknesses and broken parts, and to minister to those parts with tenderness. And perhaps our real work as humans is ... not to look at what another person seems to have, and try to figure out how to get it for ourselves — but rather to discover that which is unique and precious to us, and to lovingly attend to that."
Source: “You have what I want.” – Katrina Kenison: The Gift of an Ordinary Day on

Thanks for sharing, Greg. Even though I've known you for years... and especially during an intense period of your life, there is so much I did not know. Thinking of you.


Anonymous said...

Greg, ... From one who has acted as your father did at times in his life, I am truly impressed with your acheivements! The greatest of which, I think, is your ability to share with others some of your personal hurts, to allow them to understand some of their personal failings a little better. I and my son are working on our adult relationship, and I am trying to be there for him, but not too much. I will follow your blog, as I beleive you are providing true wisdom to many. Thanks Mark McKnight

Voices of Leadership said...


Thank you for the courage to comment. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement. I would like to encourage you to continue to build the relationship with your son. It's never too late to affirm and engage your son. Trust is easy to lose and very hard to get back. Sounds like you have identified your weakness and are working to make it a strength, for that I applaud you. Thanks again for commenting, I truly appreciate your encouragement and courage.

Best wishes,

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