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Leadership Insights | The Prizefighter & The Preacher

Dad’s Christmas gift to me of an ornament he thought I’d like. The cow sings, too!

Dads never get any credit

Among some of us dads, we often remark, “Dads never get any credit.”

Dads teach their kids how to play ball, run, catch, dodge … but if they score a run, a touchdown or a basket … and the camera zooms in on them, don’t they always say, “Hi Mom!”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “… as good as Dad and apple pie?.” I doubt it. I never have. How about, “the father of all storms” … nope … I think you catch my point.

The Prizefighter & The Preacher

I’ve written several articles over the years, including a recent one about lessons I learned from my 94-year-old mom, but Dad deserves at least as much credit.

I lost my Dad on Nov. 16, 2001, and I still miss him every day. Perhaps my most striking memory is that he had the most unusual combination of careers of anyone I’ve ever known … a world-ranked professional boxer with a record of 82-5-0 who became a minister when he heeded the calling.

An extraordinary combination …

All his life, he loved boxing with great passion and practiced his ministry with great compassion.
He believed deeply that boxing’s demand for discipline, training and sacrifice was a way out for “street toughs,” a route through the gym and into a productive life that would be otherwise inaccessible.

He knew that every soul was worth saving and he never wavered from that commitment.

Brevity is the soul of wit …

One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen.Philip Wylie

He had a great sense of humor, too, and it reflected his vision of life as a joyful journey. I’ve still got a copy of a parking ticket that I may have forgotten to pay while in college.

The car was still registered to my dad and when the final notice showed up in his mail, he wrote this note to the traffic violations bureau:

“Gentlemen. Please arrest Lary Kirchenbauer (and specifically told them where I could be found) … since this is his car and his violation. His name is also on the title for this car and he is 21 years of age. My name will not be on the title much longer, I assure you.” He mailed a copy of it to me, neatly typed. At the bottom, he inscribed this note in longhand, “P.S. Congratulations on making Who’s Who (in Colleges & Universities).” The amount due? $1.00.

 

… And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes

As a minister for over 50 years, he was devout but not lordly. He had little time for pretentiousness and was always sticking the needle whenever a “holier than thou” attitude intruded on his congregation or his community.

While I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I later learned that he had submitted a drawing to an art exhibition at the local library where he had observed self-proclaimed artistes hemming and hawing about the meaning of life in every piece of art they saw.

A “What?” in a sock?

He didn’t tell them he named it a “fart in a sock”, but they hung it proudly and dad laughed every time he recalled how they gushed over the power of his work.

His stories put a smile on my face even now as I step through the mental catalog of those moments. There was the one about putting turpentine on the sergeant’s toilet paper in the Army, too … but I digress.

Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader. Start by making sure you’re not creating your own distractions and you know where you’re pointing that finger … and don’t forget that it’s impossible to fake authenticity.

Humility is hard to come by if you don’t have it

The essence of his character, though, was his humility and his equanimity.

My father would not greet you any differently if you climbed out of a cardboard box after sleeping off a bender or stepped out of a limousine.

How many of us could say the same?

He judged no one lest he be judged and accepted anyone on any level, greeting and accepting them with equal aplomb. It was never easy to conjure how such humility resided so comfortably in the heart of a champion prizefighter, but I’m pretty sure that genuine humility emanates from the same quality of character that refuses to consider whether one individual is more important than another.

Is it possible to never lose your temper?

I never heard him lose his temper or even raise his voice … ever except during a sermon and God himself knows that my brother and I tempted him on many occasions.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure how it’s possible to never raise your voice or lose your temper.

When I asked him about it many years later, he told me had a terrible temper and that the only way he could control it was not to unleash it.

I’m still baffled by his answer since I never witnessed his temper in over 50 years.

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What does this mean for our businesses?

What does this mean for our businesses?

We should be keenly aware that everyone gets their turn in the barrel, as they say.

We should withhold judgment about individual peccadilloes and assume good intentions with everyone we encounter.

Reject pretentiousness, withhold judgment of people and reach beyond your grasp to help uplift your friends, colleagues and employees.

Make sure to recognize that inside the hearts of your dedicated and loyal employees, with all of their supposed faults and blemishes, beats the metronome that measures the rhythm of your success.

Oh, yeah, and work harder to control your temper while appreciating the beauty of life’s journey.

Shall we start today?

Your Dad.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your Dad? Share your experience in the comments.

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