Finding Your Value – A Surprising Journey

“What is something about you that would surprise people?”

This is a basic question, yet one that is difficult to answer. This was a question that was posed as part of a staff training/orientation at work a week ago. As I thought of how to answer this question, hundreds of thoughts popped into my head – none of them the truly correct answer. As I sat with two colleagues, all I could think of were things that they already knew about me. I’m a farmer. I’m a business owner. I write lyrics and poetry. I’m a Sport Management alum and a former land surveyor. I am a sibling and a Personal Care Attendant.

What escaped me in that moment was the true answer. An answer that never came to fruition, yet was born from a spirit within me – the need, the desire to make a difference. What I should have answered with is an answer that those reading this may have heard me allude to in passing.

The answer that I should have given was that in my Senior year of college, as I was searching for jobs, I entered into a two month period where I was in contact with a United States Marine Corps recruiter and was seriously considering joining the military. Go ahead – laugh. I know that for more than a few people, the idea of Kushi – the one teachers called “church mouse” when he was younger due to his shyness – being a Marine is likely an amusing image. I’ll admit, it can be. Needless to say, that is not the path that was ultimately journeyed. And while that likely fits the bill in answering the question posed above, it does lead to another interesting discussion. Why? Why did that idea appeal to me?

Well, to start, there is this now legendary commercial:

I have watched this commercial many times. On top of the fact that there is messaging present – I have noticed something more. Look at what they are trying to portray – drive, grit, courage, selflessness, dedication. These are all virtues that we strive to have and to achieve. I know that they are virtues that I have always sought to have and be seen as having, whether I knew it or not. What can all of these virtues lead to? What does the life of a Marine have implied meaning of? MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

My whole life, I have had a need to make a difference or feel like I am making a difference. Most of us do. My problem was that I didn’t know how.  I was the one who didn’t always know which course of action to take and didn’t always have the confidence to do so when I knew how. The thing about not knowing how to do something is that you don’t know that you can do it until you do. I was a shy kid, yet I somehow found it in me to stand up for my brother. Suddenly, that shy kid who wrote for the school newspaper figured out that he could stand up for his brother who had disabilities and lead a fight again the use of the word “retard” in an offensive manner by writing an article about it. Oh, I pissed some classmates off, but I stood up and delivered for what I knew what was right. The same goes for when it was graduation time. My brother stayed in the school system until the age of 21 and that was it. No ceremony or acknowledgement like he deserved. He deserved that honor as much as his little brother did. When all was said and done and I had had a few conversations with the Principal, my brother received a certificate just as I did. These tasks were accomplished because I stood up for what I thought was right and I sought to make a difference and better the lives of a fellow person.

In my professional life, I have had to rely on these virtues as well. I have served as a town board member, a town athletics coach and started/operated my own business along with a winding career path that led to some tough lessons in my 20’s. I have had to have drive and grit to make it. Some of this drive and grit is a part of who I am and some of it has been inspired by the ideals that I value – such as the ones displayed in the Marine Corps commercial. Sometimes, I have a tendency to try and go above and beyond what may be expected of me on paper. This goes back to who I am and what I value. Maybe deep down, I want to be the personification of that Marine in that commercial. You may not expect the extra effort from me to get the job done but I do. Anything less, effort-wise on my part, is failure to do the best that can be done to get the job done.  I think that most of us have that mentality, that – when we are playing our hand – we want to be the toughest son of a gun on the field. We want to be that good co-worker that helps get the job done for our team; that person who can look in the mirror and say “I have done everything in my power to get the job done and make a difference. No one can say that I have not worked hard enough.”  We all have that in us, whether you are a natural go-getter or whether you are someone who was accused of being a timid church house. When the cards are on the table, you have the ability to do something and make a difference, so long as you work hard, are selfless and are willing to go above and beyond what is expected and what you think you can do.

The lesson to be learned here is that no matter who you are, you can make a difference. You can be an inspiration. You can be a person of honor and dignity. The road will not always be easy and there will be some rough roads that are journeyed, but you can make it. If you have grit, drive, the ability to follow your moral compass and the courage to follow your heart, you can make a difference in this world and in others lives. If you ever doubt that, just remember a line from the movie Fievel Goes West: “I don’t know what’s out there beyond those hills, but if you ride yonder, head up, eyes steady, heart open, I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been lookin’ for.”

To answer the question that opened this discussion, maybe the fact that I once had the idea of the Marine Corps appeal to me isn’t what the most surprising thing about me was. Maybe it’s the journey that took place within my own self that showed me that I could make a difference – no matter how small. Perhaps, this journey that each individual goes through at some point in their life in discovering their difference making value is the most surprising thing that we don’t know about a person. 

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