You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone!

05.29.13 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

The second most popular blog we’ve posted is titled Reflection. The inspiration for it came standing at one of the highest points in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland as I was staring at the view of the majestic French and Swiss Alps and beautiful Lake Geneva. Reflecting is a powerful exercise at just about any point and time in our daily lives: after a meeting, attending a church service, a dream, an encounter with a friend, or listening to an inspirational message.  This intentional act can serve to remind us of important points and allow us to go deeper to explore the origins or source for why we do certain things or why we have the beliefs and values we have developed. And, it can help us “see” what it is that we need to do to affect change and where our intended efforts might take us.

This past Friday, I lost an uncle who was a Secure Base for me. He lived a long, fruitful life to the age of 91, but the past 6 months have been a mighty struggle as he never regained his footing after falling Christmas Day last year and breaking his hip. I don’t know about you, but that story of our senior citizens falling and it starting the path to the end has been repeated over and over again within our circle of family and friends.

In the High Performance Leadership program I’m blessed to coach in located at IMD in Lausanne, my good friend Dr. George Kohlrieser, has developed the concept I referenced earlier – Secure Base Leadership. In fact, it’s the subtitle of George’s latest book Care To Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership.

My Uncle Bill (William Francis Dickey) was a very successful banker in Charleston, SC. He had served in World War II in the US Army Air Corps, and when he came back from the war he graduated from the Citadel in 3 years and then began his career with Cooper River Federal Savings and Loan. He ultimately became the President and Chairman of the Board and spent 40 years there.

The early days of my youth bring memories of a struggle in our family.  My Dad’s chosen profession of being a Southern Baptist preacher created financial hardships until he chose to become bi-vocational building houses on the side. But, my Uncle was the man whom I admired. He was handsome, sophisticated, musically talented and from my view, very rich! He had married a real beauty, my Aunt Dobbie.  Everything about their life could have shown up in a Norman Rockwell painting – or at least that was my perception.

No matter the reality, here’s what my Uncle Bill did for me, and he did it in a very subtle way as his outward behavior was very reserved. He inspired me. He took interest in me and he saw potential in me. He encouraged me, and truthfully, in my early years of trying to create success in the business world, I wasn’t sure that his opinion was justified. Here’s the mystery and where the reflection message comes in: I knew that he had been someone I admired and looked up to, but the truth is I had never identified him, no matter that I’ve done the Secure Base exercise at least a dozen times, as a Secure Base for me.

But the news last Friday really hit me hard when I called my wife to tell her about his death, and the emotional dam burst as I realized exactly what he had meant to me. Every time I would go back home to Charleston and visit him he would ask, “Eddie, have you made your first million yet?” That simple question, as superficial as some might view it, provided inspiration because I knew at some point I would be able to say “Yes!” Since 1985, I’ve not been motivated by making money, but by making a difference in my life and the lives of others and the financial rewards ultimately followed by that shift.

I also realized that he and my aunt, along with my cousin Ron and Fran, had provided a secure base environment in their home.  I would get in trouble at times because I would go to play with Ron and Fran and not want to go leave. I didn’t want to go back home to the potential volatility of our home life and I would figure out a way to stay longer!

Honestly, until last Friday, I would have told you that Uncle Bill was important to me, but I had never realized the full dynamic of the support, encouragement and safety that he, my aunt and my cousins provided. I had lots of flashbacks to the many hours in their home and how when Uncle Bill would walk in, he was always encouraging to me.

This is the classic example of the line from Joni Mitchell’s hit song Big Yellow Taxi – “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone!”

The act of deeper reflection might have caused me to fully realize how important Uncle Bill was to me without him having to pass.  I am thankful though that I had, in fact, told him more than once how much of an impact he had on me. And, I can remember him being humbled by the words and not thinking he had done much. I am so thankful we had those conversations so I’m not living with that regret.

Who in your life was or is important to you and has or is making a difference in your life? The bigger question though, is if you know who those people are, have you ever really and truly told them just what they did for you and how much they mean to you? If not, run now, pick up the phone, or jump in the car and go see them and tell them from your heart just what it is they’ve done and how it’s impacted you. I believe God created us to be relational people and those people that have positively impacted our lives should hear those words.

Onward & Upward and may my Uncle Bill rest in peace in the arms of the Lord!

Ed Chaffin

If you’d like to know why I admired Uncle Bill so much here’s a link to his obituary. I think you’ll understand once you read it.





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