June 26th, 2015 marked the anniversary of the death of my mentor, Tom McGranahan. 20

years have passed. Tom was also my brother-in-law. Married my sister Marilyn when I was 12. Was always a part of my life growing up. He knew me, as a kid, young adult, employee, partner, and man.

Tom was an educated man especially when it came to numbers, and probably would have made an excellent CPA. He was analytical and precise. Well read, and very smart.  If you didn’t know him you might take him as arrogant. But his humor and quick wit shattered that notion. Sometimes!

When his step fathers business was in jeopardy he ran it while going to college, he excelled!   It  was this moment in time that helped define his path.  He was  wildly successful and his management style was incremental in saving the business and “turning it around”.  It was in this experience that Tom knew his talents for business and would be owning his own soon.

Consequently the local radio owner Paul Olson approached him to come work for him.  Tom never had any intention of working for anyone so he declined. Paul (Ole) didn’t take no for an answer and made Tom an offer he couldn’t refuse.  And that’s when Tom tried his hand at being a salesman, and sales manager.   Another chapter of success unfolded.

Paul and Tom’s relationship was mutually beneficial, they both made a lot of dough.  And made a wonderful team. Ole once described their relationship as bright and rich, Tom was bright and Ole was rich.  Together they made some bold moves and grew the business even more.  As a matter of fact they developed a business called Brite and Rich, elevator background music for business’s.

Tom took me under his wing, officially, when he hired me to sell radio advertising.  I was green, motivated, anxious, and “open” to new ideas. That’s when the real influencing began. I was blessed with his intuit, humor, compassion for winning, attention to detail, and conviction.  “No” was never an option.

He had an amazing ability to “stretch” me, challenge my beliefs, and guide me through personal conflict and trouble.  It was here that he taught me the foundation of my business approach to marketing and building relationships. In addition it was also during this time that I had the luxury of experiencing Paul Olson as well.  Easy going, charming, and comedic.  Paul was a big influence on me.  I loved them both.  The two of them were a stark contrast, a beautiful team and I emulated them both.

Tom eventually left and started his own ad agency.  Client’s liked his no nonsense approach to biz.  I stayed at the radio station, and eventually went into Television.  He waited until I built a bit of a reputation in the market place and then hired me again.  I spent the next 7 years of my life being indoctrinated into the man I am today.  I owe him everything.

But as in all relationship the more I grew, the more we argued, disagreed on philosophies, and said hard things to each other.  Eventually we went our separate ways.  That was a hard time in life for all of us, especially my sis.

In hind sight I wish I would have handled it differently. Not that I was wrong, I just wish it had been different.  But, in looking back I know I was not mature enough to handle it any other way. So I know it was exactly as it had to be for me to make the moves I made later in life.

A few years later, when he was diagnosed with small cell cancer in his lungs, we reconciled.  I came running and was at his side. Funny how the threat of “death” cuts to what is really important in “life” isn’t it?  Life = Death”¦Death = Life”¦they are hand in hand. When he died that day a big piece of me died too. And a big piece of me “woke up”. I will never, ever go back to sleep and take another human being for granted.

Time to wake up every one!  Look around! We have so many beacons of light to draw on as strength in this world of ours. It can be anything, anyone. It could be your next door neighbor. Regardless, I pledge to listen, and stay awake to it ALL.  As humans we have the power to change and heal.

Consequently I love what the Dali Lama said when asked about what surprised him the most about humanity, he answered,

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; The result being that he does not live in the present OR the future; He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”

My mentor lived a bit like that.  And when his time was cut short due to illness he transformed, his ego died. When his ego died, he started to live, he noticed all the life around him. His wife, daughter, son, family”¦me. My mentor helped shape me into the man I am in life, and in death. My hope and prayer for you is that you have a mentor.  And above all else, wake up to the fact that YOU are a mentor.