The following people are giants in my eyes. Without their supportive shoulders and encouraging spirit, I would be at a disadvantage:
- The man upstairs. I get it. Religion ain’t cool. A lot of people “outgrow” faith. But I never grew up. And I never got the memo with empirical evidence disproving the big guy’s existence. So I believe. I believe we are all his children, regardless of race or denomination. I believe he listens to heartfelt prayers and sometimes answers them. I believe he created this earth with a shovel of science. And I believe he gifted humans with a special sauce that none of his other beautiful creations have, making us his masterpiece. For that and life in general, I thank Him.
- My wife. Without this woman, I might be working in a cubicle at No-where Inc. wondering what might have been. Instead, she supported me while I finished school. After graduation, she supported me during my first year of business and its puny sales. She stays at home with the kids so I can fish for bounty. To this day, she is my biggest fan, my most trusted advisor, and my true love. I couldn’t have done it without her.
- My mother and father. I come from good genes and had a memorable upbringing. As a boy, these two filled my world with love, warmth, faith, happiness, passion, responsibility, and security. They clothed me, fed me, and as my mother still reminds me, “wiped my butt.” Their selfless efforts provided a head start and gave me the confidence to do, be, and pursue anything I wanted. Thanks to them, I like who I am.
- My brothers and sisters. In addition to being the best roommates ever, these people taught me the rules, were instrumental in my formative years, and shared their hits and misses with me. My older sisters were always kind. My younger sisters were quick to forgive. And my brother never did this to me. More than that, he took me under his wing, let me tag along with his friends, and shouldered much of the blame when we got into trouble. I’m grateful, too, for my in-laws; for their support, friendship, adopted kinship, and backing.
- Former front office manager of the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t remember his name, but I put him in a world of hurt. He forgave me anyways even though he had every right not to. Long story short, I was invited to job shadow him after writing a letter. It was a remarkable experience for a 14 year-old boy and his two friends (whom he let tag along), but one I squandered in the end by sabotaging pre-canned response letters we were tasked to envelop and mail with lewd childish drawings. Of course we were discovered as the culprits, and it resulted in one of the most humbling and embarrassing mistakes I have ever made in my life. But it was a memorable lesson in humility, shame, apology, forgiveness, and kindness learned at a young age, and one that would encourage me to quickly come clean with my mistakes in the years that followed.
- Childhood friends. These guys were a lot of fun and were usually accepting of my awkwardness. Shout-outs to Greg and Chris Lawson, Eric Bryson, Jeff Berry, Matt Holliday, Brian Jones, Barry (I forgot his last name), Mark Butler, Tim Mobley, Marcus Jones, Kevin Butler, Josh Rhine, Wesley Lovvorn, Dylan Denny, Casey Willis, Rodney Cothron, Miles Brown, Jeff Nelson, Duddy Williams. Same goes for my adult friends: Matt Andersen, Josh Rhine (again!), Wesley Lovvorn (again!), David Cole, The Ormond Bros., Chris Morell, Jake Terry, The Jacobson Bros., and everyone in the Lakeview Moped Mafia.
- Jeremy Anderson. Reason here.
- Vlad Cole. My first editor at Aol. Dude was relentless. I hated him some days. He wouldn’t let me get away with anything and was my greatest opponent. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Vlad’s tough love helped me perfect my voice and craft. He wouldn’t have punished me as much if he didn’t care. He’s the greatest editor I’ve ever had.
- Guys like this. Namely, Robert Bradford and that lawyer from college that left a high-paying job to teach high schoolers. Their chutzpah inspires me.
- Anyone who has ever kept me honest. Readers that email, comment, and offer feedback. Critics that call me out on shoddy work. Grammer Nazi’s. Clients that excuse my mishaps, brain farts, and lapses in judgment.
- My children. While having little to no influence on getting me to adulthood, my kids are undeniably making me a better, more selfless grown-up and are an immense source of joy to me. Granted, they’ve also introduced anarchy and upset the establishment of my home. But the chaos is as exciting as it is worthwhile.
There are a lot more personal influences. So many more. But those are the ones I especially wanted to acknowledge.
Originally published July 11, 2013