Well, it's supposed to be easy. You just “Get up and do it” every day. But the curse hidden in between the lines is that getting up and doing it one day at a time is hard. Really hard. That being said, another bit of wisdom suddenly unloads on you: “Once you accept that it's hard, it's not hard any more.” Confused yet? Don't be. This philosophy has great implications in both my personal life and my business world, and I hope you can learn to see its wisdom, too.
When I was younger, I was clueless and completely unprepared for what lay ahead. I grew up with an old family lumberyard as my playground, and rarely did I think about a “serious life” somewhere “out there.” Then a haze of alcoholism afflicted my life, and for a very long time it arrested my development. I became insolent, arrogant, angry, insensitive, and an ungrateful know-it-all.
Like many hard-working, hard-playing businesses rooted in blue collars, the pro dealer and construction industry can sometimes be an enabler of “excessive behavior.” I either got very lucky, or my Higher Power had decided He wasn't done with me yet. When my haze lifted, I was newly sober, and tenuously planted back in the stark light of reality with only one freshly acquired, albeit very basic, life philosophy: “Alone I must do it. But I cannot do it alone!”
Using this principle, I began to surround myself and my business with great people. Some were great by their patience and understanding; others had only been waiting for the chance to become great, but all willingly gave their skill and perseverance to the mission of making Curtis Lumber a successful whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Fast forward 7,000 days. I'm older, wiser, and still sober. I'm still surrounded by great people, and together we have recently adopted by acquisition Webb and Sons, another outstanding organization, to grow stronger still. The formula I learned through my journey to sobriety and my journey to president of Curtis Lumber works on all sides, whether it is a crisis in your personal life or a crisis in your business. It is to be honest with yourself, be rigorous in your self analysis, admit when you're wrong, and make amends for it. Be steadfast in your beliefs, and believe in the goodness of others. Believe that together anything you can imagine can happen. Be free with your praise; be strong in your counsel. Freely give to others in a time of need, and ask for nothing in return. They will be there if you fall and they carry you forward. They will have your back in a firefight, because they know you have theirs.
Much is made of the game of business in general—the subtlety, the nuances—yet so much is lost in poor translation. Pretenders on cell phones in overpriced suits thinking they're the center of attention on “The Apprentice.” That's not my industry. I am so much happier not being a pretender, but rather being surrounded by the people I love and respect doing one day at a time the things we truly love to do: serving our customers, growing our business, and being part of a great family that is the pro dealer industry.
Sometimes you wake up in the morning and realize it was all in front of you, all the time. In that respect, Jimmy Stewart was right: It is a wonderful life.
Jay Curtis, President, Curtis Lumber, Ballston Spa, N.Y.