As we approach Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I’m coming off an experience this past weekend that reminded me of what I’m most grateful for. It’s the people and the experiences I’ve been blessed with in my life.
In the middle of doing a bunch of chores on Saturday, I got an email from Holmes Morrison saying he was in town and wondering if I could break away for a visit. Holmes is on the very short list of the most influential people in my life. I would have stopped doing almost anything to spend some time with him. He was just five minutes away from where I live, so I walked over and spent the next hour talking with him and his son John.
Holmes and I first met back in 1989 in Charleston, West Virginia. I was working for the state’s governor, Gaston Caperton, and Holmes was the president of the lead bank of a holding company called One Valley Bancorp. I was young and had way more ambition than experience. Holmes asked me to consider joining his bank but I was deep into my work for Gov. Caperton and didn’t want to leave. He asked me again a year later, and that time I said yes.
That was the beginning of a six-year stint that opened up so many opportunities for me. I worked closely with Holmes as he was promoted to be the CEO of the entire holding company. He always gave me more to do than I had any reasonable expectation of doing. He had me run a companywide quality improvement initiative, he got me involved in acquisitions of other banks, he asked me to make presentations to the company’s board of directors, he had me help him with his speeches and presentations, he made me responsible for the development and communications of the company’s annual strategic plan.
I think the most important opportunity I had with Holmes was all the hours we spent in the car together traveling to other banks talking about business and life. It was such an incredible opportunity to learn how a CEO thought about things and viewed the world. I also learned that Holmes is one of the most decent and gracious human beings I’ve ever known. He truly shaped the rest of my career and life.
One of the main points that Steve Jobs made in his famous 2005 Stanford commencement speech was that you can never connect the dots prospectively, you can only connect them retrospectively. It’s only from the perspective of the present day that you can look back and see how the mix of decisions, experiences and relationships over time have led to your life today. When I connect the dots of my own life, there are a lot of blessings that have flowed from the years I spent with Holmes Morrison. In this week of Thanksgiving, I’m particularly grateful for Holmes and the handful of other mentors that have helped shape my life.
Undoubtedly, you’ve had your own mentors in life. During this week of Thanksgiving, why not take some time to think back on who they’ve been and how they’ve influenced you? If they’re still alive, consider writing them a note, making a call or arranging a visit to tell them how important they are to you. I’m pretty sure you’ll find the gratitude to be deep and overwhelming in the best possible way.