A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door


When I wrote What Jimmy Buffet and Bruce Cockburn can teach Marketers about Nailing a Persona? I was feeling a bit reflective as it was my pocket watch48th birthday. I shared how the song “pacing the cage “ so perfectly captures the intimate feelings of so many executives now on a quest for significance verse chasing success.I shared how as marketers it is our job to intimately understand our buyers as this song writer illustrated when he wrote this song.

I have received a number of emails and phone calls about this post. My favorite however is below;

A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door. It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr… Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.”
Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.
“Jack, did you hear me?”
“Oh sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.
“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it,” Mom told him.
“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.

“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr.. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said.
“He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important…Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr.. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.
Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time.
The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture….Jack stopped suddenly.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked.
“The box is gone,” he said.
“What box?” Mom asked.
“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most, ‘” Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it
“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.”

It had been about two weeks since Mr.. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read
Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

“Mr.. Harold Belser” it read.
Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside.
“Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.
Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover.
Inside he found these words engraved:

“Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser.”
“The thing he valued most…was…my time.”
Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked.
“I need some time to spend with my son,” he said “Oh, by the way, Janet…thanks for your time!”
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away,”
Think about this You may not realize it, but it’s 100% true.
1. At least 2 people in this world love you so much they would die for you.
2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.
3. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.
4 Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
5. You mean the world to someone.
6. If not for you, someone may not be living.
7. You are special and unique.
8 When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won’t get it, but if you trust God to do what’s best, and wait on His time, sooner or later, you will get it or something better.
9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good can still come from it.
10. When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a look:
you most likely turned your back on the world
11. Someone that you don’t even know exists, loves you.
12. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.
13. Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know and you’ll both be happy.
14. If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.
To everyone I sent this to
“Thanks for your time”

When I was growing up , just outside of Cleveland Ohio, there was a guy like Mr.. Belser on my street named Joe. This email brought back a flood of memories for me and I am so very thankful it was sent to me. I was blessed with many men who helped guide me;my dad, my grandfather’s Earl and William Paul, and others.

Joe and his wife lived a few doors down and was a retired Cleveland city fireman. He and his wife kind of adopted us kids in the neighborhood.His wife always had some peach pie with ice-cream for us kids. No matter what he was doing, peach pieeverything would stop if you would talk with him. He made you feel like you were the only thing in his life at that moment. Joe used to pay us kids money to do jobs for him so we would have money for the ice-cream man. As I reflect back they were jobs that did not even need done.

I guess what I valued most about Joe was how he seemed genuinely interested in me, my thoughts, what was going on in my world. Joe would hear my thoughts and problems and not minimize them, but listen. When he would see me later in the week he would ask me about what we discussed, he cared that what we shared was getting better .After he listened he would often have a story. In those stories were great wisdom…. Perhaps that’s why I am a story teller today?

Here’s your challenge:

Who can you be a Joe to today?

In addition to being a Joe, do you have a Joe still in your life?… If not find one we were not meant to go it alone.

I never said so as a kid, but …“Thanks for your time Joe”


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