This post is inspired by a lively and entertaining conversation I had today with a lovely and loving couple at my local bar and grill. I thank them for inspiring me!
I think everyone, if they are honest enough with themselves and proud of who they are, can list the influential people who had the largest impact on shaping who they became as adults.
Today, I’d like to use my platform to pay a small tribute to the top ten people/groups who influenced my life for the better with a pithy blurb explaining how these outstanding people shaped me as a man.
1. My father. While I only had him in my life when he was alive for the first 4 years of my life, he left an amazing example for me to emulate. He was my masculine template to aspire to. My lifelong love of reading and learning started with my father, an educator who passed away far too soon.
2. My mother. She preserved, enforced and reinforced the example my father, her beloved husband, set for me and my brothers. Her strength, perseverance, and love sustain me to this day. No one cared more about me and my brothers. I surely would not be who I am today without her loving guidance and direction.
3. My older brothers. They filled the void left by our father’s passing. My siblings are more than just siblings to me. They are, and in the case of my oldest brother, continue to be my best friends. Sadly, I lost my middle brother in 1991. I dedicate many of my successes in life to his memory.
4. My high school teachers. Particularly, my high school algebra teacher. She instilled in me how important mathematics and subverting people’s expectations are. Nothing ever comes easy in life, but nothing worth having ever comes without work. After all, only in the dictionary does success come before work. Excuses are not allowed!
5. My Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors. They inspired me to find my life calling: to be a soldier in the service of my country. They gave me the initial tools to help me succeed in that endeavor.
6. My drill sergeants in basic training and advanced individual training. They pushed my mind and body to limits I never thought possible. I aspired to follow their example.
7. My first platoon sergeant at my first duty station in Furth, (West) Germany, Sergeant First Class William Tolley. He taught me humility and how to be a proficient and effective leader, both technically and tactically. I owe this outstanding leader for giving me the foundation upon which I built my army career.
8. My first squad leader, Staff Sergeant Gregory Lawson. He taught me a lot of valuable life lessons that resonate with me to this day. Rest In Peace, my old friend…
9. My Sergeant Major at Fort Hood, Texas, Sergeant Major Joe Robbins. He taught me the nuances not only of how to navigate the United States Army, but how to navigate life. I learned that “hope is not a strategy” from him, among other things. A valuable life lesson indeed.
10. Dr. Valentin Novikov, my boss who just passed away in December 2019. He was more than just a leader and a mentor, but a dear and valued friend. He taught me that anyone can become your family and how to see the value in others that they might not be able to see in themselves. He also reinforced in me the power of being a man of value who makes the others around him better. Rest In Peace, my old friend.
To be certain, this list is hardly a complete and comprehensive one. However, if we only ever had just one person who made a difference in our lives, we are blessed beyond measure. Be sure to show you appreciate them and if possible, let them know how much they mean to you and your success while they are still here!
-The Rational Ram