Thank you, Scott Gaalaas

“The YMCA will eat you up if you let it.  Be careful to take time off for what’s most important.”

Those words were spoken to me by my very first boss in the YMCA movement, Scott Gaalaas.   It was 1986, and he’d just hired me to be the aquatics director at the Monroe County YMCA in Bloomington, IN.  He was cautioning me that a career in the YMCA would be time consuming.  “It ‘s your responsibility,” he said, “to take time off when you need it.”    He punctuated that advice with the statistic that YMCA professionals had a higher divorce rate than the general population.  He was an advocate for living your life by your values.  He took his own words seriously, and retired from the YMCA at the age of 63 and moved from Oak Park, IL to Loudon, TN, enjoying time with his family and grandchildren.   He was building homes with Habitat for Humanity, riding his bike, and playing racquetball.   He recently suffered a catastrophic stroke and “graduated to glory” on February 22nd, 2012.

I will miss my former boss, mentor and friend.  Not only did he teach me life balance,  he taught  me how to read a financial statement, develop a budget, and how to delight the members.   He was a man of integrity, because he could be counted on to do what he said he would do.   Over the years, as we each moved to different locations, we often reconnected at AYP events.   In the early 1990’s, we both served as executives in the Chicago area.   We played golf in Arizona, and Florida with  YMCA colleagues.

I will miss Scott deeply. He poured into my life in a way that had a huge impact.  I know he did that for countless others.  While I didn’t always have the best life-balance, I was better than I would have been because of his mentoring.   Great leaders count their success by how many people they developed.   Scott is right there with the best.  Thank you, Scott.

Life Lessons at the Masters

Rory McIlroy, 21 years old, let the Masters Golf tournament in Augusta for 63 holes.  On the 10th hole of the final round, his ball hit a tree and landed between two cabins.  From that point on, McIlroy’s round of golf looked like my usual round of golf – which wasn’t good.  He went from the leading to a tie for 15th in 9 short holes.

 In his interview at the end of the tournament, McIlroy commented “Hopefully it will build a little bit of character in me”.  That’s a lot of insight for a 21 year old. 

 Our character and integrity are formed in the crucible of failure.  We learn about ourselves, we learn to master fear, we learn that the screw ups won’t keep us down, and we work hard not to make the same mistake.  While sports writers like Jeff MacGregor speculate on his future,,

I believe McIlrory will develop a mental toughness as a result of this that will only make him a greater golfer.

 My big failures, while I would never want to repeat them, have given me some of the most important lessons in life.  To persevere, to live with integrity, and to serve others. 

 What have you learned from failure?