An Opportunity to Say, ‘Thank You’
In our busy lives, we don’t have a chance to show our appreciation often enough. This Thanksgiving, here is who I’m thankful for—in business and in life.
By Kurt Wilkin
It’s a fairly simple phrase, one we’re taught almost as soon as we’re old enough to speak, but we don’t say it enough. I know, I know, most of us say “thank you” all the time—when someone serves us a cup of coffee or holds the door open. My mom raised me to say “thank you” and “yes ma’am,” but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m thinking bigger here.
I don’t think we let the ones we are closest to truly know that we appreciate them, often enough. This is especially true for entrepreneurs and CEOs…actually, this is true for all busy people. So what better way to celebrate the season of giving thanks than to let them know? I’ll give it a shot. Right here, right now—life’s too short to let this moment pass. And I encourage you to do the same!
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for:
My Wife and Sons
I certainly don’t tell enough how much I appreciate them. My wife, Carrie, is a saint for putting up with me on a daily basis. She loves me (mostly) unconditionally. She gives me the latitude to follow my passions and take risks in entrepreneurship and early-stage investments. She even supports my bucket list—doing crazy things like running with the bulls in Pamplona, riding Harleys with my brothers, and skydiving with my son and my mother-in-law!
My sons are all great kids and I am so proud of the fine young men they are becoming. They are way smarter and more talented than I am, and are burgeoning young leaders in their own right. I am thankful for their health and every moment (OK, not every moment) that I get to spend with them. Sure, they don’t laugh at my dad-jokes as much as they used to and I often hear the phrase “cringeworthy” when I’m around them. And they also make fun of my shortness and my growing bald spot—but I know they love me and I love them. What more could a dad ask for?!
I am in pretty decent health for a 50-year-old dad-bod! Carrie and the boys are all in good health, as well. Sure, we’ve had our share of trips to the doctor’s office for ailments, broken bones, appendix issues, kidney stones, and other painful nuisances—but overall, we are blessed with good health.
My 57-year-old brother passed away on October 8—if I’m being honest, I’m not very thankful for that. But Eric’s health gave me the opportunity to be thankful in other ways. When he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2014, the doctors told him he had six to nine months to live. I prayed, asking for five years and minimal pain. For the most part, we got that. I am thankful that I got to spend quite a bit of time with him over the past three years.
I am also thankful that he helped me remember to live life. A few years ago, he asked me and my other brother, Rolf, to ride Harleys with him in the Arkansas Ozarks. My first response was, “Are you F-ing kidding me? Motorcycles are dangerous!” But friends, let me tell you—when your dying brother asks you to ride Harleys with him for a long weekend, you ride Harleys with him. And with that, I added another dangerous hobby to my list! That helped us continue an annual boys’ trip tradition that we started many years ago with my other brother and my dad (who passed in 2009). Oh, and I got to tear shit up in his yard when I went down to Florida to help him clean up after Hurricane Michael. Nothing beats working like a madman with a bulldozer and a chainsaw to work off a little stress!
I was blessed to have two parents who loved us unconditionally. They were proud of me and they weren’t afraid to show it. And they supported me in whatever path I took in life. I lost them both within nine months of each other, in October 2008 and July 2009. That was incredibly hard, but I got to have them for 40 years. They lived 80 years, were married for 49 of them, and they were two of the finest human beings you could wish for. Wow! How many people get to say that? I don’t see how I can consider myself anything other than lucky!
My parents started a Thanksgiving tradition about 15 years ago. They decided to round up my siblings and I (and their 12 grandchildren!) from around the southern United States and get us all together for a week. We would meet up at some nondescript place in the hills of Arkansas, let the 12 cousins run wild for a week, and enjoy each other’s company. The best part is that this tradition has survived the kids getting older, going to college, and getting their own jobs and lives. We still meet up, taking turns cooking dinner, sharing stories and photos, singing along with my nephew and son as they play guitar. We play cheesy board games and laugh well into the night. It is low rent, but it is family—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you to my parents: Bob and Elsie Ann Wilkin, may you rest in peace.
I have been blessed to be around talented people with the highest character throughout my career. Sure, I’ve been around a few A-holes as well—but the good human beings far outweigh the bad ones. Over time, I have found that I’m even thankful for the bad eggs, because they help me appreciate the great people even more! I started to list out some of the key people from Ernst & Young, eFANshop, The Controller Group and HireBetter, but those of you who know me well know I can’t call out a select few, for fear that I would a) forget someone important or b) hurt someone’s feelings. So, for now, you will all have to be anonymous key teammates of mine from my career. I will offer this clue, however: If I’m still connected to you on LinkedIn or Facebook, you must be someone special!
At HireBetter we “impact lives by connecting and empowering good people to build great teams.” How cool is that? How can you not feel blessed when you get to do great things in good people’s lives? We get to fire A-hole clients and candidates and work only with the ones with whom we want to work. What a country! Again, how could I not feel blessed that this is what I get to do as a vocation?
My friends help keep me grounded. They are there when I need them (and sometimes when I feel like I don’t). As an introvert disguised in an extrovert’s body, sometimes I don’t want anyone around. But my best friends were there at my Dad’s funeral. My best friends were there with me to run with the bulls. My best friends have built or are building businesses with me. My best friends break bread with me on a regular basis. My best friends go to CrossFit or run marathons with me. My best friends are in my YPO Forum. My best friends call me husband or Dad. And my best friends were with me on my 50th birthday celebration. I am blessed to have so many good friends.
I don’t talk about my faith too much in the workplace, but I am thankful for the many blessings that God has graced me with. A few years ago, some personal challenges brought me to my knees and closer to God. Then, last February, I was given the opportunity to attend a John Eldredge Wild at Heart retreat with several other men from Austin. We discovered some beautiful things about our relationship with Christ and we have maintained a “Band of Brothers” ever since. In our weekly get-togethers, we support each other in our individual and collective walks with God. I am thankful for each and every one of you ugly, crass, smelly, funny, wild, but beautiful, men.
I’m even thankful for the challenges God presents us with. Without challenges, it’s harder for us to have empathy with others. Without the valleys, we probably don’t appreciate the peaks as much. Without struggles, we definitely wouldn’t appreciate our blessings as much. However, I must admit that sometimes I understand what Mother Teresa meant when she famously said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that he didn’t trust me so much.”
It gets a little tricky because many of my clients are friends and many of my friends are clients. But I am blessed that so many of you have entrusted me and HireBetter to help you build your next-level teams. It has been so cool to watch you be named some of the best places to work in America, while you win awards for growth and leadership from distinguished organizations like Inc., Ernst & Young, and Young Presidents’ Organization.
We are honored to work with you. But I’ll tell you a little secret…shhhhh. We choose to work with you because you are good people! We have fired many clients over the past few years. Why? Well, I can either tell you that life is too short or that HireBetter very much adheres to the “No A-hole Policy”. Either way, I am thankful that we have the opportunity to work with clients, candidates, and teammates who fill us up!!!
It has been a tough year—a real grind, with some personal challenges and some mourning. But it’s been a successful year, a year to celebrate—and a year to be thankful for.