My grandfather passed away six months ago after a wildly successful, hugely eventful, very long life. Outlined below are a few of the life lessons that the late James (Jim) Edward Campbell practiced, preached and lived. Jim’s achievements as an entrepreneur, businessman, politician, pilot, father, husband, grandfather and citizen warrants his own Master Class–Oprah style. Jim is dearly missed but left us a wonderful legacy and here is what I consider his top 10 life lessons.
1. Dream BIG
Never set a narrow margin for what is possible. Always keep your dreams in plain view and ensure they remain a moving target, always on the rise. Before any goal is met, the first question should be “What’s next?”
When Jim was a boy, he dreamed of owning one of the mansions that was on his grocery delivery route. Not only did he attain this dream, but Jim also continued to strive and dream of higher levels of greatness even though he already achieved a remarkable level of success.
2. The worst thing they can say is “NO”
There is a freedom one experiences when the fear of hearing NO is removed from the equation. This winning mentality and life lesson transcends many successful people. Never be afraid to ask because the answer might be no. One of Jim’s life long mantras was If you don’t ask, you’ll never get. Ask for the promotion. Ask for more money. Ask for a discount. Ask for the better table. Ask for the better seat.
Not only did I hear this life lesson regularly from my grandfather, but more importantly, I constantly saw it in practice–and it works!
3. A short pencil is better than a long memory
Write it down. Always maintain multiple running lists. ALWAYS date the back of your pictures. Don’t put your faith on a delicate, sure to eventually fail, memory.
Jim was a extensive list writer. There were always a few lists on the go that ranged from groceries to new projects to restaurants he wanted to try. All of his newspaper clippings were marked with the date and source.
4. Never stop learning
Read what ever you can get your hands on. Learn at any and every opportunity. Retain and recall facts. Always be aware of important current and local affairs.
Jim was a lifelong, self-taught naturalist and historian. For decades he subscribed to many publications which he read diligently from cover to cover. His favourite was National Geographic and never missed any of their programming–fascinated by all things living on the planet and anything to do with WWII. Jim devoured whatever he could get his hands on; books, movies, magazines and newspapers–everything except for the sports section.
5. Travel is the greatest classroom
When ever presented with the opportunity to travel–always jump at it. Go whenever and wherever, and learn while the world’s classroom comes to life.
Stationed overseas during WWII with the Royal Canadian Airforce, Jim took every opportunity to see as much as possible. When on leave, he would rent bicycles from the village children and visit everything worth seeing that he could ride to–from castles to cathedrals. Throughout the 80s, Jim and my grandmother Mary, his wife of 68 years would volunteer their time to chaperone and lead young Canadian musicians throughout Germany so they could compete in international music festivals. Jim was the first person to take me to Paris, ensuring that my first trip to the city of lights was with a man I would always love. He travelled abroad on various trips with all of his grandchildren in their teenage years.
6. Give back
For those who have been afforded much, much is required. Giving doesn’t need to involve monetary transactions–most importantly it involves the gift of time and service.
Contributing to the work of the community was a resonating theme throughout Jim’s life–both in Hamilton and during his retirement in South Florida. His years of public service were followed by relentless private support of numerous causes.
7. Work hard
Work hard and continue to work hard. Surround yourself with people who share this work ethic.
Jim believed that hard work was what set highly successful people apart, and was mandatory to be able to achieve any type of goal. Jim viewed laziness as a character flaw.
8. Don’t be afraid of Failure
Never let fear determine the risks you are willing or not willing to take. Not every endeavour will end in a success, but hopefully most will. If there is nothing to be risked, there is nothing to be gained. Sometimes in life you fail–it happens. You learn from it.
Jim would tell the story about his first business idea–Day & Campbell (still in successful operation 66 years later) and recall the people who didn’t accept his offer of partnership because they were afraid of risking failure. He was an elected official for many years. He ran and won, but also ran and lost. It is the risk you take putting your name on the ballot.
9 Live well, love often and be generous.
Buy the best quality you can afford. Repair before you replace. Do not hesitate to tell those closest to you that you love them–You can’t hear it or say those words often enough.
Another motto I frequently heard was “you can’t take it with you” (directed to my grandmother) but equally balanced with “save your money” (directed to me). My mother spent her life telling her father “I love you” and he would always reply “I love you more'”, then “no I love you more”, repeat.
10. Always toast
Before that first sip, raise your glass and make a toast. Never miss an opportunity to acknowledge life, happiness, health, good friends and good fortune.
Scotts wa hagh where Wallace bled was the toast I would hear for much of my life. Toasting remains a wonderful tradition where you take time to connect with people and share the experience. Never forget, ALWAYS make eye contact.
These life lessons are only a few of the countless ones bestowed on me by my beloved grandfather. Without a doubt, these lessons have shaped the course, the vision and purpose of my life. Unbeknownst to me, I grew up with my very own Master class already in session. I am hopeful that you will consider adopting at least one of these life lessons. I believe that the results will be exponentially positive and inspiring.