Getting Started & Finding My Way
(Part 20)
The Conclusion!

This is part 20 in a series of essays about when I was a young man (30+ years ago) trying to figure out how to “make it” in the world. Click HERE to go back to the beginning of the series.


My friend Laura Coburn is a talented and successful graphic designer. One day she was telling me about a job she had when she was younger. It didn’t go well and she was greatly disappointed. Her mother consoled her with these words of wisdom:

”No experience is ever lost.”

Laura’s mother told her that more than once over the years. The point being, we can all learn and grow from our experiences, even the failures (perhaps especially the failures). No experience is ever lost. They all figure into the equation; into the orchestration of events that make up our lives, and lead us to where we end up. That is what I think about when I reflect back on this past series of essays about “Finding My Way.”

As a teenager I was not particularly outgoing. I was unsure about what to do with my life. I was anxious about finding my place in the work world. My self-esteem was pretty low. My opportunities seemed few. I just couldn’t imagine how I would ever fit in and get ahead. I struggled with that. My wife, Marlene, knew me at the time and she remembers my angst. But it all worked out.

It all worked out for several reasons:

1. I was blessed with a stable home and good parents. I did not get a lot of direction from my parents. There was sometimes friction between my stepfather and I. But I was accepted and loved and, except for time spent away at school, I lived at home until I got married at age 22.

2. I was blessed with grandparents who loved me and were a positive influence in my life through their personal example and their financial giving at critical times.

3. I was blessed with a healthy body, sound mind, natural curiosity, and a desire to craft and create with my hands.

4. When I wanted to learn how to do something, I read and practiced and worked to teach myself how it was done.

5. Whenever I had work to do, I did it with enthusiasm and effort. I have never been a lazy person. Closely related to that, I recognized that greater opportunities naturally come when lesser opportunities are embraced and pursued with responsibility and seriousness.

6. I understood and accepted the concept that many good things in life come with time, and patience, and self-discipline. There is a time and a place for everything. Delayed gratification is not bad.

7. Last but not least, my Christian faith has been central in my life since I was in the 7th grade. It has instructed me, restrained me, and sustained me. Truly, Providence has guided and protected me. Everything good or positive that I have received or achieved or enjoyed in my life has been the result of God’s grace and mercy manifested towards me. This truth has become much clearer to me as I’ve gotten older.

Reflecting back like this usually begs the question: “At 50 years old, what would you have done differently if you had to do it all over again?”

Would you have gotten a college degree? Would you have become a white collar professional? Would you have traveled more widely to find your way? Would you have done something easier and more profitable? Well, no to all of those things.

I don’t regret choosing a vigorous, hard-working, lower-class career. I don’t regret not making a lot of money. At one time I did. But I have learned to be content with less and grateful to the Lord for everything.

I do regret that, for several years, while vainly focusing on so-called “success,” I neglected to be the father I should have been to my children. And I regret that I deliberately chose not to have more than three children. I was selfish. In the final analysis, faith and family are far more important than material prosperity. Though I would have agreed with that statement as a younger man, I did not truly accept and understand it until I was around 40 years old. Better late than never, eh?

And so, this series about “Getting Started & Finding My Way” has come to a close. My hope is that someday my children, or grandchildren, will read this and derive some wisdom from it. Beyond that, perhaps my story, humble and ordinary as it is, will serve to help some young person who reads it. Whatever the case, I would like to conclude with a couple of quotations from the greatest “success” book ever written:

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths"
Proverbs 3:5

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12


Unknown said...

I hate when a good book ends...

foutfolk said...

Your scripture references are singing my theme song!

I am amazed at how many people are unable to see the things that you so clearly chronicled in your essay. We only have one life to live...and it is our, not someone else's life. What a waste of time trying to run away from what God has given you, huh?

Thanks for flashbacks!

RL said...


I’m not far behind you in age yet I have found your story to be quite encouraging. In many ways I feel like I am still “getting started and finding my way”. It seems to be an ever continuing process.

Thanks for telling your story.

Take care and God Bless.


Dreamer said...

What a wonderful job you have done chronicling your younger life. I've enjoyed it immensely and I'm sure that many others will be blessed by it.

Duke said...

I really enjoyed reading your series. I am an 18 yr old facing similar decisions that everyone my age has or will go through. Its nice to hear a person's account of their own journey. Thanks for that.

Ety said...

I just finished reading your entire series and must say that I found it very interesting. Interesting from a writer's perspective, as I am doing something similar on a blog I just started; interesting from a reader's perspective as you did an excellent job of keeping it interesting; and interesting from a Believer's perspective - The Lord truly did guide you providentially, and the blessing is that you know that. All in all, well done.

Anonymous said...

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

I always love seeing my life verses referenced.

Thank you for your wonderful and inspirational writings.

Jim in Michigan

Joel C. Suggs said...

We're about the same age...and we are considering moving to the country for similar reasons as you've described...I can't belive I just read/skimmed all 19 sections of your early life, but guess I enjoyed it. eh?
Thank you!