Weekly Thoughts


Never Give Up

Lessons from Brokaw’s Family

Last month, we finished our book while on an outbound flight but had nothing to read on our return trip – crisis! Rushing at the airport, we randomly picked up Never Give Up, A Prairie Family’s Story by Tom Brokaw.  As we discovered, the book is Brokaw’s account of the lessons learned from his parents’ and grandparents’ making ends meet while living on the Prairie during the first half of the twentieth century.  Brokaw concludes the book as follows: 

In these chaotic times, what can we learn from history? As a citizen, husband, father, and grandfather, I have drawn on the lessons I absorbed of the struggles of the Great Depression, a great war, and the emergence of financial security from my working-class family.  My parents’ generation was grateful for new opportunities, but they never took the better times for granted… I never heard them complain about what fate had delivered to them as they made their way through hard times… The most enduring lesson I learned from them? Never give up.  

Lessons from Brokaw’s book reminded us of a Tony Robbins training seminar we did years ago which introduced us to the concept of the “story you tell yourself”. The gist, as articulated on Robbins’ website, is that “every day, we tell ourselves stories. We create stories to give meaning to our lives, to justify what we want to experience or feel, and to give ourselves a framework upon which to build future stories.”

Essentially, change your story, change your situation, change your life.  If you tell yourself you’re a victim, you are.  If you tell yourself you can figure out a tough situation, you probably can.  Now, whenever we face a challenge, we always think – what is the story we are telling ourselves?  What would happen if we told ourselves a different story?  We liked this framework so much, we now have a framed quote in our living room from Henry Ford which says “whether you think you can, or you think can’t – you’re right”.  We remind ourselves (and our kids) of this concept regularly.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these concepts also underpin the core Chenmark value of Chasing Better.  As articulated in a previous Weekly Thoughts

[Chase Better] is the concept at the heart of the Chenmark ethos.  We believe that progress equals happiness and we understand that the pursuit of progress requires three essential ingredients.  First, we must believe unequivocally in our own and our company’s potential. Put another way, we must believe we have the capacity to improve.

We figure that when we hear overlapping philosophies in disparate places, we are probably onto something good.  The story we tell ourselves is that we have the ability to figure things out no matter the circumstances.  Whether we think Chenmark will be a success or a failure – we’re right.  Don’t complain or claim to be victims, no matter the situation.  Take losses on the chin, keep heads down when things are good, and never give up. 

In Brokaw’s book, he shared a memorable discussion with his mother, who had endured some difficult times throughout her life: “When asked if she ever felt bitter in those difficult days she said ‘Of course not. We were all in it together. You got up and did the best you could and the next day and the next.'” We love her answer and wish there were more people like her out there.  While Mrs. Brokaw has sadly since passed, we think she would have made a great Chenmarker. 

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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