I believe sports are the best way to tell who a person really is. When you get them outside of their comfort zone, you usually see who they are. For instance, if you are playing golf, you can tell many things about the other person, such as if they anger quickly, if they are honest, level headed, enjoyable to be around…you can basically tell who a person is by how they are on the golf course. It is much the same with water skiing, basketball, football, and fishing.
My father-in-law was a man’s man, and his name was Max Phillips. He was deeply respected by his peers. He started a fence company when he was a young man and was the best of the best in the fencing business. He was married to my mother-in-law from his youth until the day he died. Together, they had seven children; my wife, Elaine, is their oldest daughter. I think it is beautiful thing when someone becomes very, very good at their career. This was the case with Max. He was born to be a salesman and knew instinctively how to sale with integrity. He would help crews install fences all day, go home for dinner with his family, and then go back out to sell fencing jobs in the evenings; he did this six days a week.
Max had one quality that I admired most and that was the quality to be mentally where he was physically. God help the crew he was working with; he would outwork almost everyone. When he was fishing or camping or with his family, he was fully engaged in that moment.
One day in particular I remember well; I was fishing with him at a lake south of where we live. He was in the front of the boat, and I was in the back. We were casting, reeling, talking, and enjoying time together. It was coming up on lunchtime and I said to Max, the next one who catches a fish has to buy the other’s lunch. He said ok, so I turned around and started trying to catch the next fish. I heard some stirring in the front of the boat, looked around, and Max has one rod and reel in his hands casting as fast as he could. I looked closer, and he had a rod and reel under each foot with bobbers in the water. He was fishing with three rods and reels at the same time and was completely focused on beating me. Well, you probably know how the lunch bet ended up. Yes, he caught the next fish, and I had to buy lunch.
I learned several big lessons watching Max that day. First was to be in the moment, and the second was to simply try your best in life at whatever you are doing. See, if you try your best, that is all you can do. Many of us do not try our best all the time, and we save our best for special things. What would life be like if you tried with all your might at everything you did? Every email, every phone call, every time you played with your children or grandchildren, every time you prayed, every time you talked to someone? Basically tried your best all the time? I believe if we did this, we would find life more fulfilling, more enjoyable, and could possibly become the person God wants us to become.
So, a simple fishing trip with my father-in-law taught me that day how to be in life and how to give it your all with integrity. As I said earlier, Max Phillips was a man’s man and even though he was short in stature, he was big in spirit and in everything he did. KT